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Jon Coupal


For a week he walked the streets of Fresno, a homeless man looking for work. At night he slept on park benches, during the day he tried to ward off hunger, sometimes with the bananas a grocer sold him at five for a dollar. At the end of the week, still unemployed, Neel Kashkari, Republican candidate for governor, caught a bus for Los Angeles and home.

Trailing incumbent Governor Jerry Brown, who is seeking his fourth term, by 20 points in opinion polls, some observers dismissed Kashkari’s week on the streets as nothing more than a political stunt. They see Kashkari’s entire campaign as no more plausible than Don Quixote’s crusade against the windmills.

Call it political theater, or not, Kashkari has illuminated a very important defect in the California governing class. That is that most Sacramento politicians are physically and psychologically removed from the severe problems faced by millions of Californians. California unemployment ranks fourth highest among all 50 states. Millions more, counted as working, are barely getting by on part-time, low wage, service and retail jobs. They could be a lost paycheck or two away from joining Mr. Kashkari in using a park bench as a bed. A quarter of the state’s residents are living in poverty, and with 12 percent of the of our nation’s population, California can lay claim to one third of the welfare cases.

While Californians suffer under oppressive economic conditions, the majority of lawmakers and the governor remain oblivious.

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