Criticism of Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Chico E-R Editor David Little cut too close to the bone

If Doug LaMalfa had been my Facebook friend last week (he wasn’t), he probably would’ve “unfriended” me. That’s what Chico Enterprise-Record Editor David Little did. In case you missed it, I chided LaMalfa for his politics and sucking on the government teat. I was prompted to do so after reading a puff piece by Little that made our local congressman out to be just a regular, hardworking guy. You know, one of us.

Sure, I poked at Little for his take in that column. It wasn’t personal, though he appears to be taking it that way. As are those close to him, including a loved one who scolded me on the social network, calling my piece a “hateful attack.” That’s a bit much. It’s also pretty thin-skinned. I used to work for Little and I expected my criticism would roll off his back. He’s been a newspaperman a long time, and I’m certain he’s taken harder jabs. Maybe my comments cut too close to the bone.

In any case, it’s just business. Since I’ve evidently already burned bridges, albeit unintentionally, I might as well use a flamethrower here by expounding on why I took him to task. That LaMalfa piece was the tipping point for me, after a number of off-the-mark editorials and columns, especially one with the headline “It’s all the fault of climate change.” In it, Little bragged about being a skeptic. He recalled reading in the newspaper about a predicted mini Ice Age when he was a kid in the ’70s, and how that prospect scared the tar out of him. Yet, that disaster never occurred. The takeaway, of course, is that climate change is a myth.

He charged that the upshot to kids not being newspaper readers today is that they “won’t get frightened by the story talking about raging fire, rising seas and widespread death of many living things.” Indeed, instead they’ll be frightened by climate change’s very real consequences thanks to those who, like Little, chalk up the scientific community’s research to the equivalent of the boogieman.

A report released this week by the World Meteorological Organization reveals that levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases reached a record high last year, in part due to a surge in carbon dioxide emissions. This scenario has very real effects. In the Gulf of Maine, rising ocean temperatures already are forcing species such as cod and herring to flee to colder water. An Audubon Society report this week predicts climate change will imperil hundreds of species of North American birds over the next 65 years.

My point is, Little’s got a megaphone. He ought to use it responsibly. If I ever start using this space like he did in that instance, I’d expect to have my ass handed to me by our readers—maybe even by Little. I’m certainly not infallible.

Speaking of which, after my piece last week, LaMalfa’s legislative director, Kevin Eastman, emailed me to say that it was factually inaccurate to say LaMalfa voted to cut food stamps while increasing farm subsidies. The cuts to the poor are indisputable. But Eastman charged that his boss had actually eliminated subsidies. That’s true, to a degree. LaMalfa voted on a farm bill that did eliminate direct subsidies—government largesse that for his family alone has amounted to more than $5 million. What Eastman didn’t say is that the same bill also increased another type of farming subsidy—crop insurance. I should’ve been more specific.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the crop insurance program is “the largest subsidy for agribusiness.” In fiscal year 2012 alone, it cost the public more than $14 billion. The conservative American Enterprise Institute estimates the 2014 regulation could cost taxpayers $15 billion more each year than the previous farm bill. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of that welfare goes to rich farmers like LaMalfa.

I told Eastman I’d be happy to clear that up this week.