The San Fernando Valley congressional race between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman is being conducted on two levels.
One level was evident as I scrolled through campaign news on my iPhone while waiting for Berman to begin his town meeting in North Hollywood High School’s auditorium Monday night.
This level was basically irrelevant to American life. It consisted of one insult after another between Berman’s campaign boss Brandon Hall and Sherman’s Parke Skelton and their staffs. These attacks may be of intense interest to political insiders but probably to nobody else.
The other level was apparent when the town meeting got started. It reflected day-to-day concerns of Valley residents, as expressed by comments from the sizeable audience and from Berman. These revolved around jobs, infrastructure, and the declining Valley manufacturing base, failure to revive innovation, Afghanistan and, as one audience member put it, “trying to force our democracy on other parts of the world.”
For example, there was the complex issue brought up by Berman, who is locked in a tight race against Sherman. It was the deep federal spending cuts that will take effect at the beginning of next year, the result of a last-ditch budget agreement aimed at keeping the government going. There would be huge cut in spending accompanied by a large rise in taxes. While this might slash the deficit, most economists feel it could bring back the worst days of the recession.
This is pretty heavy stuff, not much discussed on the news channels or the campaign trail, although it will be later in the year. Berman brought it home to the Valley: There will be $1 trillion in cuts nationally over a several year period, half in defense, half in other programs, including money for public schools, and safety net programs such as medical aid for the poor. He warned that private contractors, including those in the defense business, would begin sending out pink slips in anticipation of reduced federal appropriations and “huge numbers of physicians will no longer take MediCal patients.” He feared consumers would stop spending because they don’t know their job status.”
This is a no-win situation for Berman. The intransigent Republicans who control the House caused the deadlock that will result in these cuts. Berman, as a minority liberal Democrat, can’t do much about it. Still, he felt it was important to warn his constituents of what may happen to the San Fernando Valley.
Relating such complex national issues to the homes, businesses, schools and hospitals of the Valley is high level campaigning, much more important than the usual back and forth of the Berman-Sherman fight.