Judging Neel Kashkari's Week of "Homelessness": 5 Reactions | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Judging Neel Kashkari's Week of "Homelessness": 5 Reactions

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Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge Neel Kashkari on the campaign trail - KASHKARI FOR GOVERNOR
  • Kashkari for Governor
  • Neel Kashkari on the campaign trail
Running for office can be grueling, but it's usually not this bad. Neel Kashkari, the Republican contender to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, spent a week living on the streets of Fresno to underscore his jobs message.

Voluntary hardship is becoming a Kashkari trademark. Whether he's taking a beating on Capitol Hill, facing a roomful of screaming Tea Partiers, or running a long-shot campaign against a popular incumbent, Kashkari has always been willing — even eager — to suffer for the cause. This is the most extreme example yet.

Here are five reactions:
click to enlarge kashkaribackpack.jpg
5. This is a good political stunt.
The Kashkari campaign reported just $198,000 in the bank on Thursday, with $164,000 in debt. That would have been the story of the day if Kashkari had not released video of himself begging for work and sleeping on the sidewalk.

In effect, Kashkari pretended to be broke in order to distract from the news that his campaign actually is broke. In the process, he also generated tons of free media attention, which is what you need when your campaign is broke.

  • Tony Alter / Flickr / Creative Commons
  • Paul Ryan
4. Paul Ryan wants his shtick back.
Suddenly it's popular for Republicans to talk about poverty. For more than a year, Rep. Paul Ryan has been on a nationwide poverty tour, attempting to shake the party's reputation for indifference to poor people.

The difference is that Ryan emerged with some interesting ideas on shoring up the safety net. Kashkari, meanwhile, returned from a Fresno homeless shelter with the same talking points he went in with.

"The solution is simple. It's jobs," Kashkari concludes. "It's not more welfare. It's not more food stamps. It's jobs."

click to enlarge Kashkaribus.jpg
3. Kashkari's solutions sound pretty familiar
Republicans are in trouble in California. Kashkari has pledged to rebuild the party by taking it in a new direction. But on poverty issues, his prescription is the standard Republican agenda: less regulation and less taxation.

Kashkari chose Fresno because 25 percent of the city's residents live below the poverty line. But Fresno's unemployment rate is 10 percent. So the issue isn't just "jobs." It's jobs that pay a living wage.

And Kashkari is against raising the minimum wage. He told an audience in Whittier in May that raising the minimum wage is "good for those workers who get to keep their jobs, but it’s devastating for those workers who are out of a job as a result of that."

Kashkari does talk about things like income inequality. But he does so in the context of education reform. In an interview with the Weekly in May, he argued that Democrats have hurt poor people by supporting teachers' unions and opposing reform efforts.

"To me, the root cause of income inequality really is a failure at the K-12 level," he said.

He also argued that increasing school funding, as Brown did with Prop. 30, is "like pouring money into a leaking bucket."

Right or wrong, that position is not going to ruffle any feathers in the Republican Party.

Turn the page for more reactions to Kashkari's stunt, including one Republican he's almost certainly pissed off.

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