California’s “Greatest Showman” Opens His Last Budget Circus


Last week, I had the chance to see the new movie “The Greatest Showman” about P.T. Barnum and how his dreams to set up his famous circus became a reality.  Hugh Jackman and the very entertaining cast deliver a crowd-pleasing and empowering performance.

After watching the movie, I started thinking about the many parallels the movie has with California’s state budget process.

This week, the Golden State’s “Greatest Showman” Jerry Brown had us all spellbound as he beckoned us to “come one, come all” to the Capitol Big Top to watch the “Great Budget Circus”.

As always, California’s budget ringmaster razzed and dazzled the assembled reporters and the public at home with a three-ring circus of budget entertainment.

There were death defying feats, or tough budget talk about demands for “spending discipline” and “fiscal prudence” in the final plan to be crafted by the Legislature.

In the second act, the Director of Finance walked the tightrope to tell us how the numbers would work and how much uncertainty is on the horizon.

For the final act, the donkey and elephant acts came to the center ring as the Democrat and Republican leaders entertained the crowd with how they would write the budget.

Outside the Big Top, we were entertained by “the 500-pound man” and other special-interest group side shows that used their carnival barker’s megaphone to try and get the attention of Californians for their causes.  Their voices carry more weight in an election year.

As is always the case with the Governor’s budget, there was a clown’s car filled with budget ideas that are designed to wow the crowd, but are never enacted into law.  Some of these ideas over the years have included much tougher prescriptions for California’s pension challenges that never quite made their way to the budget center ring.

Sadly, the real “Greatest Show on Earth,” the Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey Circus, had its final performances in 2017.  In a case of art imitating life, the 2018-19 state budget will be Jerry Brown’s last budget circus as Governor.

In the coming months, the reviews that he gets over his final budget circus will ultimately go a long way to shaping both the future of our state and his legacy as Governor.

Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.


Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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