So I decided I had to do something about healthcare besides tweet really hard about it.
I'd dropped by my congressman's office before (Ed Pastor, D, AZ-4 -- the Fighting Fourth!). It was during a MoveOn push to counter the wingnuts at town meetings. The nice receptionist didn't have an aide handy for me to speak to then.
But today I did drop by his office again, and this time I did get to talk to an aide.
(OK, I asked to see the congressman first. "He's in Washington," the receptionist said. "Voting on legislation.")
I told her I'd like to hear that the congressman will vote no on any bill that lacks a public option. The aide told me she can't promise that, but that Pastor does support the public option.
I also gave her the following letter, which I'm reproducing for posterity, not to mention for anybody who might want to crib.
I don't think it contains much that will be new to Kossacks, but I wanted Rep. Pastor to hear it from -- whatever else I am -- an honest to God voter in his district.
They say a visit to a congressional office is worth 100 letters, but it can't hurt to have a leave-behind.
Also, I heartily recommend talking to your congressperson about healthcare if there's any chance he or she will listen. At least I got a reasonably friendly reception -- I think the aide was relieved that I wasn't a wingnut, or at least a right-wingnut.
Arizona's senators are of course beyond the pale, and all I really want to do with them is vote them out of office.
September 24, 2009
The Hon. Ed Pastor
Phoenix, AZ 85004
RE: Please vote NO if the Healthcare Bill fails to include a public option
Dear Congressman Pastor:
Thank you for your responses to my letters on healthcare. I hope we can sit down and talk about this subject in your district office. In case you are not available, I am writing this letter.
The tone of your responses suggests to me that you have not quite made up your mind, that you are keeping your options open. I would like you to know where one constituent stands.
I’ve voted for you since I’ve lived in Congressional District 4. I also voted for President Obama.
For years I have advocated a single-payer system. Frankly, I don’t know why we can’t get that now that we have a Democrat in the White House and a majority in Congress.
I’m old enough to remember when President Nixon introduced a healthcare bill that was more progressive than any version of the current bill. If you’d told me circa 1970 that by 2009 a Democratic President and Congress would stand to the right of Nixon, I would have laughed.
For the time being I am willing to settle for a public option -- as long as it is a real public option. We already know co-ops don’t work, and I trust a "phase-in" of a public option as much as I trust "the check’s in the mail."
I’m hearing in the media that the Baucus bill is the best we can expect. I don’t accept that.
We have been told that giving up the public option is necessary for compromise. No. The public option is the compromise, against a single-payer system.
We’ve been told that the bill must be bipartisan. Please understand that bipartisanship means nothing outside the beltway, especially after eight years of Republicans trashing the country in ways even I could not have imagined in 2000. There is no such thing as a moderate Republican. That species is extinct. Voters are beginning to realize that.
In a perfect world, of course we’d like to see both parties work together. But when one party is guano crazy, and has obviously been so for years, it can only be outvoted.
A real public option -- one that does not set medical fees, so that true competition can occur -- will at least start to bring costs into line. The insurance companies have been the problem all along, and it is far past time to end their free ride.
So while I am shocked that the Republicans deploy brownshirts to scream at even Sen. Specter (a Democrat in name only), I am not surprised. They have been using scare tactics and code words ("socialism") ever since Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare (of all things ) would end freedom.
I am surprised, disappointed, and angry that the Democrats have failed to seize the moment, to take control of the discussion, and to counterattack effectively. It’s been embarrassing to watch the Democrats negotiate with themselves and abandon their principles before negotiations even started. Lyndon Johnson would have brought the Democrats-in-name-only into line, and I don’t understand why President Obama is not doing the same thing.
I fail to understand why President Obama says the public option is just a nice-to-have. If he will not lead on this issue, then Congress must.
Franklin Roosevelt famously told voters that he could not make Social Security happen on his own. In the face of reactionary special interests, "You will have to make me do it." Apparently, we will have to make President Obama stand up for the public option.
Please tell me that you will vote against any healthcare bill that does not include a real public option. President Obama really needs to hear that, and so do we the voters.