For Governor: Meg Whitman

When you consider which issues motivate Stanford students, you might think of the environment, Iraq and Afghanistan, or gay marriage. But Hoover fellow Bill Whalen would give Stanford students a little perspective.

“You will have to go out into the real world and get a job one day,” Whalen told staff writer Catherine Lowell.

With the nation’s third highest unemployment rate, California cannot afford policies that tell businesses to create jobs elsewhere.  And the perennially unsolvable budget gaps will be balanced on our backs later with the interest our generation pays. That leads to the real issues affecting students in this election: jobs and spending.  Meg Whitman is best qualified to make the difference in both of these areas, improving the wellbeing of both students and our state.

From the beginning of her campaign, Whitman has maintained message discipline, focusing on the three most pressing issues facing California: jobs, spending, and education.  That commitment demonstrates real leadership in the face of pressure to boil the ocean and tackle every issue and interest.  Bringing jobs back to California needs to be the next governor’s top priority to get the economy back in shape.  California’s unemployment rate may be 12.6%, but tops 20% for people between ages 16 and 24.  We all know graduating Stanford students unable to find work.

Indeed, Sacramento has a leadership vacuum that we believe Meg Whitman is best suited to fill.  More than once, Governor Schwarzenegger promised to veto any bill until the Legislature passes a budget, and reneged each time.  Whitman’s consistency on jobs, spending, and education suggests she has the willpower to hold the line, make tough choices, and bring leadership back to state government.

Critics often point to Whitman’s lack of political experience, comparing her to Schwarzenegger.  Whitman, however, brings a very different background: nearly three decades as a business executive and a manager. When she joined eBay, the company had only 30 employees and $4.7 million in revenues.  By the time she left, it had 15,000 employees and nearly $8 billion in revenues.  That expansion takes vision, drive, and leadership, and is surely more valuable experience than an elected legislator who can shirk responsibility by disappearing among his colleagues.  Further, Whitman’s Silicon Valley experience also helps her relate to the many Stanford students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Whitman’s ability to self-finance much of her campaign, thanks to her success at eBay, is actually another asset enabling her to be a good leader.  While politicians are beholden to special interests, Whitman owes nothing to anybody and can make the tough decisions necessary to right the state of California.

The same cannot be said for her opponent in the Republican primary, Steve Poizner.  While Whitman maintains her focus on jobs, spending, and education, Poizner took advantage of the recent immigration law passed in Arizona to make illegal immigration the center of his campaign (Whitman has stated her opposition to implementing the Arizona law in California). Immigration is an important issue, but Poizner’s campaign is cynical and should be rejected by California voters.

Adding to the cynicism are his numerous flip flops on abortion, the environment, and taxes since his 2004 campaign in Stanford’s 21st Assembly District.  Poizner argues that seeing government in action as the state’s elected Insurance Commissioner has made him more conservative.  We fail to see how working on insurance policy would move Poizner to the right on issues like abortion and the environment.

As Insurance Commissioner, Poizner also has failed to make the tough choices necessary to govern California in these trying times. When Governor Schwarzenegger ordered state workers on furlough, Poizner obstructed the order in his own department, failing to appreciate the seriousness of the budget crisis like other state agencies.  Whitman, on the other hand, has the guts to trim the state workforce back to 2004-05 levels, the last time revenues were similar to today – no gimmicks.

This year’s election is especially important for students.  Without more jobs and less government spending, students will face unemployment now and higher taxes in the future to pay for today’s excesses. Sacramento needs real leadership to make those hard choices. Meg Whitman stands the best chance of increasing jobs for college graduates and looking out for students’ interests – not tomorrow, not sometime, but today.

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