Not too long ago my differently-abled brother wrote his congresswoman, Republican Ann Wagner (MO-2), about an issue that is important to him. Like many mentally-challenged individuals, he is fascinated with issues such as time, dates, and weather. He sent both an e-mail and a snail mail to Wagner, letting her know that he would like to have daylight savings time extended one week, or perhaps even having daylight saving time extend all year so that we need not have to change clocks and watches twice a year.
Wagner did reply, but not until several months later after my brother had sent a second e-mail. My brother understands that his concern is not among the most important issues facing the nation, but it is important to him. The last thing that he would do is to “demand” action, but he certainly would appreciate a reply that directly responded to his query.
Her response (printed below) is a form letter that was sent in mid-October, 2013. It reflects a problem in our democracy, when constituents receive responses from their representatives that have nothing to do with the concern about which they write.
Members of Congress might say that they can’t be more specific in their responses to constituents; they don’t have enough staff to ensure that their responses are relevant to the particular concern expressed by someone whom they presumably serve. The clear answer is to hire additional staffers.
Oh, the problem with this is that it means hiring additional staffers. Perish the thought, but that might require more federal spending. This would not be very much, but to most conservatives, spending additional money is an anathema, even if it means that services will be improved. Not giving a direct answer to my brother’s question is problem number one with Wagner’s response. Problem number two shouts out at us as we read the response she sent:
Dear Mr. Lieber,
Thank you for contacting me regarding my service in the 113thCongress. I am truly honored and humbled to have this opportunity to be part of the solution in Congress and tackle our country’s greatest issues. The people of Missouri’s 2ndCongressional District insist that Congress get things done and that is my intention.
This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history where the path back to greatness is not a defined benefit but a vision to secure our children’s future. I am committed to standing up for conservative principles of reining in our out-of-control spending, reducing deficit, reforming our tax code, eliminating onerous regulations and rebuilding confidence in our economy. This Congress has an historic opportunity to lead on these key issues and finally get our fiscal house in order. I am excited to get to work and I am hopeful for the future of this great country.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Hearing the views of all Missourians gives me the opportunity to better understand how important issues could impact the people of the 2nd Congressional District and the future interests of the nation.
For additional information regarding current legislation and my representation of the 2nd Congressional District, I invite you to visit my website at http://www.wagner.house.gov.
Member of Congress
Let’s look at the core sentence in her response. She says, “I am committed to standing up for conservative principles of reining in our out-of-control spending, reducing deficit, reforming our tax code, eliminating onerous regulations and rebuilding confidence in our economy.” What’s most important to her? It’s all about the numbers; reducing spending, reducing the deficit (of course without raising taxes), reforming the tax code (her record is one of favoring more breaks for the rich), and eliminating regulations (does this mean weakening health and safety measures?).
There is not a word about people; about helping the conditions of those who are disenfranchised, ill, or poor. Wagner certainly did not go to Washington to become a humanitarian. Rather she is like a bean-counter who wants to make sure that all the numbers are in equations that are balanced. Yes, the numbers may be in balance, but not the opportunities to improve the quality of our lives and to strengthen democratic freedom. If Wagner wanted to spend her time balancing numbers, she could have had successful careers in accounting, business, engineering, and a host of other areas. We need people in those professions who are committed to making every number count just right. But at the federal government level, we need those who are familiar with Keynesian economics and how to move the levers of government to help those people most in need. Wagner may be very skilled and kind to people she knows. But when it comes to governing, it would be best for all of us, particularly those most in need, if she would step aside and let somebody else with a better feel for the needs of the people to help steer our government.