At the end of Obamaland's Recovery Summer, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is betting that Californians want the federal government to keep growing.
GOP challenger Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, is betting that Californians want more private-sector jobs, not more government jobs. At Wednesday night's televised debate at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Boxer -- anti-Wall Street -- faced off against Fiorina -- anti-Washington.
Boxer hit Fiorina because she laid off 30,000 workers and outsourced jobs. And, after being fired, Fiorina received a $21 million severance package.
Fiorina pointed to California's unemployment rate -- which exceeds 12 percent -- to suggest that the Democrats know how to spend money, but not how to create private-sector jobs.
The most interesting question in the debate came from Tom Watson, a former HP employee, who reminded Fiorina that she once famously said, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore."
My guess is that Team Boxer was dancing at this turn of events.
Watson then asked, "Do you still feel that way? What are your plans to create jobs in California?"
Fiorina's answer may not be what Watson wanted to hear, and it certainly wasn't what your average happy-talk politician might say, but it is what voters need to hear.
"This is the 21st century," Fiorina responded. "Any job can go anywhere. And what worries me deeply is the jobs we lose now may not come back. And so we have to fight for every job. The truth is that California has a higher-than-average unemployment rate because we are destroying jobs and others are fighting harder for our jobs."
Earlier, Fiorina had stated that she had to make "the agonizing choice to lose some jobs to save more. And what enrages people in California as they see people making those tough choices absolutely every day and stores shuttering is federal government employees growing at 14.5 percent" over two years.
For her part, Boxer argued, "If ever we needed a United States senator from California to fight for American jobs, it's now." Then she hit Fiorina for not supporting Democratic spending proposals.
This is the world Boxer has created for herself. Last year, the federal deficit reached $1.4 trillion. Next year, expect more of the same. The Democrats want to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility, but they want to keep spending.
So they've developed this myth that if they support extending the Bush tax cuts for all but the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans -- those who earn more than $250,000 -- they are being fiscally responsible. It's true that proposal is supposed to reduce the federal deficit by $700 billion over a decade. But note that practically no one advocates ending the rest of the Bush tax cuts, which by that logic would be the height of fiscal responsibility.
Then Team Boxer sits back as like-minded opinion leaders excoriate Fiorina for advocating "tax cuts" for the rich, mindless of the sagacity of not raising taxes on the rich during a recession.
In the last week, Boxer has referred Fiorina to a report by economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi -- a one-time economic adviser to GOP Sen. John McCain, Boxer likes to point out -- who found that Washington stimulus spending under Presidents Bush and Obama may have saved 8.5 million jobs.
Taking Boxer's advice to heed Zandi, I decided to look up his position on the Bush tax cuts. Last week, he told CBS News, "I think if the tax cuts expire for everybody, then we'll be back in recession, no doubt. It would be a huge policy mistake."
As Fiorina noted Wednesday night, "We can grow our economy again, but it means we have to fight for private-sector jobs. And, frankly, I don't think there are enough people in Washington who even understand why private-sector jobs are created."
Perhaps the problem is that inside the Beltway, the right to spend other people's money appears God-given.