Former investment banker and millionaire Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor, knows what it’s like to be homeless and jobless.
No, he hasn’t actually been homeless or jobless. But he just spent a week in Fresno pretending to be both while videotaping the experience for others to see. He wrote about his trials in a Wall Street Journalop-ed, which can only be read by people with enough money to get past the newspaper’s paywall.
For those who can’t afford that, Kashkari posted a video shot by his accompanying videographer.
Kashkari, 41, trails his Democratic opponent, Governor Jerry Brown, by high double digits in the polls, and despite having personal wealth, does not have the incumbent’s deep pockets for much campaign advertising. So far, the former Goldman Sachs banker has relied on a series of publicity stunts to get attention, including guest hosting right-wing talk-radio shows.
Kashkari took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno with $40 in his pocket to set the tone for his upcoming ordeal. The video, sadly, does not include a soundtrack from “Midnight Cowboy” or explore the echoes of his mind. The political novice spent six nights sleeping on park benches and in parking lots, dodging security guards, and unsuccessfully looking for menial work at dozens of businesses. He eventually bedded down at a homeless shelter.
Kashkari said at a press conference in front of a food bank that he wanted to see for himself what a failure the economic recovery was for the middle and lower classes. Presumably, he knows what a boon it was for wealthy people, who have profitted mightily from a booming stock market while the less fortunate have seen their jobs and whatever wealth they had in their homes disappear.
Kashkari worked on the federal bailout of AIG and banks as a U.S Treasury Department official during the economic meltdown six years ago. He won the GOP nomination for governor over populist Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite who bashes bankers and tried to link him to Islamic law, although he is a Hindu.
The Rev. D. J. Criner, a pastor in Fresno, told the New York Times Kashkari’s week on the streets was “buffoonery” that insulted poor people. “To pose as a homeless man is just wrong—it’s no different than a white man putting on black face and saying he knows what it is to be black,” Criner said. “If he was really homeless, he would have no insurance, nothing to lean back on, but at the end of the seven days he can go back to his beach mansion.”
Armed with this new information, Kashkari will resume his campaign, which promotes the standard Republican economic solutions to poverty and unemployment of tax cuts, reduced government regulation and more oil and gas drilling.
“The solution is not more welfare. It’s not more food stamps,” Kashkari said. “It’s jobs.” But other than reiterating his desire to have Brown’s job, he didn’t seem to offer any new insights on how others might obtain one for themselves.