Herger discusses ‘Stabilization Act’ vote during visit

Tony D'Souza
Congressman Wally Herger explains his vote on the economic rescue bill last Wednesday to the party faithful at the GOP headquarters in Mount Shasta. Herger has called his vote 'the toughest' of his career.

After giving an interview at the newspaper last Wednesday afternoon (see below), Congressman Wally Herger visited the Republican Party headquarters on South Mount Shasta Boulevard, where he posed for pictures and spoke with a few dozen of the party faithful before heading back onto the campaign trail.

Herger recently made a contentious vote on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which his own constituents opposed 100-1 before softening their tone as the crisis on Wall Street worsened. The conservative Herger has repeatedly called his vote ‘the toughest of his career.’

At the Mount Shasta GOP headquarters, Herger shook hands with an older crowd of staunch Republicans, some of whom told the Congressman that they had recently lost their jobs.

Herger eventually addressed the attendees to explain his stance on the economic rescue package, invoking the Great Depression—which his parents lived through and often spoke to him about—to express the gravity of the financial crisis gripping the nation.

Herger was at ease and affable among the gathering of loyal supporters. But even in the cordial atmosphere, the tensions of the tightening national race with polls showing John McCain trailing Barack Obama by between 3 and 10 points, seemed to weigh on people’s minds.

“I don’t like polls, they don’t mean anything,” Russell Johnson said. “The poll is on November 4, that’s the poll. Most of these big newspaper people stand out front of the Democratic National Committee when they do their polls.”

Kelli LeFevre-Sordahl, captain of the Mount Shasta headquarters of the Republican Party, said, “Our signs have been ripped up, our decorations torn down. It’s Democrats. They take McCain signs and replace them with Obama signs. This is America and we all have the right to our own opinions. We are very honored to have Wally Herger here with his 22 years of service.”

Others assembled at the headquarters to greet Herger were local business leaders Russ Porterfield, Dennis Cross, and County Supervisor Mike Kobseff.  “The polls are down, but the election isn’t over until the end of Election Day, and we are hoping for a surprise,” Porterfield offered.

Norene Johnson, the former president of the Republican Women’s Club of Mount Shasta said, “I’m very hopeful about the election. Sarah Palin makes McCain look good. The polls are actually the media’s opinion. But the people are the ones who count,” and the Women’s Club’s current president Teddy McGaughey said, “I’m feeling really positive and hopeful. John McCain has a lot of integrity and I would feel comfortable with him being Commander-in-Chief. He’s shown a real bi-partisan spirit which is needed to unify the country.”

As he spoke to the gathering about his votes on the rescue bills, Herger held up his hands and said, “I’ve never had so many people unhappy with me… Is this something I like doing as a conservative Republican from a small business background? No. But I didn’t want to see banking shut down… We have a lot of rough water ahead.”

Q & A with Congressman Wally Herger

Congressman Wally Herger, Republican, is campaigning against Democrat Jeff Morris to win what would be his 12th term in Congress. Herger, one of the longest serving Congressmen from either party, stopped by the newspaper offices last Wednesday for a one hour interview before meeting with the party faithful at the GOP headquarters in Mount Shasta. The following interview contains more than what was published in the Oct. 22 print versions of Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers:

Q: How is the campaign going, Congressman? Do you think you’ll be elected to a 12th term?

WH: If God and the voters are willing...We haven't done a poll but we are guardedly optimistic.

Q: What do you think of your opponent Jeff Morris?

WH: I think he is a very nice man. I'm concerned about some of his policies.

Q: You recently voted to support the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill of 2008. Initially, you said your constituents were calling and emailing 100 to 1 against supporting the original bill, and you voted for it anyway.

WH: I actually opposed the original plan that we felt was a bailout. It basically did ‘bailout’. What we voted for and passed pretty overwhelming was legislation that would allow us to go in and purchase securities and hold them. The securities are very much undervalued right now—hold them until the value returns in two, three, or five years and sell them, break even or make some. Which is pretty much what happened in the 1990s with the Savings and Loan problem.

Q: Are you keeping eye on stock market on day to day basis?

WH: The stock market is obviously very important because people have their retirements in 401 ks. But the immediate concern is the freezing up of the banking system, and locally here in Siskiyou County where because of the problem we have with subprime loans and these homes that people have gotten into where there is about a 27% default where there is no market for these homes at any price…The homes are not worth what they were worth when they bought them but they aren't worth zero. We’ll hold these securities for two three five years until the market comes back.

Q: So you opposed the original three page bill?

WH: I strongly opposed that. There were no securities that you could buy and sell back. It is unusual to see the banking system completely lock up, impossible for small businesses to get loans. It's basically what happened in 1929.

Q: You called your vote on the original bill 'the hardest in your career' which is an amazing statement considering how long you have served and the crises you have seen. How grave is the economic situation facing the country? What is the economic forecast?

