Monday, 20 May 2024

Thompson hosts Saturday ravioli feed; discusses issues in town hall

LAKE COUNTY – Fresh off a well-attended telephone town hall in which thousands of First Congressional District constituents dialed in, Congressman Mike Thompson will visit Lake County this weekend for his annual ravioli feed fundraiser.

The Mike Thompson for Congress Committee will host the fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Lewis Hall at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., Lakeport.

In November, Thompson elected to his sixth term in Congress with 68 percent of the vote.

The annual fundraiser will once again take electronics for recycling, and this year for the first time will donate reconditioned computers to local nonprofits, according to Thompson's staff.

Some local residents have stated that they plan to attend the fundraiser in protest as part of a series of tea parties that are springing up across the nation, targeting members of Congress as a sign of discontent with government performance and proposed new taxes. A nationwide demonstration is being organized for April 15.

The appearance locally follows Thompson's live telephone town hall for his constituents, which took place Wednesday.

More than 9,100 people participated in the call, according to Thompson's office. Thompson called the turnout for the meeting “inspiring.”

Because of high call volume, Thompson will respond in writing to the 200 voice mails left after the call by constituents.

Thompson told listeners on the call, “We're facing some of the toughest challenges that I've ever seen in my lifetime.”

California's unemployment is 10.5 percent, with many areas of his district surpassing that number.

Thompson assured North Coast residents that Washington is working to turn things around with the stimulus legislation, which he said is meant to add 3.5 million jobs to the nation's economy.

The stimulus funds have started to come in, with more than $32 million slated for education in the district, with $30 million set aside for transportation on the North Coast.

“Turning things around is going to be a big lift,” he said.

Thompson took questions from 11 constituents during the hour-long call.

Roberta from Kelseyville was unhappy that AIG's co-insurers were made whole on their investments. “I just feel that Congress has taken care of the wealthiest people in the world.”

She also asked about prosecutions of people who violated the US Constitution during the Bush administration. “We're still waiting.”

Thompson said he understands her frustration, but didn't believe just the rich are being helped.

If the economy had been allowed go go “over the cliff,” the recession would have turned into a depression, he said. AIG's situation is particularly galling due to the millions paid in retention bonuses. “That wasn't the intention,” said Thompson, adding that the government has received back between $50 million and $80 million of the bonus money.

Thompson said he believes the country is starting to see a return on its investment, with housing sales up and other signs of recovery appearing.

During the call Thompson also was confronted by a caller, who identified himself as James from Eureka, who challenged the congressman's votes for Israel, and asked when he was going to put America first rather than Israel.

“I put our district first, I put our country first, and I vote the best that I can” to help the district, state and the world, Thompson responded.

Thompson also was asked about health care – he said he supports affordable, universal health care – and addressing climate change. On the latter subject, Thompson said the stimulus bill has a number of provisions to move the country toward renewable energy. He said if climate change continues, the planet could see increases of between 3 and 10 degrees in temperature, which would lead to the death of three out of every five species, rising oceans, massive floods and dangers to water supply.

Pam from Humboldt said education is suffering, with so many teachers getting pink slips. “It's just devastating,” she said. “What can Congress do to help us?”

Thompson said $8 billion in the federal stimulus bill is meant to help education in California, including the $32 million headed for the First Congressional District. The California Congressional Delegation wrote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to release the money quickly.

Sheila of Redwood Valley asked Thompson – a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of fiscally responsible party members – what he thinks of President Barack Obama's budget.

Thompson said the budget has some things “that worry the heck out of me” but many thing he also supports.

“It's one of the first honest budgets I've seen in many years,” said Thompson, explaining that past budgets have excluded funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead tacking on the costs of those operations as emergency funding.

Obama promises that his budget will cut the deficit in half in four years, but Thompson said he's concerned about what happens after that.

John from Trinidad asked Thompson how he justified his vote for the TARP bailout, saying the congressman was in the same boat as the “drunken sailors” who got the country into its current mess.

“I didn't want to vote for that bill” Thompson said, adding that he didn't think anyone else wanted to, either.

At 6 p.m. on a Thursday last fall then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke came to Congress and said, “We have a problem,” Thompson recalled.

The men told Congress that the economy was getting ready to implode and the only way to stop it was to give Paulsen $700 billion, with no strings attached and no oversight, to begin the fix.

Congress came back the next week and started assessing the problem. The alternative to the action Congress ultimately took was to let the entire economy crash, which Thompson said would have been irresponsible.

He voted against the initial bill that would have given Paulsen the money with no oversight. The rewritten bill, for which Thompson voted, has increased FDIC insurance. Thompson said he also received letters of commitment from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then-Sen. Obama that they would address the greater oversight issues.

Thompson said he met with experts from across the country in making his decision on the bill. “I don't think there was any other choice at the time, as terrible as it seems.”

He said that he's seeing positive signs in the current economy.

The state of California just sold $6.5 billion in government bonds, which is a pretty serious reversal from where the state was last fall, he said.

John from Davis asked how much of the president's budget will help small business, which has historically been shown to be a main creator of jobs.

Thompson said the Obama administration has proposals that would benefit small business, including making the research and development tax credit permanent, billions of funds to be distributed through the Small Business Administration, special funding for rural businesses and allowances that would give small business the ability to write off capital expenses in the same year as purchase.

“As tough as things may be right now, we're going to recover from this and we're going to do great things as we've always done,” Thompson said in concluding the call.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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