The results in Tuesday's primary elections for California governor and the U.S. Senate couldn't have provided a more stark contrast.
The respective Republican winners, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina – both highly successful former high-tech executives – represent the future and the possible. Jerry Brown, who was governor three decades ago, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, a fixture in Congress for nearly as long, represent the past, way past.
California voters thought they had broken with a past of reckless spending and an unresponsive Legislature by electing Arnold Schwarzenegger governor. But the terminator changed somewhere along the line and, anyway, was no match for the public employee unions and gerrymandered, spendthrift Legislature.
Even with open primaries approved by voters Tuesday, Ms. Whitman may not be able to tame Sacramento either with its huge budget deficits and out-of-control bureaucracies.
But by taking a startup called eBay and growing it into one of the world's most successful and well-known corporations, she has demonstrated high levels of managerial competence and imagination. She at least has a chance. And, clearly, one of the things missing most at all levels of government is business knowledge.
Then there is the alternative universe known as Washington, D.C. There, deficits are quickly climbing toward 100 percent of annual GDP, the kind of tipping point that, as it did in Europe, can spark a financial crisis.
There in that alternative universe, taxes and regulation are being raised almost daily on capital and investments. And they are doing so at precisely the time when business needs that capital to hire. Instead, millions of Americans are unemployed with no substantial turnaround in sight.
One can argue that government spending was necessary to soften the financial crisis. But it cannot continue much longer, if at all. Incredibly, at this moment, Congress is considering tens of billions in new spending that will add to the deficit.
Someone who has run a business, like Ms. Fiorina at HP, knows you can't spend more than you bring in forever.
Yes, government is not a business. Government tackles problems the private markets won't. But neither is government's size and reach limitless, certainly not to a point beyond the taxpayers' ability to pay for it. Many people sense that point has been breached.
The future has to be different.
Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.