Neel Kashkari Takes to the Mean Streets of Fresno

Will Governate 4 Food

Yes, Virginia, the Republicans are running someone against California governor Jerry Brown. His name is Neel Kashkari.

Kashkari has been virtually invisible throughout what has passed for the campaign. (Not literally. There is no evidence that he has mastered the ability to bend light around himself so as to render his physical form undetectable to the human eye. Just in the media, which has decided that he isn’t worth covering because he probably won’t win. Which is true, since the media won’t cover him. Funny how that works.)

What do you do when the struggle for visibility gets tough?

Publicity stunt!

In what his supporters would likely say was an earnest attempt to showcase the ongoing problem of un- and underemployment in California despite the economic “recovery” — if anyone bothered to ask his supporters — and what everyone else, including pundits, would call a cheap ploy, Kashkari says he spent the last week playacting as a homeless person in search of work.

Seema Mehta of the Times reports:

“Kashkari wrote that he took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Fresno on July 21 with ‘only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush.’ He said he planned to find a job. “I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work. ‘Kashkari was accompanied by two videographers, who produced a 10-minute video. The footage shows a scruffy Kashkari saying, ‘This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life.'”

All Gen X smirkery aside, I think it’s admirable that any politician, especially a Republican — the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans don’t even pretend to care about poor people — is drawing attention to the misery experienced by millions of Californians suffering through grinding poverty with no foreseeable end in sight. Sure, Kashkari is a multi-millionaire who could, and did, go home whenever he wanted. But when’s the last time you slept outside to see what it was like? Hell, I don’t even like camping.

So, good on Kashkari.

Still, I have some logistical and logical questions for him.

Like, why Fresno? The economy isn’t that bad there, relatively.

Why forty bucks? Why not $20 or $100?

Did the $5 bus fare come out of the $40?

Did he panhandle? Steal? I would.

Why was a toothbrush deemed essential, but not floss? Was there even toothpaste, and if not, why not, and if so, why wasn’t it mentioned? How about mouthwash? (Note to Gov. Brown’s opposition research team: Kashkari’s commitment to oral hygiene halfhearted at best. 92% of voters say ‘ewww.’)

When the Man Who Would Be Governor approached foremen at Fresno area construction sites, how eager for work did he appear? After all, this was an experiment that would have failed mightily had his able-bodied 41-year-old self been scooped off the mean streets of the Raisin Capital and offered a zillion bucks to run a hedge fund. Did he, full of honesty and integrity, pledge to work hard at low wages with little concern for his personal safety? Or was he all Little Lord Fauntleroy about it: “I don’t do sweat, dude”?

So many questions. I’d ask them all, too. But that would be against the rules. He’s a long-shot gubernatorial candidate and I’m a pundit.

3 thoughts on “Neel Kashkari Takes to the Mean Streets of Fresno

  1. I haven’t followed up with the vid – ten whole minutes out of my life … sheesh.

    I doubt you could learn anything in less than a month or three. It takes a while to build up that true homeless bouquet, and for your Armani suit to take on the proper degree of thread bareness. Hell, most guys won’t look properly unshaven in a week. I’d wager that most of the time he looked more like a recently-laid-off exec than a person of the homeless persuasion. Forty bucks? I bet you could still find cheap lodging for a week on that, or invest it in Mission mac & cheese. You gotta get completely broke to get properly hungry & desperate. Try looking for a job when you don’t have any clothes that don’t look like rags, no place to shave or shower, and haven’t eaten for a week. Still, I gotta agree, it’s nice to see a politico, any politico make even a token effort.

    I wonder whether he actually talked to any of his fellow unfortunates. (“Pahdon me old bean, do you have any grey poupon?” … “no, but I got some other colors on”)

    To answer the rhetorical: it’s been a few decades since I slept under a picnic table or bridge abutment, but it wasn’t exactly ‘to see what it was like’ at the time.

    • “Why Fresno?” Why’a no NYC in January?

      Come to think of it, how many homeless have a film crew following them around? Did the film crew have coffee and sandwiches and did they share…?

  2. I watched the video and I would vote for him if I could — but I’m not a California resident. Be that as it may, I’m not sure that somebody whose last name is so closely comparable to “Cash-n-Carry” will ever be elected. 🙁