My congressman, Doug LaMalfa, voted against re-opening the government and preventing default, he’s wrong, but I owe his family thanks…

October 19, 2013

I don’t know my congressman personally, but I did once have a connection with his family, if ever so briefly, and it was positive (well in the end). But it had nothing to do with politics. I did not vote for him and never could, but I owe perhaps his father a debt of gratitude from way back.

He, that is my congressman, voted against re-starting the government and preventing default on its debts.

My congressman is Doug LaMalfa. He was only perhaps 4 or 5 or even younger when I had a chance encounter with his family in front of the headquarters of their farming operation where they grow one heck of a lot of rice. I’ll get into that shortly.

Congressman LaMalfa identifies with the Tea Party. They hate government. They think it taxes too much and meddles in the affairs of people.

Strangely, however, that does not stop the LaMalfa farming operation from accepting millions of dollars of federal taxpayer-funded rice subsidies over the years. So I guess it is okay if that nasty federal government is paying them, just not someone else. Now I know that they probably think they deserve it and others do not. And I know they would probably point out that their rice farming, along with that of others in the area, brings a lot into the local (and state and national) economy. And I could hardly argue with the latter. I have worked as a truck driver for almost the last two decades now and early on in my truck driving career I hauled a load of rice from near their ranch (could have been theirs or partly theirs) from California to Connecticut. Also, an acquaintance of mine has done a lot of local-area agricultural hauling and has pulled one heck of a lot of loads of fertilizer for the rice fields. And I usually don’t admit this (I mean I have a right against self-incrimination), but for a very short time I sold insurance door to door. The few policies I ever sold were primarily to rice farmers. And this past season as I drove my big rig up and down the highway I watched the whole process from last spring when tractor drivers worked the ground, to when pilots aerial-seeded the gigantic fields and applied fertilizer by air as well. I saw the green rice shoots peep up above the water in the flooded fields (many via subsidized federal irrigation) and I see the rice trucks hauling the finished product. Ironically a lot of it goes overseas to areas that were once self-sufficient in rice (but that is another story). And I know that the farm towns I drive through in the rice country are heavily dependent upon the income the rice industry brings in, even though everyone does not work directly in the farming business. So what I am trying to say is I get it. There is an argument to be made for those subsidies (there is also one to be made against). I just find it terribly contradictory and two-faced that Congressman LaMalfa rails against the government but takes money in the way of a federal salary and rice subsidies for his family’s farming operation. It’s like federal government stay out of my life but keep those checks coming. And some of that money comes from taxpayers who have nothing to do with rice farming and may not even eat rice.

Oh, the connection with the LaMalfas:

When I took my first relatively long solo trip driving a vehicle I was maybe 16 years old. I left our home south of Red Bluff, Ca. and headed for Yuba City, Ca. I was driving a 1949 Willy’s jeep my folks bought after the war when regular automobiles were not as available yet. On a two-lane stretch of Highway 99 out in the middle of rice country the jeep overheated, clouds of steam coming out from under the hood on both sides, and conked out, as luck (and it was luck) would have it, right in front of the LaMalfa Ranch headquarters. I walked up the driveway past a couple of houses to a large shop building. I asked one of the maybe two or three men inside if I could borrow a pail and get some water because my jeep overheated. I think they were working on some farm equipment. They paid me no mind as I walked back to the jeep. I proceeded to pour water into the radiator. I then tried to start the jeep. The engine would try to start but would only make a terrible coughing sound.

I walked back and told them of my plight.

I’m paraphrasing but it was something like this:

“Son, you didn’t pour cold water into the hot radiator did you? You should have let it cool down first.”

They towed the jeep into their shop, and before my eyes they dismantled the engine and showed me the large cracks on the piston heads.

I dolefully said that I would have to call my dad. They had a phone right there in the shop (for you younger readers, these were the dark ages before cell phones).

One of the men, and it may have been Congressman La Malfa’s dad for all I know, said: “You know that’s a pretty good looking jeep. We wouldn’t mind having it around here. You can ask your dad if he wants to sell it to me.”

