Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, is seeking his third two-year term as U.S. Representative in California’s 4th Congressional District. His low-key campaign emphasizes the anti-regulation, anti-tax, pro-business and pro-competition themes that have been the hallmark of a career in California politics that dates back to 1979.
El Dorado and Placer counties make up 70 percent of District 4, with the balance in portions of eight rural counties.
McClintock is a familiar face in California politics. Prior to his two terms in Washington, he was elected to the California Assembly six times and the state Senate once. He lost bids for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, state controller in 1994 and 2002, governor in 2003 and lieutenant governor in 2006.
His won his current seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, an election that swept Barack Obama into office and created Democrat majorities in both the House and Senate.
In a race that was too close to call for a full week, McClintock narrowly defeated Democrat Charlie Brown.
McClintock’s campaign’s message has evolved into an extension of the fluid stump speech he frequently airs in town hall and Tea Party meetings. Portions of the message are clearly scripted, but the delivery is always spontaneous, typically delivered in response to questions.
His soaring oratory is an E-ticket ride on the Republican rollercoaster, mixing in historical quotes and anecdotes with doomsday metaphors balanced by an invigorating optimism in human nature and the American way of life.
In an era when candidate forums often attract a dozen or fewer residents, he routinely packs El Dorado Hills school gyms and hotel conference rooms.
In his freshman term McClintock was accused of being an obstructionist to the Obama stimulus policies.
It was an awkward time for a fiscally frugal politician who opposes all earmarks. Complicating matters, he followed former Congressman John Doolittle, who brought home big-ticket, high-impact projects, most notably the $120 million Folsom Lake Crossing bridge over the American River in Folsom.
When the midterm elections put Republicans in control of the House, McClintock shifted his role from a no-voting keen observer of a flawed system to an active participant in its repair.
He currently sits on the powerful House Budget Committee, working beside Committee Chair Paul Ryan on the last two house budgets. Last year’s version was rejected by the Senate, but would have “put our country back on the road to fiscal solvency, preserved our triple-A credit rating and ultimately paid off the entire crushing national debt by the time that today’s college students retire,” said McClintock.
He chairs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, where he fights “to restore abundance as the primary focus of our water and power policy … and open the nation’s vast energy resources to domestic production,” he said.
In a recent phone interview McClintock framed his campaign as part of a larger debate over the future of our country.
“I view this as a continuing opportunity to engage the people of the 4th District at a perilous moment in our country’s history,” he said.
He counters Uppal’s argument that stimulating the middle class will bring about a recovery. “I have news for him — the middle class doesn’t need to be stimulated it needs to be employed,” said McClintock.
“Jack’s made it very clear he believes that government spending creates jobs,” he continued. “If that were the case we should be enjoying unprecedented prosperity today, but we’re not. That policy is destroying the middle class.”
Uppal’s belief in government-controlled “Keynesian” economics, as opposed to the free market, is equally misguided, he said. “It’s never worked and it’s not working now. If it was, we would be in a period of unprecedented economic prosperity.
“Massive spending programs don’t work,” McClintock continued. “I challenge Jack to name a single nation that has ever spent, taxed and borrowed its way to prosperity. We know how to revive an economy. We’ve done so many times before.”
McClintock harkens back to the Carter administration, when the nation suffered double-digit unemployment, inflation, gas shortages and record-high interest rates, all of which were remedied by Ronald Regan, who “reduced the tax and regulatory burdens that were crushing the economy … creating a prolonged period of economic expansion,” he said.
McClintock doesn’t hesitate to credit fiscally prudent accomplishments by Democrats.
“People forget that Bill Clinton actually reduced federal spending by 4 percent of GDP and delivered the largest capital gains tax cut in American history,” he said. “He attacked entitlement spending and abolished the open-ended welfare system.”
The result? “A prolonged period of economic productivity and the only budget surpluses in the last 40 years.”
The menace in McClintock’s message has ramped up as the nation’s spending and debt have increased.
“History warns us, if we don’t change our course soon we’ll cease going bankrupt gradually and start going bankrupt quite suddenly,” he told Village Life, restating his March 27 comments to the House chamber on the eve of the budget debate.
He told his fellow representatives that the nation had “barreled past” several important warning signals, including the loss of its Triple-A credit rating, and that a potentially minor international event, something as innocuous as a bond auction that sours, could set off a chain reaction that might crash the U.S. economy into a deep recession.
Regulatory burdens on business must also be reduced, he said. “We’ve crushed our manufacturing sector with regulations and the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world.
“The approach of great cataclysms that are so obvious to historians in retrospect, are often unheeded by contemporaries at the time,” he added, citing Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s vacation on the eve of World War II.
McClintock again balanced his grim assessments with optimism “that the American people have awakened to the danger confronting our country and are rapidly moving to set things right,” as evidenced by the strong turnouts he’s getting and the rise of the Tea Party.
“Folks sense their country is in trouble and are doing what Americans have always done in such circumstances, they’re rising to the occasion, focusing enormous amounts of time and energy to understand the issues,” the congressman said. “Ultimately, they will set things right.”
No bacon, just merit
Congressman Tom McClintock countered the quiet accusations of some local officials and business leaders that he fails to engage on their issues, and doesn’t bring home the proverbial bacon as well as his predecessor, John Doolittle. “If you look at actual federal dollars spent per district we’re doing pretty well,” he said. “I’ve fostered 38 projects through the normal appropriations process the past three years … a total of $311 million in projects.”
The difference, he said, is that each had to compete with other projects across the country, and won on the basis of merit.
“There were no earmarks; nothing was tucked into a bill behind closed doors in the middle of the night,” McClintock said. “Meritorious projects don’t need earmarks. We’ve had enormous success working through the appropriations process with good projects.”
He said that some local officials want him to find federal funding for projects they aren’t willing to fund themselves. “These are often their lowest priority priorities, but they’re perfectly willing to fund them through political earmarks or special deals that bypass the competitive process.”
McClintock opposes student loan interest breaks
Congressman Tom McClintock recently opposed legislation to extend artificially low student loan interest rates, arguing that they constituted an indirect subsidy to the colleges and universities, whose tuition rates have risen at four times the rate of inflation.
“Student debt is a problem that government has created,” he said. “We’ve watched the government promising to help students pay for tuition prices that the government has inflated. When you pour billions of dollars of subsidies into a market, prices are going to go up.
“Students can no longer afford the inflated tuition, so we offer them below-market loans that they can’t possibly repay,” he added.
“Now we’re in a situation where student loans exceed credit card debt in the economy, while every other college graduates can’t find a job,” the congressman continued. “They graduate into a lousy job market with catastrophic debt that the government has lured them into with teaser rates.”