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Letter to Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)

I try not to get on my political soapbox on the blog, because who cares about my political views? You come here for vaguely profane stories about my inability to get along with college classmates, and whiny rants about 3-D. However, my representative is constitutionally obligated to care what I think about politics, in that he cares enough to enslave interns to read letters for him, code them by subject, and start sending form letters related to that topic.

Not along ago, Congressman Roskam sent me a letter explaining his tough stance on the current budget problems. You can read it here. I found the letter so profoundly offensive in its hypocrisy that I felt compelled to respond. You can read the letter I sent to him today after the jump.

May 5, 2011

U.S. Representative Peter J. Roskam

150 S. Bloomingdale Road

Suite 200

Bloomingdale, IL 60108

Congressman Roskam:

In response to your letter dated April 21, let me first thank you for your thorough explanation of the budget back-and-forth between both houses of Congress and the White House.

Unfortunately, my appreciation for that is mitigated by the letter’s slippery language and outright hypocrisy. The third paragraph closes with this sentence: “Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to pass that package, and refused to make a serious counter-offer to move toward a compromise.” The proposed Senate alternative cut $30 billion instead of HR1’s $60 billion in cuts. How serious do you need them to be, exactly? You subtly imply Senate Democrats did nothing to reach a compromise, when in fact they agreed to 50% of the overall amount. So is this about fiscal responsibility, or is it about them not cutting the things you want them to cut?

Let’s ignore all of that for a second, though. Both $30 billion and $60 billion are extraordinary sums of money to a lowly commoner like myself, but you are talking about a proposed budget that narrowly exceeds $1 trillion. The difference between $30 billion and $60 billion is 3% of the overall budget, so please don’t get too self-congratulatory about your tireless efforts to save our taxpayer dollars. In fact, you should be slightly embarrassed about cutting such a paltry amount, rather than proudly stating you cut a whopping $2.7 billion in federal earmarks (wow, a full quarter of a percent—that’ll dig us out of this deficit hole in no time!).

In the eighth paragraph of your letter, you write, “I strongly believe in protecting the sanctity of human life.” This is, of course, an admirable quality. However, you’ve repeatedly voted against funding (and the very existence) of (S)CHIP, a program designed to allow poor children to have healthcare. In 2007, you voted “nay” on HR1913, which would have expanded the federal definition of hate crimes to include violent crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, and disability. In the same year, you also voted against federal funding for stem cell research—because clearly such research wouldn’t help preserve any lives. In 2010, you voted with your party against HR4872, which not only would help many of those human lives you claim to hold so sacred, the text of the bill outlines a plan that’s effectively financially self-sustaining—in other words, after an initial investment, the program would start paying for itself, essentially turning the federal government into a for-profit company. Isn’t that what Republicans have secretly wanted for the past thirty years? Earlier this year, not surprisingly, you indulged in an absurd bit of political theatre by voting “yea” on HR2, the repeal of HR4872. Congratulations on that hollow charade. In the same vein, you voted “yea” on HR1217, which would annihilate the Prevention & Public Health Fund—what an excellent way of preserving human life, especially for someone who, in 2009, proudly touted O’Hare’s swine flu security precautions. But who needs an entire agency dedicated public awareness and prevention of diseases like swine flu? We have the CDC and NIH to take care of us once everyone starts dying of easily preventable but highly contagious and deadly diseases.

Perhaps most egregiously, you have (it would seem) made it your mission to vote against any and all women’s issues. Most glaringly, women are prominently included in the various hate crime expansion legislation introduced in 2007 (including HR1592 and the aforementioned HR1913), and numerous variations on equal pay acts were introduced between 2007 and 2009 (including HR2831 in 2007, HR1338 in 2008, and HR11 and HR12 in 2009)—you voted against all of them.

To clarify, it seems your essential position is this: it’s totally unacceptable to choose not to bring a child into a cruel, hostile world, but once the child is stuck in it, it’s fine for them to be beaten to a bloody pulp, denied healthcare coverage for the emergency medical attention they received, and (if they’re women) receive less pay than men (making it that much harder to cover their costs). Or, even worse, if they are—regardless of race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation—unemployed, your voting record suggests you would rather live in a world where their benefits have already been cut off for nearly two years, despite the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression. Is that correct? Is that what your belief in protecting the sanctity of human life means? Because, although I’m not a theologian, I’m pretty sure Jesus would have a thing or two to say to you about such an attitude.

There’s also the Planned Parenthood issue. Just so you know, roughly three percent of Planned Parenthood’s resources are for abortions. The majority of what that organization does—and, incidentally, you should know this, being a Congressman and all—revolves around preventive care, prenatal care, and postnatal care. Young, single expectant mothers—or, hell, married expectant mothers approaching middle age—who do not have adequate healthcare rely on Planned Parenthood for thorough, inexpensive care to ensure those unterminated pregnancies can be brought to term without harming mother or child. Teenagers rely on Planned Parenthood for contraceptives. The organization spends more time advocating adoption than abortion, so why punish them for performing a generally noninvasive medical procedure that is 100% legal? You do not have moral authority. Neither does anyone else in this country. “Pro-choice” is not “pro-abortion”—it’s literally pro-choice. I’d prefer adoption in all cases, but it’s not my decision. By voting to de-fund Planned Parenthood, you deny expectant or new parents affordable care for themselves and their new children—the very children you profess to care so much about—not to mention denying them access to the preventive measures that would eliminate the need for abortions altogether. Search your heart, talk to your God, and then try to tell me you “strongly believe in protecting the sanctity of human life.”

