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Mailbag: Steel, Rouda show different approaches to infrastructure, pandemic stimulus plans

Multiple methods of transportation run parallel to I-5 in La Jolla.
Multiple methods of transportation run parallel near the 5 Freeway in La Jolla. A pair of recent commentaries, one written by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel and the other by former Rep. Harley Rouda, address federal plans to boost federal spending on infrastructure.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

It is impressive that the Daily Pilot featured commentaries by both former U.S. Congress member Harley Rouda (on June 24) of the 48th congressional district and current congress member from that selfsame congressional district, Michelle Steel (on June 22). The difference is stark and substantial.

Mr. Rouda emphasizes outcomes and benefits that can result from a comprehensive investment in infrastructure — jobs, modernization of aging structures and the stimulation of the nation’s economy.

Ms. Steel stresses the costs of these projects, noting that “the national debt will skyrocket to its highest since World War II.”

What the honorable Ms. Steel does not acknowledge is that the period from the end of World War II to the 1970s was among the greatest eras of economic expansion in history, with the gross domestic product of the U.S. increasing from $228 billion in 1945 to nearly $1.7 trillion in 1975.

The national debt needs to be part of a larger calculation of benefits versus costs. An improved infrastructure, fuller employment and greater economic participation of residents of this country are all indicative of a higher quality of life that we all will enjoy from this substantial investment in the workaday world of these United States.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

Michelle Steel tells us that she opposes the American Jobs Plan because it will raise costs for ordinary Americans and for American businesses.

She seems clueless about how companies actually finance their investments. Because of tax deferments already available to them, raising the corporate tax rate does not meaningfully affect the normal return on investment. So her claim that the cost of doing business in America would “skyrocket” under Biden’s plan is uninformed if not disingenuous.

Steel bizarrely suggests that the current rise in consumer prices is somehow due to an infrastructure bill that has yet to become law. The real causes of this increase in the cost of living are plain to anyone who pays attention: 1) consumer spending surges, like after a pandemic, always have an upward effect on prices; 2) which affects supply that was already low due to the pandemic, further pushing costs upward, during a time when 3) the Colonial Pipeline hack has added to upward trend in energy costs.

Steel’s line “it’s time for the government to get out of the way” so that business can rebound seems downright hypocritical. Last week she personally introduced a bill to have the government help businesses pay for employees’ child care by using federal funds that were authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act — which she voted against (!).

Apparently it is asking too much for Steel’s constituents to expect her to speak from anything beyond GOP talking points.

William Yarchin
Huntington Beach

The commentary by former Rep. Harley Rouda clearly presents the crying need for addressing our infrastructure deficiencies, getting out in front of our technology needs and paying for our investments in these areas with responsible fiscal solutions. I agree with Rouda that eliminating outdated and unneeded subsidies and incentives is key to avoiding tax increases. Yes, closing loopholes makes sense, but so does exposing the lies and misrepresentations that opponents use to defend them. The facts are that no “average taxpayers” will have their taxes affected (unless you consider making over $400,000 a year “average”) by any proposed changes. Few should complain about the wealthy and corporations paying their fair share. They pay little enough as it is. I don’t expect Republicans to support all of the common sense proposals made by Rouda and the Democrats, but the dogged obstructionism facing “common ground” reformers is both outrageous and exasperating. We not only need to eliminate loopholes, but also shore up our “truth” infrastructure and the appreciation of facts and reason in addressing our issues.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

Michelle Steel has consistently been wrong on her opinions and continues to view issues in a narrow right-wing outlook. As a member of the Board of Supervisors she downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. Now she is using the tired tax-and-spend label on President Biden and Democrats. The infrastructure bill is basically the same as Trump mentioned but never got around to accomplishing because he was too busy making money from his presidency. The infrastructure bill that passed with bipartisan support with the help of a handful of enlightened Republicans will repair and replace damaged bridges and highways creating employment for millions in every state and will avoid the death and destruction that recently occurred in the Miami condo. Michelle Steel is too narrow minded to see this and will continue to follow the party line, no matter the outcome.

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach

While I have often criticized Rep. Michelle Steel for her obsessive use of empty, unsupported and meaningless partisan talking points, it turns out to be far more frightening when she attempts to delve deeper into a topic. Ms. Steel’s recent commentary in the Daily Pilot illustrates this point perfectly. In the piece, she clumsily cobbles together a view of domestic economics that is alarmingly naïve, ignoring the lived experience of most CA-48 constituents. Instead, she expresses a belief in failed domestic policies and then tries to back it with misleading or incorrect facts and highly questionable “expert” opinions. Her views are so frighteningly off-base and out of touch it makes one wonder if Steel has ever spoken to anyone who actually works for a living.

When Steel reports that businesses are struggling to hire employees, guess who isn’t struggling to hire employees? Companies and corporations that are offering a living wage and benefits. Decades of blindly pro-corporate policies have left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. It is all too common for hourly wage earners in CA-48 to hold down multiple jobs simply to get by and then still qualify for public assistance based on their meager income.

Of course, Steel has proven herself to be nothing more than just another blindly partisan politician. But when she offers up repeatedly disproven and failed Republican economic tropes, it is not just wrong. It is insulting! After decades of predicting how their supply-side policies would broadly benefit everyone, Americans are left only to survey the economic wreckage brought on by GOP “trickle down” nonsense. If you’d like to argue this point, I’d only ask that you first Google “the Kansas Experiment,” “Sam Brownback,” and/or “American income inequality” and then get back to me.

Steven C. Shepherd
Huntington Beach

Resistance eases a year into COVID-19

It was a year ago this spring and summer that some of our local leaders in Orange County, particularly in the beach cities and on the Board of Supervisors, brought attention to themselves as COVID-19 deniers and resisters to medical science and state emergency mandates. The L.A. Times has published two recent articles on the negative impact that this resistance had on our county. I will never forget the frustration and fear of those of us who tried to appeal to these leaders to protect their citizens by listening to national and state medical leaders and by following COVID-19 protocols. Thus this validation by a major newspaper of the actions of some of our leaders helps confirm our perspective that they were indeed extreme in nature.

In one of the articles the author described the extent to which this negative local action gave way to the following, “Orange County came to be seen as a hotbed of resistance to medical science and emergency health mandates. Some local leaders resisted a state order to close beaches. Orange County’s chief health officer quit after receiving death threats and little backing from a timorous Board of Supervisors.”

One of the community leaders from a local university contends that robust debate is healthy. (I think most likely it is if it doesn’t affect our health or put the economy before saving lives.) This spokesperson figures that the small group of resisters and deniers protesting at the beaches, particularly Huntington Beach, should not influence elected officials or be “taken as reflecting the broad sentiment of county residents.”

The conclusion that most voters consider themselves “closer to the middle than the far reaches of either party” brings us some hope for the future. Recently it seems that the county has calmed down from the robust resistance that was displayed by several local leaders a year ago. I would like to think that the silent majority will not forget the vociferous resistance or mere inaction of some of those leaders who threatened our safety and that the memory of the painful experience of the pandemic will be reflected in our voting habits in the future.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

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