Category Archives: letters

when i decide to contact elected officials…

more debt madness…

I have a habit of writing to my elected representatives.  These days, it’s made much easier by the fact that all of them have handy little “contact us” email fields on their websites.  Back in the day, I used to handwrite my letters — my first were a pair of communiques to Senators Fritz Hollings and (the late) Strom Thurmond, both of South Carolina, regarding reduced funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.  During the same period, I also wrote several to President Clinton.  My mother was not particularly thrilled when reply envelopes from the White House arrived in the mail.  She was certain I was accumulating a Secret Service file.

Anyway, I took a moment today to write the following note to my state’s senior senator, Dick Lugar.  I’ve emailed his office a few times over the years, and I expect a polite form reply, as I’ve received every previous time.  But I still feel a civic duty to contact my country’s law-makers when circumstances require —

Senator Lugar,

I’ve read your office’s press release of July 25, and my thoughts are this: it is all well and good for you to support prioritizing Social Security and veterans payments, as well as other certain obligations, in the event of a government default. But it is your duty as a United States Senator to make sure a default never even becomes a possibility.

On that subject, it is ludicrous to suggest, as your release does, that passage of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act would itself prevent default, as the act makes clear that a debt-ceiling increase is contingent on PASSAGE of a Balanced Budget Amendment. We can certainly agree that passage is quite improbable. I would also hope that we can agree that, while an easily-sellable gimmick, requiring the federal government to balance its budget denies it the flexibility needed to respond adequately to extraordinary circumstances, such as war and economic downturns.

As I’ve stressed each time I’ve contacted your office, I want to be able to support your re-election despite my Democratic association. I value your experience, and certainly don’t wish Indiana to lose the advantages derived from your seniority. But to see you vote on so reckless a bill as the CCBA — I would almost presume to think such a vote is meant to defend against your Tea Party challenger — it makes it increasingly difficult to do so. I hope you will take that seriously as you chart your course over the coming year.

With the greatest respect,

Eric Anderson, Jr



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my letter to Sen. Lugar…

I realize I am a little late on this, but I suppose I’m about on par with the rest of the country in terms of catching up.  Now that Jon Stewart has brought such attention to the issue, and even Fox News anchors are voicing disgust, it seems we’re all just realizing what a heinous act of negligence was perpetrated in the United States Senate last week.

I find phone-calls to be quite useless, so I decided to write Indiana’s senior Senator with my thoughts instead:

To whom it may concern,

I should say, first, that I am quite appreciative of the Senator’s work on the START treaty, as well as his support of the DREAM Act.  And though I am disappointed by his vote against the repeal of DADT, I am not surprised.  But I have to say that I am completely disgusted by his opposition to the Zadroga 9/11 Act — and further insulted that he has not even the courage to explain the reason for his opposition.

The bill not only provided much needed for relief and assistance for the men and women who gave of themselves unconditionally and without question, because it was their duty, it was deemed deficit-neutral by the Congressional Budget Office — it was completely paid for!

As much as I do appreciate the Senator’s work, and his efforts to remain reasonable in the face of so much irrational behavior on the part of his colleagues, I cannot fathom his opposition to this bill.  The only possible conclusion I can come to is that he simply values corporate tax loopholes more than the health and well-being of some of our country’s greatest heroes.  I sincerely hope that is not the case.

I want to be able to support the Senator in his re-election. I am not so naive as to think Indiana would elect a Democratic challenger, and I am incredibly fearful of a potential Tea Party challenge.  I admire the Senator for his work, and appreciate his seniority as an asset for the state of Indiana.  But votes like his on this bill make it very difficult to be as supportive as I’d like to be.

I hope the Senator enjoys a merrier Christmas than the one he has given 9/11’s first responders and their families,

Eric Anderson, Jr

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my first health care town hall…

This afternoon, I attended a town hall meeting that was organized by Senator Evan Bayh’s office.  The Senator himself was not there, but in his stead was acting Regional Director, Sandi Stewart.  Though I spoke at the meeting, comments were limited to only a couple minutes, so I sent the following email to Ms Stewart to follow-up on my remarks.

Ms Stewart,

I wanted to thank you again for holding today’s town hall meeting and for taking comments from those of us in Bloomington who are very much in favor of a public health insurance plan.

I would like to reiterate, and perhaps expand upon, the remarks I made this afternoon.  I spoke about my desire to see Sen Bayh take the lead on two issues that I consider essential to a successful health reform bill — an emphasis on prevention; and an emphasis on biomedical research.

The Senator is, I believe, ideally placed to lead on these issues.  He is known (some might say notorious) for being a conservative Democrat, and therefore he is concerned about the costs involved in any plan for healthcare reform.  It has been demonstrated time and again that informed preventive practices can reduce the cost of health care — in the very obvious sense that it may flat-out keep certain conditions from occurring; but also in that early detection and treatment affords the opportunity to address a medical condition before it becomes so advanced as to require extraordinary means.  

If the Senator is concerned about the cost of health care, he will push for a system that emphasizes preventive care — fully covering annual physical examinations; covering regular screenings for conditions which patients are specifically at risk of developing; providing comprehensive support, guidance, and medical attention for expecting mothers (especially first-time mothers), so they may decide, with confidence, to bring their child into the world; and an ongoing list of actions that can keep people healthy, instead of merely waiting for them to become ill.

The best way for these preventive practices to be established is, I believe, through a universally available public health insurance plan that sets, for the rest of the health insurance industry, a basic standard of best practices.

The second issue, biomedical research, is related.  The deeper our understanding of conditions, the greater our ability to preempt their development or, barring that, treat the condition at its root instead of ameliorating symptoms.  My thinking on this has for years been guided by the writing of the late Lewis Thomas — specifically, his essay “The Technology of Medicine”, which is included in the volume THE LIVES OF A CELL (Penguin, 1973).  In summary, Thomas breaks medical technology into three types —

1.)  the “non”-technology, which includes hospice care, pain management, and other actions which do not aim to affect the outcome of a disease or condition, but instead “waits it out”

2.)  the “halfway” technology, in which category he includes organ replacements, chemotherapy, iron lungs (now long obsolete, thankfully), and other methods of treatment that, lacking a fundamental understanding of a condition, aim to address how the condition manifests itself; these are inevitably more expensive and, though sophisticated in appearance, are rather quite primitive

3.)  the “real” technology, such as vaccines and antibiotics, which treat a condition’s cause instead of its symptoms; this technology can only come as a result of knowing the inner mechanism of a condition — a knowledge that itself only comes from constant, vigilant, innovative research

The Senator is already an advocate of this issue through his involvement with the Senate Medical Technology Caucus and, outside of the Senate, the Medical Technology Leadership Forum, now based in Indianapolis.  He is in a perfect place to emphasize the need to continue, and even expand, federal research spending with the long-term goal of developing treatment technologies which ultimately lower health care costs.

And, finally, with both prevention and research in mind, I hope Sen Bayh will lead a shift in the debate that will move us away from the language of cost and towards a language of investment.  Whatever the government spends on health care is not simply an expense, but an investment in the health and welfare of our citizenry.  It must be acknowledged, and repeated over and over, that only a healthy citizenry can effectively educate and defend itself, and compete in the global market.

Thank you, again, for listening to me and my fellow voters this afternoon.  I hope our comments and concerns will be welcomed and taken to heart by the Senator.


Eric Anderson, Jr

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