Hypocrites in the Statehouse

They won’t allow us to vote on taxes while living large on taxpayer dollars

I never fail to be amused by the hypocrisy of our local state legislators, who rail against taxes and refused to let us vote on whether to tax ourselves but live well on the handsome salaries and benefits we taxpayers provide.

Then there are those like Sen. Doug LaMalfa who rake in tax dollars in other ways. LaMalfa and his siblings farm rice in the Richvale area, and between 1995 and 2010 they pulled in $4,684,793 in federal farm-bill subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group. Last year the amount was $161,592; the farm’s best year was 2001, when it received $517,226.

LaMalfa defends the subsidies by saying they’re necessary to keep farms productive. “You’re competing in a global pricing system against countries that have no controls,” he told the CN&R in 2010. “If you want it grown here, the farm program keeps the cost of food stable and grown domestically. If you want it to disappear, fine—if you love imported oil, you’ll love imported food.”

Sounds like taxpayer-financed corporate welfare to me. And no matter how you look at the farm bill, it’s skewed toward just a few crops, benefits the largest farmers most, and leaves small farmers and those who produce specialty crops like nuts, fruits and vegetables high and dry. What we need instead of a farm bill is a food bill that encourages more organic farming, protects the land and the environment, and feeds low-income families who depend on government nutrition programs with healthful food.

Crime beat: By now you’ve probably heard about Gregory Wright’s latest foolishness—selling pot in prison after his mother, Sharlee Morton, smuggled it in for him. Wright, you’ll remember, was the emotionally distraught 17-year-old who brought a gun to Las Plumas High School, held a group of students more-or-less hostage in the band room, fired a couple of rounds into the ceiling, and ended up being sentenced to 22 years in prison.

A lot of people, myself included, thought 22 years was too harsh. Nobody was hurt in the incident, after all, and it was clear the kid was a doofus, not a serious baddie. (Note, by way of comparison, that Kevin Schatz, the Paradise nut job who beat his adopted daughter to death with a pipe, got the same sentence.)

I can sort of understand why Wright took the risk. Selling pot brought in money and earned him cachet in a dangerous world where such things matter greatly.

But what was his mother thinking? That she was somehow helping her son? No wonder the kid screwed up his life.

Now he’s facing a total of 25 years in prison. It’s a shame.

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Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.