Debbie Does Double Dipping
Remember when Dr. Evil put his pinky on the corner of his mouth and declared that the world would be held ransom for ONE MILLION DOLLARS? That movie moment is what came to mind when reading about Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ newest attempt to pass a bill. His signature bill for 2016 is requesting approval of ONE MILLION DOLLARS to be used to ensure that veterans are receiving their benefits.
Many vets are not getting all of the benefits they deserve because they don’t know about them. Mr. Mathis’ bill tries to fix that problem. His efforts are noble, but what struck me as a little too ironic is his abundant concern with veterans getting their benefits, while staffers formerly in his inner circle felt that he was inappropriately collecting his.
Soon after Mr. Mathis was elected, he and his staff had a discussion about his Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits and what he received from the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). His staff felt strongly that he should stop receiving his benefits or donate them back to the VA while he was in office. They felt that if Mr. Mathis were collecting his veteran’s benefits, while collecting his state salary, he would be double dipping.
Mr. Mathis collects 100% disability benefits from the VA because of a head injury he sustained on tour in Iraq. The 100% designation doesn’t necessarily mean that he is completely disabled, it just means that as long as he is getting treatment for his injury he receives the benefits.
It’s unknown exactly how much Mr. Mathis receives, but his former staff said they believe it is somewhere around $3,000 a month from the VA. Also according to former staff, his wife receives in the ballpark of $2,000 a month from the WWP as a home healthcare-aid to take care of him because of his disability. That alleged $2,000 a month from WWP is on top of his state health benefits, which are considered the best in California. One Republican establishment politician described it as triple dipping. Another former staffer had this to say, “Fiscal conservative my %*#.”
Another wrinkle is, if it’s true that his wife does receive money from the WWP to take care of her husband, does she travel with him and their newborn twins to Sacramento?
No one would deny that Mr. Mathis has earned his VA benefits. But Mr. Mathis has the sacred duty of representing his constituents as he stands on the floor of the California Assembly. If he is declared 100% disabled by the VA, does his disability interfere with his job in serving the citizens of Tulare County? Or does his disability not interfere with his work? Which brings us right back to whether he should be receiving his VA benefits, and on top of that, his state salary at the same time?
It also begs the question, how did Mr. Mathis square his decision to keep his VA and WWP benefits with the opinions of his former staff who wanted him to give them up?
I think the key word in all this is “former.”
I jest about the reference to the Austin Powers movie, but it brings me to another point about his benefits. If Mr. Mathis serves out his 12 years as he intends to do, his Veterans benefits would add up to more than $700,000. That would cover almost an entire year of the cost of his legislative bill. The movie joked about the little the amount it was required to hold the world ransom, but it’s no laughing matter when you are taking taxpayers’ money. As another former staffer said about Mr. Mathis’ double dipping, “Legal does not mean moral and it certainly flies in the face of everything he’s talking about regarding veterans being taken care of.”
Mr. Mathis hasn’t done anything against the law, but as a local Veterans Advocate said, “it is troubling.” Double dipping isn’t fraud, but is a way of gaming the system without going to jail. He may not be going to jail, but he also may not be going back to Sacramento next January.
I’ll Drink to That!
You would think that watching the seventh Republican Presidential debate wouldn’t be so much fun, but it was. I came up with a drinking game where everyone, meaning me and my husband, had to drink shots of beer every time Senator Marco Rubio said, “when I am President of the United States.”
I guess Mr. Rubio has read “The Secret” and was manifesting his future during the debate, because he said the refrain so often that I was passed out under the table within 30 minutes.
I always thought Mr. Rubio was going to get the Republican nomination and obviously he does too. If everyone polling under 10% would just drop out, he would. Another advantage Mr. Rubio has is that he is the number one pick of the Koch Brothers. The Koch brothers are actively campaigning against Donald Trump because they do not believe Mr. Trump is a conservative and they are savvy enough to know Mr. Trump’s presidential nomination will destroy the Republican Party.
I wasn’t really passed out on the floor. Instead of slamming a drink each time Mr. Rubio said, “When I am president,” I found myself yelling at the TV and wanting to have a drink.
Though I see him as the only viable candidate, I don’t understand what everyone else sees in him. Is it me or is Mr. Rubio constantly in attack mode with his laundry list of cookie cutter answers? I feel his pain being the youngest candidate and constantly having to defend himself against his older and bigger siblings. But grow up already.
Next to Governor John Kasich, Mr. Rubio looks so immature. How can the audience watch Gov. Kasich’s performance and not think that he looks, acts, and is, more presidential?
Even Governor Jeb Bush looked more presidential than normal during the last debate “without the elephant in the room.”
