Jim de Bree | I’ll Take My Chances with Katie Hill

Jim de Bree
Jim de Bree

I have voted in every election since 1972, but I have never voted for a Democrat for Congress. However, these are exceptional times that require a fresh viewpoint.

I first heard of Katie Hill a few years ago when I was on a not-for-profit board that was looking into solutions for homelessness in L.A. County.

I first met Katie Hill in March 2017 when she was participating in a Signal-sponsored debate on Proposition H. Her opponent failed to show up and The Signal asked if I would step in on his behalf.

During that debate, Ms. Hill was articulate, presented well-reasoned positions, and demonstrated forward-looking solutions to one of the biggest problems we face in southern California.

One Signal columnist stated that he would not vote for Ms. Hill because she hasn’t accomplished anything. I beg to differ. At a young age, Ms. Hill has been a key leader in the efforts of a not-for-profit organization called People Assisting the Homeless (“PATH”). It is rare for a person who is Ms. Hill’s age to play such a pivotal role in a rapidly growing successful not-for-profit organization.

But my vote this year is as much about voting against Steve Knight as it is voting for Katie Hill.

No congressman who has ever represented me has done more to hurt my family than Congressman Knight has during this term. While I am upset with Mr. Knight for numerous reasons, my two biggest complaints are his votes on taxes and health care.

I have previously written extensively about the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, so I will not dwell on it here other than to say it is the worst piece of tax legislation I have seen in my 44 years as a CPA.

My primary bones of contention with Mr. Knight are his repeated unconscionable votes on health-care matters. Health care is the single most important issue for our family.

Without the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), my daughter probably would not have received critical health care that keeps her alive. My niece suffers from a number of serious ailments, but before the ACA she was precluded from obtaining insurance because she had pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Knight’s first troublesome vote was in favor of the American Healthcare Act, which was really nothing more than a large tax cut for the wealthy, accompanied by huge cuts in Medicaid funding. The remainder of the provisions failed to make the substantive reforms required to improve the quality of our health care system and contain its runaway costs.

His second disturbing vote was for the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would have repealed the medical expense deduction. Many chronically sick taxpayers incur substantial medical costs that are not covered by insurance. Those folks depend on tax deductions to finance their health care costs.

The wife of one of my retired colleagues suffered a series of strokes. She requires extensive care that is not adequately covered by insurance. My colleague told me that, if the medical expense deduction was repealed, his taxes and medical expenses would exceed his income. As a retiree, his income is fixed, and without the tax deduction, his retirement funds would likely have been impaired.

Although the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not repeal the medical expense deduction, it did repeal the individual mandate included in the ACA. The individual mandate imposes a penalty tax on those who do not purchase health care insurance.

The individual mandate is actuarially needed to allow insurance carriers to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Its repeal will mean that many people with pre-existing conditions will eventually be priced out of the market because sicker people will be segregated into separate insurance risk pools with substantially higher premiums, deductibles and co-payment obligations.

After each of these votes, our airways were bombarded with commercials thanking Mr. Knight for his votes. Perhaps these commercials exposed the motivation for his votes. The advertisements were initially sponsored by PACs funded by special interest groups and later by the American Action Institute, a Section 501(c)(4) organization that has close ties with the Republican Party.

Based on information presented on the website maintained by OpenSecrets.org, the largest contributor to the American Action Institute historically has been the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.

I realize that close congressional races are enormously expensive, so Congressman Knight needs the support of special interests to win re-election. Unfortunately, the interests who have supported Mr. Knight are the same interests who profiteer from those needing health care services.

I harbor no illusions about the Democrats having their own special-interest demons, but I am going to take a chance that those interests will not be as harmful to my family.

I am voting for Katie Hill because I believe she will be more proactive than Congressman Knight in championing positions that support my family.

Jim de Bree is a Valencia resident.

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