Hey, I got mail from my Congresscritter, Chris Collins. I was very happy to receive it, because it made me feel important – like Collins really wanted my opinion! Brad Riter and I discussed the letter in a podcast we recorded for Trending Buffalo:
I Got a Letter from the Government
Anyone who has paid even casual attention to Chris Collins’ political career knows that he’s looking out for only one type of person – the taxpayer. He even started his own minor party line called “Taxpayers First”, and has carefully staked out a position whereby he is perceived to be the grand protector of the tax dollar.
That’s why our Spaulding Lake millionaire congressional nobleman spent taxpayer money to mail this survey to me! He’s protecting my tax money by spending my tax money! It’s ingenious!
The cover letter doubles down on the whole taxpayer theme – “Dear Taxpayer” isn’t just profoundly impersonal, it reduces my identity to a chore. “Dear Laundry-Folder”. “Dear Grocery Shopper”.
Collins figured he eked out his defeat of incumbent Kathy Hochul by staking out a strong anti-Obamacare position. Indeed, the district isn’t one that’s thrilled with Obama or with health care reform, so there isn’t a breath that leaves Collins’ lungs without denigrating and calling for the complete repeal of Obamacare. He says he’s fought to reduce government regulations, but he’s also voted for massive farm subsidies in an effort to protect your “tax dollars”.
So, he sent a survey along. Note the registration barcode – more on that below – it all looks so important and official. DO NOT DESTROY. OFFICIAL FEDERAL DOCUMENT. The only thing missing is the imprisonment threat you find on mattress tags.
But what it really amounts to is a written push-poll. The questions are carefully crafted to mirror GOP talking points, so that Collins can lend himself a smidgen of extra legitimacy as he’s promoting the interests of the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class. This is a document that represents true class warfare – the wealthy manipulating the aspirations of the poor and middle class to get them to support policies that are against their best interests.
Is the country on the right or wrong track? Well, gosh, I like Obama, and he’s President, so I’ll put “right track”. But I can’t stand Republican obstructionist nihilism, so I think the country is also on the wrong track. What to do? Some questions were self-explanatory, but then you get to the “vouchers” question, and again – there’s nuance there. I think vouchers should be available to parents of children in failing schools. I do not, however, think that they should be standard for all public school districts. The Republicans are pushing vouchers because they do not believe in public education, and would just as soon pull money out of the system and into vouchers because it would have the joint effect of (a) destroying public education; and (b) busting teachers’ unions. After all, that’s what it’s all about for the millionaire party – making sure the working man and woman know their place and stay quiet; class warfare.
Then you get to the questions about fundamental changes to Medicare and Social Security. I’m under 55, and I’ve been paying into both programs towards my retirement since the mid-80s. How on Earth is it fair to anyone currently in the workforce to so fundamentally change a program that people have been paying into? Why is it ok to weaken Social Security and Medicare for someone 54 years old who has been paying into the system for almost 40 years?
By the way – that important-looking barcode? I scanned it. It’s the barcode for the number 1.
So, we turn to the second, perhaps stupider, page of this intern-drafted excreta. I don’t agree with private social security accounts because, among other things, I don’t want the government to be called upon to bail out people who do so when the happen to retire during a financial market meltdown such as the one that occurred in late 2008. Do I support Obama’s use of Executive Orders? Only insofar as they are lawful, which they are. Do I think Congress should expand government, limit government, or keep everything the same? Well, because I’m not a cretin, I think that the issue is far more complicated than that, so I marked “unsure” and annotated my answer.
Now, admittedly, I mis-read the “energy” question and marked two instead of one, but both of them are ones that I think the government should pursue, and no one’s really looking at this anything, they’re just harvesting email addresses. The United States is drilling more oil now than in 2005, and natural gas exploitation is booming thanks to hydrofracking. Fukushima and BP have shown us that off-shore drilling and nuclear power aren’t perhaps the best solutions to our energy needs, and while it’s important to exploit what we have, it’s also important to find alternatives and use less.
I annotated another question by adding an answer. In a question asking what the government should do to help stimulate the economy, there was only a simplistic binary choice – spend more, or reduce taxes on “private businesses and families” as opposed to what, public businesses and single people? So, I said – tax cuts on the middle class. Put more money in regular people’s pockets.
There are two questions relating to non-scandal scandals. Benghazi and the IRS. The 27th District is unaffected by either one of those things, and we live in a community with real problems that affect real people. These are partisan distractions by any measure, but to suggest in a push-poll that Congress should do more of that is just sad.
On immigration, notice the wording – should illegals with no criminal history be allowed to “pay a fine and become a taxpayer?” I annotated that. Everyone on American soil – documented and undocumented – is a “taxpayer” in that they have a legal obligation to pay tax on income. Undocumented aliens are already “taxpayers” – the word he was hunting for was “citizen”. But in the very next question, he uses that term – asking whether undocumented aliens should be able to buy themselves a Green Card, but not citizenship.
Should the government devote more attention to enforcing immigration law and securing borders? How do you say no to that? Yes, the government should do its job. Hurray.
I enclosed a note.
When your Congressman doesn’t have a care in the world, it must be difficult for him to manufacture empathy for people who do. His singular goal is to repeal Obamacare. I have asked him and his staff many times – on Twitter and elsewhere – two things: (a) does Chris Collins believe that every American should have access to affordable, quality health insurance; and (b) if Obamacare is not the good solution to the crisis of uninsurance and underinsurance in this country, what is his solution? What does CollinsCare look like? I have yet to receive an answer to either of these questions.
Furthermore, I don’t know whether Collins and his family are recipients of one of the federally subsidized health insurance plans that exist for the benefit of Congresspeople. I asked it on Twitter, but also placed a call to his Washington office July 11th at 9:38 and left a message for his press person to contact me. It’s now July 16th and I have not been granted the courtesy of a reply.
Is quality, federally subsidized health insurance something to which Collins and his family are entitled, but not us plebes? Does my Congressman think that people should have access to quality health care, and that the cost should be subsidized depending on ability to pay? Does he even think 50 million uninsured Americans who use the emergency room for primary care is a problem?
Frankly, I don’t think Obamacare is the solution, either, but the status quo is worse. I now think Obamacare was a Democratic sellout to conservatives who turned their backs on their own idea in order to harm the Democratic President and, by extension, the country. Republican obstruction and attempts to kill Obamacare have served to condense my opinion into something different altogether.
Health insurance in this country should not be tied to employment. Employers should be free from buying private insurance for their employees, and people should not have to choose employment based on whether or not they will receive health insurance. The solution is Medicare expansion to all Americans. Everyone joins, everyone pays. You want to use a private clinic and pay a private insurer for something extra? Knock yourself out – as long as every American has a guarantee of access to health care they need.
I wish that my Congressman took his office seriously. It’s not just about protecting “taxpayers” from whatever he wants to demean as socialism. It’s about helping people who are in need or powerless. It’s about finding solutions to longstanding problems that the private sector can’t – or won’t – solve. I wish that I had a Congressman who thought that it was important for me and my family to have access to the same quality of healthcare as he. I wish that I had a Congressman who didn’t wage class warfare against the poor and middle class, instead holding onto an anachronistic and unproven “supply side” theory of trickle-down economics. I wish Batavia was as important to him as Benghazi.