August 1, 2014

Editorial: On poverty, Kashkari makes a point but misses the train

Neel Kashkari takes a Greyhound from Los Angeles to Fresno, with $40 in his pocket, and a backpack, and looks for a job.

Vast swaths of the state haven’t been touched by the recovery, the Central Valley in particular. So it was intriguing to see GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari take a week in Fresno to pose as a homeless man searching for work that is not heading the world’s eighth-largest economy.

Politicians must attract attention. That generally costs money. Gov. Jerry Brown, Kashkari’s opponent, has $22 million banked for his re-election this fall. Kashkari is very much behind: he had to donate $2 million to his campaign to get 19 percent of the primary vote, although writing about his homeless sojourn in the Wall Street Journal might shake some Wall Street money loose.

It is not surprising to see Kashkari taking risks and going guerrilla. He has been hosting radio call-in shows, generating name ID and buzz while he works on his fundraising. The most recent polls have him about 20 points down; that’s a lot of ground to make up before November.

Kashkari’s latest attempt to get into the media spotlight is highlighted in a 10-minute video on his campaign website. He takes a Greyhound from Los Angeles to Fresno, with $40 in his pocket, and a backpack, and looks for a job.

Unshaven, Kashkari sleeps in parks and parking lots, talking to various poverty-stricken Californians along the way. He notes the No. 1 priority for California is job creation, and pointedly says that “we know how to do this.”

Undeniably, Kashkari has a point. As a millionaire, Kashkari can return to his lifestyle after the week is over. The people he uses in his video can’t. We don’t question Kashkari’s sincerity in taking a week to see what homelessness is like, and he has made poverty a theme in his campaign. More politicians ought to focus on homelessness.

However, Kashkari spends much of his time on the campaign trail blasting Brown’s efforts to bring a very lucrative high-speed rail line right through the heart of where the GOP candidate spent the week. Kashkari refers to it as a “crazy train.”

While we certainly have questions about the train and its funding, perhaps the project and its attendant job creation from which Fresno and the entire Central Valley can benefit isn’t so crazy.

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