Democratic congressional candidate Guy Kimbrough believes America can do better.
The history and political science instructor from Huntington Beach calls it is "a disgrace" that homeless people walk the streets in front of $300,000 homes in Orange County and other parts of the 42nd Congressional District.
He voices concern about the lack of national health insurance for millions of working Americans who do not have medical coverage. "That's not my idea of a safety net," he said.
The Democratic candidate wants better health care to lower the nation's infant mortality rate and a federal program to provide child care for working parents. He favors low-interest loans to help middle-income families buy their first home.
At campaign events across the district, which stretches from Torrance to Huntington Beach, Kimbrough warns of dire consequences if steps are not taken soon to confront the nation's budget and trade deficits.
He does not hesitate to take the politically dangerous course of calling for higher taxes, unlike his Republican rival, Dana Rohrabacher.
"No matter who is elected President on Nov. 8, whether it is Michael Dukakis or George Bush, there has to be a revenue increase to deal with the deficit," Kimbrough said. "We are courting financial disaster if that deficit isn't reduced."
To boost federal revenue, Kimbrough favors a tax of several dollars per barrel on imported oil, increases in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, a value-added or national sales tax ranging from 1% to 5%, plus reform of personal income and corporate tax laws.
"We have to get our economic house in order," Kimbrough tells campaign audiences.
Kimbrough is backing Dukakis in the presidential race. Ex-White House speech writer Rohrabacher has closely allied his candidacy with Vice President Bush and hopes to ride the GOP candidate's coattails in the heavily Republican district.
Kimbrough's position on taxes puts him squarely at odds with Rohrabacher, who insists on holding the line against tax increases.
When pressed, the GOP candidate said his "no new taxes" promise does not mean he would oppose all changes in the tax laws that would shift the tax burden. "I am not going to vote for taxes that will increase the tax load on the American people," Rohrabacher said.
Positions on Spending
The two candidates take opposite approaches to cutting federal spending.
While saying he supports a strong defense, Kimbrough would slow down or scale back certain defense programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Stealth bomber project.
Rohrabacher would eliminate federal programs that "are not justified in times of high deficit," including agricultural subsidies and federal support for public broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Kimbrough said he favors a program like the recent Dukakis plan in Massachusetts that would provide health insurance for working Americans who have no coverage.
Rohrabacher would not. "I don't think it is necessary for us to revolutionize our whole insurance program and medical care in this country in order to provide for those less fortunate people who do not have medical care," he said.
Kimbrough advocates increased spending on AIDS research, while Rohrabacher would maintain research at present levels. The Republican candidate favors relaxation of confidentiality protections as a way to curb the spread of AIDS.
Child Care, Education Views
The two candidates also differ over child care. Kimbrough wants a new federal program, while Rohrabacher supports incentives for businesses to provide child care for employees.
Both agree that education is essential to deter drug use and that a more concerted effort is needed to intercept drugs entering the country.
Kimbrough, 43, said he tried marijuana while a college student at Long Beach State, where he received his bachelor's degree in history in January, 1969, six months before Rohrabacher.
When he lectures about the turbulent '60s, Kimbrough said, "I tell my poli sci classes I briefly experimented with marijuana. I really mean briefly."
Kimbrough said that while in college, he took part in protests of the American invasion of Cambodia.
Kimbrough, the son of a Navy officer, said he grew up in a Republican family but became a Democrat in the 1960s.
"As a person who has two degrees in history . . . I was impressed by certain people--Teddy Roosevelt, a Progressive Republican; Winston Churchill, because he believed in a very strong navy; Franklin D. Roosevelt, for showing that a leader can be both strong and compassionate; and Jack Kennedy, for trying to inspire many of us that politics can be a noble profession."
Kimbrough fondly recalls meeting Sen. Robert F. Kennedy while working at Disneyland, just two days before the Democratic presidential candidate was shot and killed after winning the California primary in June, 1968.