I Write My Senator

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The
Honorable Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)
511 Dirksen
Senate Office Building
Washington,
DC 20510

May
I call you "Rick"? Having received so many letters from
you these past couple of months, I feel we should be on a first-name
basis. Even though these letters were most likely penned by staffers,
you signed off on them, so I must infer their content reflects your
own thoughts and beliefs regarding the issues raised.

The
internet is a wonderful thing. The reason I received all those letters
from you in the first place was because of the issue-driven
bulk e-mail distributions
that reach my inbox each week, from
various groups promoting particular legislative agendas, offering
one-click links to our specific Senator and/or Congressman to express
our views. While the agendas of these “e-mail
rings
” tend to be extreme left-liberal in most cases, they nevertheless
provide a valuable service by encouraging constituent advocacy in
a user-friendly manner. You don’t have to necessarily agree with
the views of the sponsoring organization – you can express
your own. So I click the link, express myself in the box provided,
then send. A week or so later, your generic response arrives in
my mailbox, a result in turn of the generous franking privileges
a US Senator receives, courtesy of us taxpayers.

However,
Rick, I must say that, most of the time, the response I receive
from you is gibberish that has little if anything to do with the
issue being raised, or when it does, is exactly the opposite response
that I would expect or desire. Let me offer just a handful of the
most recent examples out of over a dozen received in the last four
months:

Example
1: To my comments concerning the lowering of federal gas taxes
as a hedge on the spike in gas prices, you sent me a letter dated
July 13th. In it, you evaded my questions entirely, in lieu of an
impassioned speech on how you valiantly resisted the “Transportation
Equity Act for the 21st Century” (TEA-21), and instead helped lead
the fight to pass the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient
Transportation Equity Act” (SAFETEA). Your proudest goal in this
was to insure that PA would now receive back from the feds $1.07
in highway spending for every dollar paid in by PA residents, as
opposed to the $0.97 spent/dollar of tax paid proffered in the original
bill. You metaphorically puffed out your chest and declaimed: “This
[$1.07 received for every dollar contributed] is an important benchmark
for our state, because it is essential that the Commonwealth remains
a “donee” state rather than a “donor” state.”

“Essential”?
I never understood the logic behind this attitude that we must rip
off another state’s taxpayers to disproportionately benefit our
own state, and I never would have approved of sending anyone to
Congress with that singular goal in mind. In fact, Rick, it is expensive
and bureaucratic to take gas tax money collected in the state, pour
it in the DC pot, then let them dole it back out again as they see
fit, forcing you to engage in power plays on the Senate floor to
ensure your constituents don’t get screwed. Isn’t this a profound
waste of your time? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more efficient just
to let PA keep all gas taxes collected in PA to use
for road improvements as PA sees fit, without the high-cost
federal middleman? You can blather on about the Fed’s role in “regulating
interstate commerce” as an excuse for maintaining the status quo,
but frankly, I imagine that most Pennsylvanians just want to see
the potholes fixed, and encourage
the truckers to take a nap now and then
, so they’re not a navigation
hazard.

Example
2: On July 19th, you subjected me to a litany about all the
issues surrounding the pending CAFTA treaty, and your unqualified
support for it. Now, admittedly, I am ambivalent about this issue,
as I don’t think NAFTA or the WTO has done us any favors, and yet
another “free trade” agreement that serves only to export more US
jobs and artificially maintain a cheap labor force in Latin America
for the benefit of your large
corporate campaign donors
, would not seem to serve the best
interests of your own constituents, particularly in a state that
literally defines the term “rust belt."

However,
that’s not why I wrote you about it. My only concern with CAFTA
was the “fine print” language that binds all parties to a serious
consideration of the United Nations-backed CODEX
standards for nutritional supplements
, standards that have no
basis in sound medical science, and look as though they could have
been written by the big pharmaceutical companies. If those standards
were applied in the US, the multi-billion dollar nutritional supplements
industry would be thrown out of business, as US citizens would be
forced, for example, to get a doctor’s prescription for Vitamin
C in greater dosages than 100 milligrams or so. You never even commented
on this insidious intrusion into the health care choices of American
citizens.