My continuing issue with you and your ilk—in all political parties—is the constant beating drum of fiscal responsibility in the face of comical irresponsibility. Please explain to me the advantage of cutting funding for much-needed social programs when the behemoth you call the Department of Defense needlessly absorbs the overwhelming majority of the annual budget. Please explain why you voted “nay” on a bill that, for the love of all that’s holy, prohibits the Department of Defense from sponsoring NASCARs. Why in the world would the DoD need anything to do with NASCAR sponsorship? I might be willing to accept such idiocy if, I don’t know, they were testing an experimental engine in one of the stock cars. That’s a tough sell, though.

I find it patently absurd that reining in the budget is suddenly such a high priority when you and your party are proud of yourselves for cutting a relatively miniscule amount, yet you have no problem with taxpayer dollars sponsoring NASCARs. Are you out of your mind? Do you just really, really love NASCAR? Or have the citizens of the sixth district made it known that they will not rest until their tax money is passed along to NASCAR?

If the latter is the case, please send me local polling data—including the questions asked and demographics of those surveyed—showing this to be the case. In fact, while you’re at it, why don’t you send me local polling data showing anything you’ve done and continue to do is supported by the district? (The fact that our district continues to vote for you doesn’t mean much to me—in this time of political upheaval, the reelection rate of U.S. representatives has gone down to a ten-year low: 94%. All that tells me is that my friends and neighbors don’t care enough about your seat to bother looking into your record. Perhaps they have grown frustrated with the futility of effecting change in government.)

Listen: at the end of the day, you and I disagree fundamentally on many things. I’ve come to terms with that, and I look forward to the day I can move out of the festering pustule you call a district. Unfortunately, until that day comes, we’re stuck with each other. I wrote you a letter two months ago making the surprisingly reasonable argument that Congress could cut significant swaths out of our inflated budget by looking at DoD spending. At the time, I wasn’t interested in cutting actual programs—just bringing costs down to a manageable rate by refusing hyperinflated defense contracts with private corporations. Do you realize what a precarious position it puts our economy in when the government pumps billions into the private sector under the guise of defense? I’m not an economist by any stretch of the imagination (I can barely do mental math), but the plainspoken common sense you Republicans always pretend to value so highly tells me that we’re essentially keeping private companies like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin afloat by pumping taxpayer money (and Chinese loans) into them, rather than letting them sink or swim on their own.

A few weeks ago, Time had a cover story on the very subject of cutting defense spending. The article, entitled “How to Save a Trillion Dollars,” makes the infuriating argument that we’re not just paying hyperinflated sums to private defense contractors—we’re literally tossing money away building planes and tanks and aircraft carriers we don’t need instead of upgrading what we already have, because the money’s been committed, so it must be spent. What kind of insane logic is that? Even worse, the article makes it readily apparent that defense spending is not reined in by Congress, because districts with defense contractors, or military bases, or aircraft carriers, or anything else related to the Department of Defense, benefits financially from all that inflated spending. Read this (from Time, April 18th issue):

The size and shape of the U.S. military don’t belong to the President, the Pentagon, contractors or Congress. Dwight Eisenhower, the last general to serve in the White House, knew something about balancing national security with prosperity. Most Americans recall Ike’s warning “against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” But few recall what the World War II hero—the only five-star general ever to sit in the Oval Office—said next: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Unfortunately, the citizenry is too distracted by wedge issue bullshit (like the abortion remarks cluttering your letter) and, let’s say, Jersey Shore to pay attention. Well, you have my attention now, and I will not rest until you’re either elected out of office or, at the very least, exposed for your hypocrisy. Luckily, I have more free time on my hands than a Congressman, so I can fully commit myself to your political demise. Good luck in 2012!

If you would like to prevent me from trumpeting your relentless pharisaism and pitiable failure of actual leadership, I have a simple solution: treat the men and women of your district like adults. Be honest with us, but more importantly, be honest with yourself, and try to do what’s right not only for the people of your district, but for the country as a whole. Your job exists to represent us, not whatever agenda your party wants to push. It doesn’t have to be you on Capitol Hill.

The issues you raised in your letter are extremely important, but you’re playing politics instead of approaching the problems with anything resembling honesty. Know how I can tell? Your aforementioned voting record. It’s about as consistent and rational as an exquisite corpse (look it up). Your statements in letters, press releases, and town-hall meetings intentionally obfuscate in order to further an agenda. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the American people are getting fed up. We don’t want agendas. We don’t want a slick huckster tricking us into believing a lot of bullshit that does nothing for us but protects his “rational self-interest.” We want something we’ve never seen before: candor from a politician.

I firmly believe that, if you take the time to examine the deepest recesses of your undersized, reptilian brain—no, no, keep going; it’s well past the slimy sheen of political rhetoric—you might find something we humans call honesty. It may confuse and frighten you at first, but believe me, it is a good thing. You should embrace it. Your constituents will thank you.

If you don’t shape up, enjoy your last term while you can. Maybe you could write a novel like Peter King or Barbara Boxer.


D. B. Bates

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