Real talk, California style

Dear Meg Whitman:

It’s just a few days until the election, and even though many of the major polls show that Jerry Brown is leading the gubernatorial race by a significant margin, I don’t really trust polls, and you could very well end up taking over California’s top job.

If that’s the case, there are a couple of things I want to address.

I met you once—I don’t expect you to remember me, because I was just another face in the crowd—in 2002 at an eBay Live convention in Anaheim.

As the company’s then-CEO, you were the main attraction everyone wanted to see. There were even trading cards with your image on them, and on the convention’s opening day, you took time in the afternoon to walk through the crowd and sign cards for all your eBay devotees.

I didn’t have a card for you to sign (indeed, to this day I still regret I didn’t snag one; the 14 bucks they fetch on eBay could come in mighty handy these days), but I did reach in close enough to ask you a benign question for a story I was writing about your company’s appeal.

You efficiently gave me a one-sentence answer before moving on to your next fan, but now I have another question:

Was it really necessary to spend upward of $150 million in your effort to get elected?

That’s a lot of dough but, apparently, it could prove financially prudent, since one of your key economic plans is to eliminate the capital gains tax, a move that could put a lot of money into your personal coffers.

Naturally, you’ve scoffed at the notion that you stand to benefit from such a move, telling reporters:

“What person in their right mind would spend $140 million to run for governor to save $15 million? I mean it just shows Jerry Brown doesn’t understand math.”

Actually, he does—and I think you do, too.

The number you stand to gain is actually closer to $120 million if you figure that $15 million is good for every year you’re potentially in office, and it’s a number proves you have no idea what it’s like to be anything less than rich in California.

You have no idea what it means to be middle-class and feeling as though the backward slide into poverty is accelerating at an alarming rate—or worse, what it’s like to be poor and barely surviving, just waiting for the next financial hit to do you in.

I know what it feels like to worry about money, and I’m one of the lucky ones—I have shelter, a job and a supportive family.

But, like millions of other Californians, I’m worried about my future. In the last several years I’ve faced job layoffs, increasing health-insurance premiums and an IRA that’s so anemic I’m sure you can hear it begging for mercy from here.

Dear Meg Whitman, please don’t make my state any worse than it already is. You might think running California is just like running a business, but we’re not a company filled with people you could lay off, downsize or otherwise sacrifice as part of an effort to drive profits at any cost.

We’re real people with real financial concerns—the kind that aren’t wrapped up in tax benefits and other rich-people pursuits.

We need jobs and affordable health care and a housing market that doesn’t suck the life out of our economy.

We need the kind of help you can’t provide just by buying the election.

P.S. Hey, Jerry Brown, I’m still putting what little money I have on you, so if you’re reading—don’t screw it up.