WH: The forecast could be the same kind of situation that we were in in 1929 where not only did the stock market crash, but we saw banks dry up and people could not get their money. The banking system isn't the same as in 1929, there was no FDIC, but there are small business that may have a payroll of $300,000-$400,000 a month, if they have their money in there they would have $100,000 secure, but they would not have potentially what they'd need to pay their employees. Farmers or ranchers wouldn’t have the ability to get a loan to plant crops. We're talking about a potential meltdown of the banking system. I am not in favor of a bailout of Wall Street. Again, the stock market goes up and down, you have a chance to make a lot or lose a lot. But that was not the concern. The concern was our area here in Mount Shasta, up here in our communities, credit locked up. It would mean people wouldn't be paid, businesses would shut down. You get what we had in the great Depression, 25% unemployment, not the 6% we have now.

Q: Part of the eventual $700 billion economic rescue package that was passed included ‘Secure Rural Schools’ & PILT money.

WH: That was a big thing to nine of the ten counties I represent. SRS is very big, PILT is very big. We were able to get not just one year but four years, in Siskiyou County the average is $9 million. Some counties it is almost 50% of their whole budget.

Q: Despite the attachment of those riders to the rescue bill, our county accounting officer says we will face the same problem of the loss of those monies in 4 years when the bill expires.

WH: Yes we will. The good news is that we won't be there in a year from now. We need to get back a timber program. We need to get back an environmentally safe program of a renewable resource that both goes in and thins out our forests to prevent catastrophic forest fires and begins to open up our mills.

Q: Will you work in Congress to continue payment of these monies?

WH: One of my very highest priorities is to see that this money continues in one way or another. I believe that the win-win area to make it work is to get back to thinning out forests again and that both helps us with the worsening fire hazards every year as our forests continue to get denser and denser. And it’s renewable, it’s something we can count on. We have very limited taxpayer money now, we have major deficit spending. This is only for rural areas. So we have to look at traditional ways of how we have received it...Good locally planned timber forest management, and then from that 25% of our harvest, put that in schools. That's the real answer. That's about the only long term answer I can give. Because this money was intended to be temporary ...but this is too big a hit.

Q: You were warned in Washington that the current crisis could be like the 1929 economic disaster?

WH: That’s what we were being warned. I wasn't alive in 1929 but both my parents were. I heard a lot about the 30s and those were not good times.

Q: But some of our towns like Dunsmuir were already being battered by high gas prices even before the current crisis began.

WH: The energy issue is incredibly big. Right now we have a policy that's promoted by the environmental community and the Democrats...My energy policy is ‘All of the above’. We need to conserve, we need to move forward with renewables, solar, wind, particularly nuclear which does not put any greenhouse gases into the air.

Q: Would you like to see a nuclear plant built in the district you represent?

WH: Absolutely.

Q: Do you have any sites in mind?

WH: No. I think wherever we can put them we should put them. It's not like you'd put them in every town, usually they put a major one in some place. 80% of the energy in France is produced by nuclear. It’s that way in most of Europe. So we are falling way behind. And it’s safe. We have nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers that have been floating along for 50 years. We have to drill.

Q: ‘Drill, baby, drill’?

WH: That's not one of my terms but that's a term that's been used. The Democrats have not allowed a vote on this. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would not allow a vote, that’s why I participated when the Congress adjourned for the August recess, we stayed and debated everyday with the lights shut out to eliminate the moratorium on off-shore drilling, on Alaska, on oil shale in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming. We have enough oil there for a 150 years. That's enough to get us going until we can figure out—until the world can figure out—the next thing...We're doing a lot of things...If we had nuclear it would be worthwhile to plug it in right now. Hydro would be good. All of these things are things challenged by environmentalists with big lobbies.

Q: Speaking of hydro power, dams are being removed in Siskiyou County.

WH: We're going the opposite direction. I think that's very sad.

Q: Can you talk about California’s problems with fire?

WH: This year was probably the worst fire season we've ever seen in the counties I represent.

Q: Can you get the county more federal money for fire prevention?

A: I’m certainly working on this, but with our forests getting denser and denser, trees competing with each other for moisture...all of this should be paying for itself. Environmentally safe and prudent ways of forest management.

Q: We’ve see a number of thinning projects this past summer in our area, they drew almost no protesters. Has the fire problem changed people’s perceptions about logging?

WH: The reason is because they've been so small. I just visited one not long ago in Weaverville. And it's great but it's only a 1000 acres. We have hundreds of thousands of acres of trees. And I came up with bipartisan legislation in 1998 the Herger-Feinstein-Quincy Forest Plan for three national forests, a pilot program, and the environmentalists have sued us and sued us and sued us and over 10 years we have not been able to implement that. We need to be doing this over all our national forests, and they pay for themselves, it doesn't take taxpayer money to do this.

Q: How has the campaign been going on a national scope? How do you feel about top of the GOP ticket, about Palin and McCain?