When I contacted my dad I handed the phone to the man. The man told my dad we could either leave the jeep with them until we could get it towed or he would be more than happy to buy it. My dad opted to sell it.

The LaMalfas, multi-millionaires, likely know a good deal when they see it. But I think they paid a fair price.

I drive by there often these days in a big truck. If I ever have an overheated engine there, at least I’ll know not to pour cold water into the radiator until it cools down (and they might not be in the market for a big truck).

P.s.

And I have to ask this congressman: If the government stayed shut down and the U.S. defaulted on what it owes to foreign creditors, might the ports where the rice is shipped be shut down as well and who would buy our rice?

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Rich Republicans decry the government dole, except when it comes their way…

February 19, 2012

Those Republicans who are so adamant and vociferous about getting government out of our lives and not being dependent upon it and for goodness sake keeping its hands off business in the best laissez-faire tradition are often quite the hypocrites, don’t ya know?

My California State Assemblyman, Republican Doug LaMalfa, belongs to a rice-growing family. That family received $4.7 million in federal subsidies over the past 15 years in connection with their farming, I read in my local Record-Searchlight newspaper online site . So let me get this straight Mr. LaMalfa, it’s okay for the government to fork over money to rich farmers but not to help poor people. Of course, as all of those rich people on the government dole would argue, they deserve it for their efforts are and it helps the economy.

Well there is something to the it-helps-the-economy argument. The rice-growing industry in Northern California creates a lot of jobs, to include those who work for farmers and those who supply and provide various services to the farmers and all the related businesses that go with it, to include all the retail outlets that benefit from the turn over of dollars in the local communities.

In fact, I hauled at least one load of rice in the early days of my trucking career. Another driver and I team drove a semi loaded with bagged rice from Richvale, where the LaMalfa headquarters are (maybe it was theirs), and went across the United States, some 3,000 miles, to Connecticut with it. So there you have it. I gained from the federally-subsidized rice business.

But that is just it. The Republicans are complaining about the Obama stimulus program, weak that it has been overall, and are saying free enterprise needs to get government out of its way and stand on its own. And Mr. LaMalfa is as hard-right Republican as you can get.

He’s running for the U.S. Congress now. Cut aid to poor families, but save it for his family, he’ll probably argue.

(Right now, LaMalfa is actually facing political attack over his family’s windfall from the feds from his Republican opponents. His Democratic contender indicates he is just holding back until maybe LaMalfa starts railing against federal stimulus or something.)

Government subsidized farming is a mixed bag (of rice — just could not resist that). It does provide stability in an economic activity that is highly volatile when it comes to prices. And it is hard to switch from one kind of production to another when so much of the equipment one must use is specialized. And it is probably hard to get crop loans when the lenders cannot be sure that there is some protection against wide price swings and natural disaster.

But how can the likes of LaMalfa and other Republicans argue against economic stimulus when they get so much themselves?

The story I referred to can be seen via this link:

http://www.redding.com/news/2012/feb/18/lamalfas-47-million-in-farm-subsidies-draw/?partner=popular

The U.S. domestic rice-growing industry, at least in Northern California, also depends upon federally-subsidized water; it is a water intensive crop. Some argue that other crops could be grown and the water put to better use. There are other regions on the planet more suited to growing rice with natural conditions.

If you want government out of your business Republicans, or anyone else, you cannot at the same time have your hand out for it largesse (that’s just the way it works).

P.s.

Today I haul a lot of agricultural products, so indirectly I likely benefit from federal farm programs, that include direct payments, as well as insurance, and various services. There no doubt is a major benefit to government involvement in agriculture, to include stability in the food supply and economic system. But I think rich farmers and corporate farmers utilize the image of poor farmers, of which there were many in the past, and still are, to get support for farm subsidy payments. It seems that the majority of help from the federal government goes to those who need it the least. One of my late uncles was a small farmer, 60 acres, and he used to complain that the farm advisors with the state University system were far more eager to work with the big farmers than him.