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Responses from my "Blue Dog" Congressman...

About a month ago, I emailed my Congressman about two issues I feel very strongly about. Here's the text:

Congressman Donnelly,

I respectfully urge you to vote AGAINST the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill to avoid the substantial increase in taxes this would represent for millions of middle-class and less affluent Americans.

Secondly, I strongly urge you to vote AGAINST the $1 Trillion-plus single-payer health care initiative. Having actually lived under a system of "socialized medicine" in The Netherlands for two years, I cannot adequately describe the difference between what we have now in this country and what we will experience if your party imposes a government-run system. If I could put this in a way you would appreciate more, when people start losing access to treatment they would otherwise have received had you not nationalized health care, they are going to look your way, and not with an affectionate gaze. While you and your staff will continue to receive excellent care, your extended families will not. Cancer will become almost certainly terminal again, as treating it will be found to not be "cost effective." And that's just one of the many illnesses that will again become a certain death sentence for millions of people in families across Indiana and the country. If we can't get Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' healthcare right, how in the world do you expect to do it with all the country's medical system? Please reconsider.

Thank You,
J C Rhoades, Col, USAF, Ret 
Well, obviously, Cap and Trade has been put on the back burner as far as I can tell. But, needless to say, the health care issue is front and center. Today, I (finally) received a non-boilerplate response. The cap-and-trade thing seems to have been overlooked. Odd. But the health care comments did garner a comeback. Below I have reproduced the letter and the response I sent back the same day...emphasis is on my comments on what the Representative (or, more probably, his staffer(s)) offered in response to my concerns...


August 25, 2009
Dear Mr. Rhoades,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about healthcare reform. I value your views, and your input helps me to better represent the people of Indiana's Second District in Congress.

Over the past decade, the average cost of a family health plan has more than doubled. That increase has left many previously insured families uninsured. Even those who have managed to keep their coverage are paying higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, in addition to the more expensive premiums. And, as many Hoosiers know, having healthcare one day does not necessarily mean that you will have it the next. Under our current system, if you lose your job, you also lose your health insurance. With healthcare costs continuing to rise and over 46 million without health insurance, the current direction of our nation's healthcare system is unsustainable.
Two points:
- If I lose my job, I lose my health insurance because that's how the US Congress has structured the health insurance industry in this country. You DO NOT ALLOW COMPETITION across state lines, NOR DO YOU ALLOW PORTABILITY OF COVERAGE.
- The "46 million without health insurance" is a statistical canard used by your party to obscure the health care issues this country faces. Of those 47 million, about 12 million are illegal aliens, leaving 34 million "without" health insurance. About 8 million are young people who choose not to buy it...that leaves 26 million. Then there's the 8 million kids who would otherwise be covered by SCHIP that aren't signed up--18 million...and I haven't even mentioned 1) people who can afford coverage but don't buy it; 2) people between jobs who will regain care when they're rehired, and 3) genuinely poor people who qualify for Medicaid but haven't enrolled.


Improving our healthcare system is also vitally important to our country's overall economic competitiveness and fiscal health. Healthcare costs are the fastest growing expense for U.S. businesses, and many businesses-both large and small-have been forced to scale back on or eliminate coverage for their employees. Further, healthcare spending is growing larger and larger as a percentage of all federal spending, adding to our national debt. Government spending on health costs will grow from $720 billion in 2009 to about $1.4 trillion in 2019. If we are to reduce projected deficits, we must rein in the relentless rise in costs sustained by our government.

This is a good summary of why putting my health care in your hands is a frightening proposition. Your Party has already plunged us into massive debt, far greater than anyone imagined. The deficit numbers were underestimated by about one-third and are now estimated to be 9 TRILLION DOLLARS. I think we pay China 1.2 billion a day in interest alone. Now, you estimate health spending will grow by about 100% ($720B to $1.4T) in 10 years. Well, if the Medicare cost projects of 1967 (for 1990) are any indication, you'll be off by a factor of about 10. So, to rely on government to reduce costs is like relying on a drug addict to manage the hospital pharmacy.

As you know, Congress and the president are considering ways of reforming America's healthcare system. I support comprehensive healthcare reform that would allow people to keep their current coverage if they so choose, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions or illnesses, and bring down costs so that all American families have affordable, quality healthcare. Any changes made to improve healthcare should be deficit-neutral and not add to the national debt. I believe we can do this in large part by reducing inefficiencies in our current system that will allow us to improve quality and bring down long-term costs.

