By Mark Ellis
In a state that continues to be burdened by natural and man-made calamities, Gov. Jerry Brown encouraged budgetary caution as the state emerges from the grip of recession.
Gov. Brown’s 11th State of the State address, delivered before a joint session of the Legislature, proclaimed California’s “comeback” from the depths of a financial sinkhole, with a million new jobs created since 2010 and budgetary surpluses projected for the near term.
“But we are not out of the woods and we certainly are not out of the drought,” Brown said. “Life is uncertainty, the climate is changing – not for the better – and the business cycle and the stock market are historically volatile, with good years followed by bad, with painful regularity.”
The governor said California cannot afford to return to its profligate spending ways, then he cited the Old Testament to bolster his position.
“We can’t go back to ‘business as usual,’” he said.
“Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh: Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow.”
In the late 50s, Brown attended Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary, intent on becoming a Catholic priest. He left the seminary after three years and graduated from UC Berkeley. His June 2005 marriage to Anne Gust was a religious ceremony at the same Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco where his parents were married.
The wisdom of the Scripture absorbed as a younger man apparently left a lasting mark.
Joseph – the biblical figure named by Brown — was the 11th son of the biblical patriarch Jacob. Due to envy, Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, but instead sold him to a camel caravan of Midianites for 20 pieces of silver. He wound up as a servant in the home of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.
When Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual assault, he was sent to prison. After two years languishing in prison, Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams. He dreamed of seven lean cows, which rose from the Nile River and devoured seven fat cows; and, of seven withered ears of grain, which devoured seven fat ears.
Pharaoh’s soothsayers could not interpret the two dreams, but his chief cup-bearer – who met Joseph in prison — remembered Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams.
Joseph was called for, and interpreted the dreams as foretelling seven years of abundance, which would be followed by seven years of famine, and advised Pharaoh to store 20 percent of the harvest during the years of plenty.
Pharaoh recognized that Joseph’s proposal to store grain during the good years was wise. Pharaoh then released Joseph from prison and put him in charge over “all the land of Egypt.”
Pharaoh’s God-inspired dream, interpreted by Joseph via supernatural insight, may be the best advice for the modern state of California, as Brown observed.
“Most governors and legislatures – in modern times – have forgotten this advice,” Brown said in his address. “This time we won’t do that. We will pay down our debts and remember the lessons of history.”