Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Issues with Doug LaMalfa

Elections for Republican Party candidates generally follow a traditional trajectory.  They comprise a great psychological and personal journey.  Having stoked the fires of hate, bigotry, ignorance and denial, candidates then, as in the case of Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, try to position themselves as reasonable, caring, logical people.

Doug LaMalfa, running to represent the north state in Congress has the opposite problem.  As I remarked not so long ago, for most of the campaign, LaMalfa declined to publish positions on any issue besides healthcare reform and tried to pass himself off as an affable everyman (his vacuous slogan is “He’s One of Us!”).  But now Senator LaMalfa is coming clean, and it’s worth taking a look at his positions on issues.

Spending.  LaMalfa notes the scale of our debt, and then proceeds to identify bureaucratic inefficiency as the way to cut $16 trillion.  You can call me crazy for scratching my head over this one, but I’d rather you called LaMalfa a moron for pretending that these “inefficiencies” are the answer to our deficit.

Taxes.  You might reasonably expect a responsible politician to ask people to pay for the things they’ve democratically decided that they value.  But then you won’t have reckoned with the Republican Party having morphed during the last decade into a party of social and economic fundamentalists who are ideologically opposed to taxes.  Last I checked, taxes are a tool that we use to achieve social and economic ends.  We adjust their rate depending on, for example, what we want from our education system and our natural resources.  We might, from time to time, think that it would be worthwhile for the public to invest—through its representatives—in new forms of science and technology which the private sector is slow to respond to because of its preoccupation with short-term profits. 

But not LaMalfa.  This man, and hundreds of other knuckleheads like him running for office across the country, have signed a pledge saying that they will never, ever, under any conditions, vote for a tax increase.  That arrogance is extraordinary.  They effectively assume that they know the answer to the question before it is even asked.  They argue that circumstances and contingencies are irrelevant.  They are delivering a resounding slap in the face of any voter who elects representatives in the hope that those representatives will take the measure of a situation and then act on evidence.

Nor does LaMalfa stop there.  He trades in the innuendo embraced by his party’s leadership (“we do not need more tax rate increases we need more taxpayers”), which has suggested that 47% of Americans are leeching off of the system because they do not pay federal income taxes.  If LaMalfa had the slightest regard for his constituents, he would undoubtedly realise that those constituents pay state taxes, payroll taxes and sales taxes.  LaMalfa expresses pride in having “consistently fought against higher taxes and pledge to you, the citizens of the north state, not to increase your taxes”.  And what have we got from state government as a result of LaMalfa’s and Republicans’ inflexible brinkmanship?  A broken political system and zero investment in the north state.  LaMalfa can bleat all he wants about how the north state needs tax relief, but the fact remains that what we actually need is investment of a social or economic character.  Tax relief would bring short term relief, which would be followed by stagnation given the absence of investment in our human resources. 

The Constitution.  Nothing of substance.

Foreign aid.  International affairs will be a new sphere for LaMalfa, and things don’t look promising based on his short paragraph on aid.  “I find it unconscionable”, he writes, “that Americans should sacrifice from their families as well as our courageous military members to support those who oppose our way of life and freedom.  If a country cannot stand with America publicly, defend our embassies, oppose terrorists, and be a partner on the world stage we should not give financial or military aid”.  He’s clearly referring to Libya here.  But his worldview is utterly opaque.  Would he cut off aid to the young Libyan government because the radicals it is trying to deal with are giving it a hard time?  How does he stand on aid to countries which pursue repressive policies which imperil our public by of association, but which portray themselves as our allies?  Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain...these are governments with abysmal human rights records, and every dollar we give them for weapons used to punish their people at home or in their colonies is a stain on our moral fabric and makes us less secure by sewing hatred in the world.

Immigration.  Critical of amnesty, LaMalfa has nothing affirmative to say about what our immigration policy should look like. 

Veterans.  Platitudes without policy substance.

Social Security and Medicare.  Like Mitt Romney, LaMalfa is attempting to drive a wedge into our body politic.  The social net is already frayed in the United States, and visitors from most of Europe and much of Asia wonder at how people here let our government get away without providing the comprehensive program of public healthcare that most long-time democracies in other parts of the world enjoy.  LaMalfa and the Republican Party are trying to further tear this net, but they are doing so in a calculated way, reassuring seniors that very little will change for them while being very open about their willingness to pass on costs to later generations. 

Nobody should have to fight unassisted the kind of market forces that have historically driven our immoral healthcare framework and the long-time predations of the insurance industries on our public (which would be the case when medicare was voucherised—something Republicans have long tried to do to schools in California).  The Republican Party, and much of the Democratic Party, likes to praise the virtues of the “free market”.  But that market leaves individuals and communities unprotected against forces and interests are driven by greed rather than public interest.  LaMalfa’s philosophy says “tough luck” to this injustice.  It holds that basic physical security—far from being a right—is something that the public should have to battle for, tooth and nail, hand over hand, against insurance bureaucracies which are more “human” to the Republican Party, with its embrace of corporate personhood, than citizens of this country.  That’s irresponsible and inhumane.

Energy.  LaMalfa’s philosophy is that of an old-fashioned oilman.  He talks about “environmentally safe” approaches to oil and coal, but opposes the regulations and procedures that ensure that safety.  He is a proponent of the “drill everywhere, drill now” school which has given us disasters like those in the Gulf and in Alaska.  Unsafe extraction of oil, like the unregulated use of pesticides, and industrial dumping—all things supported by the Republican Party through their programs of deregulation—tend to affect marginal, already-struggling communities most.  So this fits with LaMalfa’s general pounding of the weakest and least secure in our society. 

There are some gaping holes here.  Doug LaMalfa has not addressed climate change.  I suspect that’s because he’s one of the deniers who fill his party’s ranks, unwilling to address the greatest threat to our national and public security out there.  Either that or he’s like Mitt Romney, and recognises that climate change exists but has said that he won’t do anything about it.  Then there’s the war in Afghanistan that has dragged on for over ten years.  Not a word from LaMalfa on whether he would support similarly misjudged, dangerous and bloody conflicts, or whether like Mitt Romney he wants to put the Republican Party in the extraordinary position of forcing money on the Pentagon while pretending that cutting a few bureaucratic corners can pay down the deficit and offset war and weapons spending.

LaMalfa’s service in Sacramento, however, offers some insight into how he will behave in D.C.  In the Capitol he was just one among many ideological clones, marching in lockstep to the sound of dictates from Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, and the Ghost of Howard Jarvis, having pledged himself and oathed his service to an ideological program rather than his constituents. 

LaMalfa was recently voted “most true to party values Senate Republican”, but this is risible given his personal hypocrisy on issues like subsidies.  This is the man, after all, who has taken nearly $5 million in government subsidies for his rice farm while denying public funds to early childhood education, schools, colleges, universities, social services, state parks, city libraries and other public goods.

He’s principled when it’s practical, and he stabs his constituents in the back when it’s not.  LaMalfa has a record, and we’re living it.  He and his party have turned California into a great right-wing social and economic experiment.  It’s not working out too well.  Let’s not give him a chance to do the same in Washington. 


  1. Excellent points, one and all! I couldn't agree more!
    A big hello from another of Reed's supporters. You can see my perspective, if you'd like, at Daily Kos. Look for caliblue, or just click on the link in Max's email like I did for you.

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it, and I'll be looking out for your writing.