Example
3: Not willing to let you go on the “supplements” issue, I fired
off an additional e-mail to ensure you got the message. Your response
(also dated July 19th – I guess it was a good day for bulk
mail) was, again, characteristically evasive. You stated that dietary
supplements are “not approved by the FDA for safety and effectiveness”
(probably a good thing, as the FDA does not have a single testing
lab), and encouraged all users of supplements to “consult with
a healthcare professional” (I won’t go into the appalling lack
of market-based healthcare solutions here). You then, however, went
way off track and began to lecture me on Anabolic Steroids legislation,
DHEA (currently not labeled as a steroid), and pending legislation
in committee that seeks to change this. Again, there was no coming
down on one side or another by you regarding the supplements industry
in general, or American’s freedom to make their own choices regarding
health care.

Virtually
all your response letters are heavily laden with “buck passing”
comments, i.e. “I am not a member of the Senate XYZ committee,"
or “This is before the House currently, and I am not a Congressman.”
Well, why should you get off so easily? I am confident you have
the names of those key Republican Senate committee members,
along with influential House Republicans, right there on your speed-dial.
A few phone calls to the right people would go a long way, even
if only to get yourself educated on the issues at hand, and would
certainly be the right thing to do by your constituents. If you’re
not on a particular committee, then, OK, take a few committee members
out for dinner and cocktails and figure out what’s going on, before
whatever it is they’re doing hits the full floor. Do the same with
key Republican congressmen.

Example
4: In a surprising development, in a letter dated August 1st,
responding to my views on the Estate Tax, you actually painted yourself
into a corner. You stated that “Senator John Kyl of Arizona introduced
S. 420, which would permanently repeal the Estate Tax.” As you
are a member of the Senate
Finance Committee
, you have no excuses in this regard. I expect
you to come down in support of this bill, with no reservations whatsoever.
As you recently published a book
on family values
, I would expect you to practice what you preach,
and allow families to recover from the devastating loss of a loved
one by removing all federal tax intrusion into the deceased person’s
final wishes for his/her estate, thus ensuring greater security
for their designated heirs. In fact, why don’t you push for repeal
of the Marriage Penalty, as well?

Because
of people like you, Hillary, Schumer, and Feinstein, I am unshakably
convinced that the worst constitutional amendment ever passed in
the 20th century was not the 16th, as many believe, but rather the
17th,
which allowed Senators to be elected by popular vote
. While
the system enacted by the Framers – that of having Senators
elected by State legislatures – had
its share of flaws
, it still more or less required that a prospective
Senator show a little honest statecraft in the course of a lengthy
political career at the local and state levels, before being elevated
by their peers to that august position. Today it’s all about pandering
to special interests with big bucks, and fooling half the voters
into believing you are smarter than your opponent. You don’t even
have to live in the state you represent for any length of time to
establish local credibility. Just ask Hillary. If the 17th had never
passed, it is doubtful that the majority of the Senators presently
sitting would have ever gotten their jobs.

Bottom
line, Rick, most of what you write me is self-serving, fatuous nonsense,
perpetuating the notion that only well-connected, sanctimonious
bottom-feeders are best suited for a political career in the USA.
But I must admit to a certain guilty-pleasure entertainment value,
as it gives me a deeper insight into your thought processes. I only
hope you don’t have a taste for “higher office," as your career
to date is yet another proof of the Peter
Principle
in action.

Now,
while we’re at it – what about getting our troops out of Iraq?

Warmest
Regards,

Your
constituent,
"Tom"
Marshalls Creek, Monroe County, PA

August
24, 2005

Thomas
Andrew Olson [send him
mail]
is a New York–based businessman, computer
consultant, writer and public speaker. His official residence is
in the Pennsylvania Poconos, where he receives lots of fan mail
from his elected representatives.

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