WH: I feel very good. We have a national hero in John McCain who has a lifetime of service to his country who has shown that he is independent. He's a maverick. He goes after waste, he's for a balanced budget. He says he's going to veto budgets that come in over-budget and he's going to make famous those members of Congress that put in these pork barrel projects. Our problem isn't that we are over-taxing, it's that we are spending too much.

Q: Are we going to see another round of rebate checks?

WH: I'm not convinced that a rebate check is the best way to go, that's a very temporary help. We need to encourage our businesses to hire more employees, to expand. We have to keep our banks open. We see a night and day difference between the two candidates. The other candidate is very articulate, very well educated, but has virtually no experience. Three years in the Senate, but two of them he's been running for president. This is a right of center country and out of 100 members of the Senate he has the most liberal voting record of any of them. And he chose as his running mate the third most liberal. I don't think our country is ready for that. That means he likes taxing, he likes big government.

Q: Obama has raised double the amount of money that McCain has in our staunchly Republican county. What's going on?

WH: Senator Obama is a incredibly charismatic candidate. Nobody can sell him short, he's very bright, he went over to Europe and they loved him there. He's basically a rock star, he has rock star status. I like rock stars, but I don't want a rock star as my president.

Q: We seen images of Republican rallies where the base is really angry, they want McCain to go after Obama, we have heard them shout 'Off with his head.' Is the Republican ticket is doing enough to go after Obama?

WH: Nobody should be calling names. You can strongly disagree without being disagreeable. But I think there are dark night and day differences philosophically and on policy between John McCain and Senator Obama, and I personally don't think McCain points that out enough. Now John McCain, he's not an attack dog, he comes out and disagrees, but I think he needs to point out the major differences between the two of them. I think you can do that in a strong way, a respectful way. Like ‘off with your head’, people like that they should lock up for awhile.

Q: What do you think of Sarah Palin?

WH: I think she is outstanding. She is Middle America. This woman is almost too much to be for real. Five children, just had a baby about four months ago, is out there, goes hunts moose. I never heard of a woman like this. She's in Alaska, too. She goes out very strong, she goes after Republicans and Democrats alike when they are doing wrong, which is basically what John McCain has done. Voters are demanding ‘Let’s get it right’. I think that this team will do that.

Q: Are you expecting this election to be a Democratic landslide?

WH: Well it could happen, I'm working that it doesn't happen. I'm very concerned about voter fraud, I'm very concerned about ACORN. The fact that Obama used to work for them and Obama hasn't criticized them. This is outrageous. We should have a fair election. Let whoever wins wins. That takes away from all of democracy. We're not back in Nazi Germany when Hitler was running.

Q: Have the McCain/Obama debates been ‘the most boring debates in history’?

WH: When you do what we do, you watch them. The last one wasn't very exciting, I have to say that (laughing).

Q: Have you been involved with the Nestle bottling plant issue in McCloud?

WH: This is a local issue, but I think it's outrageous what's going on. Here is a clean business that can create jobs that is virtually win-win for the community. It adds to the tax base of Siskiyou County. I don't know how it gets much better than this. But there again are our environmental friends. It doesn’t matter what you do, they are against it. So I think it’s tragic. But this is a local issue. I support whatever the community supports. But I think it's very sad the way this has happened.

Q: You came from quite humble roots.

WH: I milked cows twice a day and shoveled cow manure, seven days a week, twice a day. So that's somewhat humble. That's immigrant work. My grandparents were immigrants from Switzerland. I had three years of college. We had this family situation where I left to help out with our family business. I earned an AA degree from American River majoring in business. I took some night classes, so I did some more after that.

Q: What is the secret to success?

WH: In America if you work hard there isn't anything you can't do. My sister and my grandmother are teachers. I love going to schools and encouraging them to get all the education they can. More education, more doors are open to you. The more you know the better chance you have for providing for yourself and your family. Just because I didn't finish college doesn't mean that's what I recommend to others, just the opposite. I've often regretted it..But I went to work in the family business. The family business worked you at night a lot, particularly in winter. I regret that, I'm not proud of that.

Q: Maybe you'll finish one day.

A: Well, it's a little late, but who knows. Anything is possible. I encourage young people to get as much education as you can. Do postgraduate work, get as much postgraduate work as you can. In America, if you have the qualities of hard work there isn't anything you can't do. I've always had jobs where I've worked long hours. I just talked to a lady who raised her children and who is back in school now. Retraining, I encourage that. It's fun to learn and you better yourself and your family.

Q: What is your favorite place in your district?

A: Oh that's like asking which one of my nine kids I love most. I love my district. I say this and mean it. There’s 435 Congressional districts, I believe I have the most beautiful and the best in the nation. Mt Shasta, I just came from the beautiful Scott Valley, Dunsmuir. A lot of the Swiss from Nicolaus went to Dunsmuir because it reminded them of home. I have Mt. Lassen. I have the beautiful northern Sacramento Valley which was the richest agricultural area, where I was born and raised, in the world. It's all God's country, but I believe that this is really God’s country. I can honestly say that I love it all.