I appreciate your sense of irony. This is not a "reform" effort, it's a massive restructuring of the American economy and a direct assault on human liberty. "Deficit neutrality" is laughable. Show me, empirically, where the US Congress has done anything in a deficit-neutral way on anything. You guys...on both sides of the aisle...have been systematically and with clockwork-like regularity been adding to the national debt for as long as I can remember. Finally, as a former US Gov't employee, I can assure you that "reducing inefficiencies" is something a government entity is, I think, physically incapable of accomplishing, any more than making a pig fly.

Fixing healthcare is critically important, and I believe we have gone too long without making the kinds of tough decisions necessary to expand access to care and lower costs. Fixing the system is a huge task and we must make sure we get it right. I want you to know that I will carefully review any healthcare reform bill that comes before the House of Representatives, and cast my vote based on what I believe is in the best interests of north central Indiana and our nation. Rest assured, as Congress continues the debate, I will keep your thoughts in mind.

Let me say this as clearly as I can...expanding access to care and lowering costs are diametrically opposing goals. They are, that is, UNLESS you reduce the kind of care offered. Define "care." Does it mean, ala President Obama, a pain pill versus a defibrillator?

In closing, let me address directly the young staffer who's probably going to read this: I think you people are a direct threat to the well-being of my family. You do it out of a sense of wanting to help, but the net effect, after all the bureaucrats get through with it, will be the exact opposite of your intent. The reason? Your approaching this issue from a sense of pity, not compassion. The former comes from power, the latter charity...politicians crave the former. This is not about health care, it is about imposing a world view on others "for their own good."

I am a human being, sentient and free-born. As such, I see this for what it is...a well-meaning effort that will do incalculable damage to my family and my country. Bottom line: I will die of a disease for which there is a cure, but resources no longer available to provide it. My child will fall to a disease for which there would have been a cure, had not medical innovation been stifled by your "sympathy" for my health insurance "plight."

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to write, call or email me again if I can ever be of assistance. Also, if you would like to receive regular updates on my actions on your behalf in Congress, sign up for my e-newsletter, The Donnelly Dispatch, at http://donnelly.house.gov.

Sincerely,
Joe Donnelly

Alas, what I didn't tell the Congressman is that every penny I can muster will go to his opponent in the next election. Moreover, I'm going to offer my time to his challenger. For a guy whose job takes him away from his family 15 days (minimum) out of the month, that's a significant sacrifice. Granted, it's nothing compared to the guys down-range as we speak, but I did that too when I was active duty...let's just say I'm continuing the fight on different terrain.

If there is one lesson I think we're learning right now, as a country, it is this: being born here doesn't mean freedom is an automatic grant. On the contrary, freedom has to be actively defended and preserved not only abroad but, much more importantly, at home. And we have to be ready to fight for it whenever and wherever it's threatened.

This is a battle that has implications more profound than anything in at least a generation, maybe two, or three. The assault on the American idea--liberty, self-determination over centralized diktat, freedom to either succeed or fail but to do it without interference, that the rights of individual must remain superior to the priorities of the state in vogue at any particular time--is an assault more aggressive, massive and enthusiastically camoflaged by a supine media than at any time in my memory.

Oh yes, one more thing...HR3200 may be called a "health care bill" but it is also serving as a vehicle to undo much of the good done by the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Probably the best example of "your government at work" is the stipulation that now those who have made honest errors in computing their annual taxes will be held as liable as those who consciously tried to evade paying their taxes. Until now, if you could show no intent to defraud, any taxes owed would not be subject to penalties. If the bill passes with this provision, that's history...you're a criminal, pure and simple, and are subject to the same sanctions as the Bernie Madoffs of this world. So it must be, if Congress is to squeeze as much out of the population as they can. And they will have to...their inefficiencies will have to be compensated for by a even-more-predatory IRS to fill the "Buffoon Gap," i.e., make up for the ineptitude inherent in a government-run system.

Feh!

I am profoundly worried, because I have lived the alternative as a "Stranger in a strange land" in Europe. Down this road lies tyranny, however soft, but tyranny nonetheless. 

2 Comments

Any changes made to improve healthcare should be deficit-neutral and not add to the national debt. I believe we can do this in large part by reducing inefficiencies in our current system that will allow us to improve quality and bring down long-term costs.

The man is irony-proof. He's also lying through his teeth.

...now those who have made honest errors in computing their annual taxes will be held as liable as those who consciously tried to evade paying their taxes.

Yeah, but who will serve as the liability model -- Al Capone or Tom Daschle?
 
[T]o rely on government to reduce costs is like relying on a drug addict to manage the hospital pharmacy.
That one's worthy of O'Rourke. :) 

Did you remember to thank Gauleiter Donelly for taking the time to address your concerns in easy-to-read boilerplate?