And when Rand Paul said that he is the only true fiscal conservative on that stage, while pointing his finger in Mr. Rubio’s direction, why doesn’t that get more traction?
Republicans plan on spending more on the military while cutting taxes. Mr. Paul asks the logical question, “How do you plan on paying for that?” The American Military Industrial Complex is the biggest thing in the world by leaps and bounds. Do we really want to make it bigger? Can’t we just get a little smarter?
Also, one cannot call oneself a fiscal conservative and approve of spending three million per inmate a year at Guantanamo as Mr. Rubio supports. He even wants to increase the population at Guantanamo by sending ISIS fighters who survive an American attack. What the heck do we want them for? Send them to Saudi Arabia and let the Saudis do what they do best, and hang their enemies.
This rant leads us to the Iowa Caucus that took place earlier this week. If you skipped the whole thing and binged watched Long Island Medium here is a painless review.
My prediction the day before was that Mr. Rubio would do much better than anyone predicted, and he did. His performance was the biggest news of the evening. Ted Cruz won the caucus and Mr. Trump was a four-point second.
But Mr. Rubio’s thin third place behind Mr. Trump lead him to give what was considered by many a victory speech. The television viewer was actually treated to five victory speeches that night by first, Mr. Rubio, followed by Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
It was an unusual night where it seemed everybody was a winner.
But here is the skinny on the Iowa Caucus. Iowan Democrats are 99% white and liberal. So it’s no surprise that Mr. Sanders almost tied Mrs. Clinton. Let’s see how he does in not so white South Carolina on February 27. Iowan Republicans are 99% white and evangelical.
So it was no surprise when Mr. Cruz won. Let’s see how he does in not so evangelical Nevada on February 23. One thing is for sure after the Iowa caucus, now that the Republican freak-out is in full bloom over the possibility of Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump getting the nomination, the establishment’s money will start pouring into Mr. Rubio’s coffers.
Another sticking point about the Iowa caucuses is that they have not been picking Republican winners. In 2012 they couldn’t even decide on a winner. First they declared that Rick Santorum won.
Then they said that Mitt Romney won. Then Ron Paul’s team members showed up a few months later en masse and claimed the majority of the convention delegates.
On the Democratic side of the race, Iowa will eventually declare Mrs. Clinton the winner but just barely. Even so, Mr. Sanders will have earned almost half of the delegates. Ironically it was Mr. Rubio’s “victory” speech that illustrated why Mr. Sanders has waged such a successful campaign.
Mr. Rubio said about his parents, “Less than a decade after they arrived here with nothing, my father a bartender on Miami Beach, they owned a home. Not a mansion, but a safe and stable home in a safe and stable neighborhood.”
Is anyone still deluded enough to believe that a bartender, or anyone else in the service industry, could afford to buy a home in 2016?
Mr. Rubio’s anecdotal story that he repeats over and over just fuels the fire. It is why two long shots like Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders’ grassroots campaigns have swept the country. Americans are angry that working hard does not mean financial security for them or their children, and the Clinton and Bush political machines severely underestimated the power of that anger.
Calling all Tulare County Middle-Aged Men
No really, calling all Tulare County middle-aged men, because I think there are still a few who haven’t filed their paperwork to run for Tulare County Supervisor District 1. If any more declare, all the candidates won’t even fit in a clown car. There are currently seven candidates with more to file, I am sure. Filing just opened and goes to March 16 if no incumbent files. Normally filing ends March 11, but Supervisor Allen Ishida is the incumbent and he has declared his candidacy for Governor.
The Candidates are: Edward “Ted” Macaulay, former mayor of Exeter and three-term city councilman; Kuyler Crocker, Strathmore farmer and Sup. Ishida protégé; Dennis Smith, owner of National Builders Supply in Farmersville and president of the Central Valley Tea Party; Vincent Salinas, Visalia real estate agent and former Visalia Planning commissioner and former Redevelopment Agency member; Angel Galvez, employee of the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, Mental Health Branch; John Elliot, publisher of The Kaweah Commonwealth of Three Rivers and a current Tulare County Planning commissioner; and Jim Qualls, Visalia Unified School Board member since 1989.
Though Mr. Quall’s current term runs to 2018, ironically he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to run for an open seat. At the time it looked like a simple race. Now it’s a like a running of the bulls.
One political pundit said, “it’s like it’s all one guy. How do we choose?”
So how to choose? The Foothills Sun Gazette and the Valley Voice have decided to put on a candidates’ forum in May in the heart of Tulare County Supervisor’s District 1. And even though the numbers are looking like the Republican Presidential race, we promise no kid’s table.