Chicken Ed Royce Lies Low, Squawks, and Flies Away from Health Care Forum


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Royce's face on title character of "Chicken Run" cartoon

"It's a cruel world -- may as well get used to it. "

This past Monday night, Congressman Ed Royce was to have appeared at a forum hosted by the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council (the unincorporated neighborhood’s equivalent of a City Council) to talk about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Royce’s district has moved up from being totally located within Orange County to being halfway over the Puente Hills.  Only his hometown of Fullerton, along with La Habra, Brea, Placentia, and Yorba Linda remain from OC — and of those, Fullerton is the only one that he’s represented.  So he has had to focus on meeting his neighbors to the north, his potential new constituents.  This forum had been a good chance for him to do so — or at least that’s what it looked like a week ahead of time — and he’d also be able to slam Obamacare in front of an audience expected to be full of high-voting-propensity seniors.

Then, a week ago Tuesday, disaster struck the Royce campaign.  His challenger, Jay Chen, had a chance meeting in the park with the President of the Council, who asked him if he might attend the same nonpartisan forum and give the side of the debate defending the Affordable Care Act.  This was reasonable and Chen quickly accepted.  Two days later, Ed Royce withdrew from the forum, citing a previously unknown (and highly doubtful) “previous commitment,” chickening out as soon as he heard that Chen was scheduled to make an appearance.  Royce has shown no interest at all in debating Chen — ever, if he can help it.

So: Monday night, congressional candidate and democratic challenger Jay Chen appeared alone at the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council’s August meeting.  He offered a short synopsis on the Affordable Care Act and its benefits, particularly  for seniors, and answered questions.  Royce, as indicated, well you can take your pick of phrases — flew the coop, crossed the road, got stewed, protected his tenders.

What happened at that forum, however, suggests to me that Royce’s motivation for staying the pluck away was not entirely a fear of being skewered.  (You’ll have to read to the end to see my hypothesis, though.)

Royce’s special interest-funded influence was not completely absent from the event.  It was evident in the Rowland Heights seniors’ genuine questions that many of them had been fully fooled by Republican misrepresentation of the landmark piece of legislation.

Dozens of questions addressed taxes — largely in ways that had little or nothing to do with reality.  A Rowland Heights senior heatedly asked Chen to explain what Fox News Channel was telling them exorbitant tax on capital gains mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

As with the best mispresentations, there is a kernel of truth there — but that kernel is chicken feed.  This “skyrocketing tax” will affect only a very small portion of the population.  If a couple making more than $250,000 per year sells a home and makes a profit in excess of $500,000 on the sale, they will pay an approximately 3% tax on the portion of those gains exceeding $500,000.  In other words — they get back their money, they get $500,000 profit tax free, and only then is a small capital gains tax imposed.  [Note: figures corrected in above.]

The resulting small tax increase affects a small fraction of one percent of Californians in any given year.  The seniors somehow hadn’t quite gotten that information clearly from Fox News.

Another woman accused the ACA of being a “job-killer,” asking Chen how he could support a bill that threatened the livelihood of millions.  (After years of testing various falsehoods, the Republicans have found one that seems to have connected with the fear of voters.)  The impartial FactCheck.org has debunked the job-killer claims dozens upon dozens of times, to the chagrin of disappointed and deceived Republicans, but for the record, here’s how it goes.

The Republican argument, twists an “early worker retirement” provision as forced worker retirement — which it is not.  This has genuinely scared seniors into opposing a bill that would greatly help the health care crisis.  (If you’re not a Fox News potato, you may not realize that this is what’s going on outside your field of view.)

Royce and his fellow Republicans have unfortunately succeeded in tricking their constituents into believing that the helpful and beneficial ACA is really a pharmaceutical plot to raise billions for CEOs — ironically, doing so while receiving funds from the biggest corporate bosses on Wall Street.  When we report on election advertising, we don’t include many millions of dollars spent by Fox News to keep seniors who only want to understand the merits of the bill agitated and scared.

As reported by the Pasadena Star-News, an aide stated that Royce dropped out because could not spend the time to prepare for the health care forum.  Time to prepare?  He already VOTED against the thing 2-1/2 years ago — wasn’t he “prepared” then?  He was prepared to answer questions until he found out that Chen would be there!  His comical promise was to hold a forum on Obamacare after the congressional session – conveniently, after the November elections are over.

What is Royce hiding?  Why is he unable to make public comment on a bill he so valiantly stands against?  As promised above, I have a theory: Royce was, in fact, prevented from attending the forum due to a “previous commitment.”  That commitment, though, was not to some other event that precluding his spending time to prepare.

The previous commitment that kept Ed Royce out of Rowland Heights on Monday night was this:  He had previously committed to lying to the public, especially seniors, about the contents of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

With Jay Chen there to call him on his lies, misrepresentations, and deceptions — he wouldn’t have been able to get away with it!  So I suppose that the aide’s comment is also, in a sense, true.  Royce had had enough time to prepare to lie about Obamacare so long as there was no one there to point out all of his lies.  But with a smart, persuasive Harvard grad and successful businessman there to call him on his lies — well, that would have required a lot more preparation.

Trying to slip his lies to the public with Jay Chen there to defend against them was indeed too much trouble for Ed Royce.  And besides, his campaign may well have reasoned, it wouldn’t have worked anyway!

So yes, Ed Royce is a chicken — but he’s more interested in lying than flying.  That’s all the more reason for the voters of the 39th Congressional District to demand debates!

[Note: A reporter on the scene contributed to this story.]


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.