Actions: Week of Jan 23–30

This week I’m writing to my congressional representatives, using snail mail, which I’ve heard (and it makes sense) makes more of an impact than emails. I chose three issues that matter to me (and seem timely), focused on those, and sent them to my representative best positioned and inclined to act. Senator Collins is a moderate Republican; I asked her to oppose the REINS Act, which would effectively end health, safety and environment regulations in America. Senator King is an Independent who caucuses with Democrats; I asked him to use his platform to oppose lies and propoganda from the office of the presidency, and to be a prominent voice insisting on the public right to honesty from elected officials. Congressman Poliquin is a conservative Republican; I asked him to refuse to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act until and unless that is a replacement bill in place. You can read the full text of my letters below:

Dear Senator Collins,

My name is Adam Masterman, and I’m an elementary school teacher and father of two living in Freeman Maine, which is an unorganized township about an hour north of Augusta.

First of all, thank you for serving Maine with honor and distinction. I don’t always share your views, but I respect your integrity, and I’ve given you my vote twice. This, however, is the first time I’ve written to you, and I hope you will give my concerns a fair hearing.

Many of us are dismayed about the incoming administration on a wide range of issues. Even those I know that voted for Mr. Trump have expressed that his comments and attitudes towards women and minorities do not reflect their values. And, of course, you own statements on such sentiments represented a principled break from partisanship, one that was appreciated by many of us. So while I understand that you share a party with Mr. Trump, I want to encourage you to consider showing leadership when his proposals stand in clear contrast with the interests we all share.

Most urgently, I ask you to reject this new attempt to pass the REINS Act. Regardless of how we feel about regulations in general or specifically, we desperately need to rely on scientists and experts on technical questions. Congress already has the authority to decide what gets regulated, and which regulatory agencies get funded. The idea that individual members of Congress also need to weigh in on the technical details of specific regulations is absurd; no individual can hold the necessary expertise in all the relevant fields.

Instead, this act will simply empower lobbyists to take more control over the legislative process. Currently, industry has an incentive to work with regulatory agencies to craft sensible guidelines; under the REINS Act, that time and effort can be used to convince members of congress, people unfamiliar with the specifics of the particular industry, to simply prevent any regulation from passing. This is a perversion of the regulatory authority of congress, which has, for decades, wisely employed the proper experts to insure meaningful and reasonable regulation of a wide range of industries.
 
 Clean water, safe food and drugs, safe investments and internet freedom are not partisan issues. The public still depends on congress to regulate basic health and safety standards that impact hundreds of millions of people. Please, do not abdicate this important responsibility. Do not allow partisan politics to supplant the coordinated wisdom of scientists, industry experts and regulatory agencies to develop sound policy. Considering what we’ve seen in the past with the Debt Ceiling debate, it’s clear that if public safety can be held hostage to partisan maneuvering, citizens everywhere will suffer.

Thank you again for your service, and for your consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,

Adam Masterman

Dear Senator King,

My name is Adam Masterman, and I’m an elementary school teacher and father of two living in Freeman Maine, which is an unorganized township about an hour north of Augusta.

You almost certainly don’t remember, but we’ve met on a few occasions. The first was when I coached the Maine Nordic Ski Team, and you hosted us at the Blaine House in honor of our victory at the New England Championship. I was a new teacher at the time, and greatly enjoyed discussing your (at the time) new laptop initiative for Maine students. I’ve appreciated your service for Maine, and have been happy to support you as my Governor and, now, my Senator.

I’m writing today to express my concern about the Trump administration. I imagine you are hearing from many of your constituents, on a wide range of issues, and I could undoubtedly write at length on many topics that worry me. Instead, I’m going to choose one, and ask you to consider this issue and how you might use your position towards good outcomes for all of us.
 
 During the campaign, journalists and politicians from across the political spectrum observed that candidate Trump was a frequent and flagrant liar. That’s plainly put, but I see no reason to mince words. Every fact-checker and media analyst agreed that Trump went beyond the pale in telling egregious, easily disproven lies on nearly every topic he spoke.

Now, Mr. Trump holds the office of the Presidency, and, in his administration’s very first press conference, his Press Secretary told a number of obvious, easily refuted lies to the American public. That the topic was inconsequential (the size of the crowd at the Inauguration) actually makes me more concerned, because it demonstrates that blatant deception will be employed for the most trivial of gains.

I understand that this might seem minor compared to policy concerns (of which I have many). However, I feel it cuts closer to the core of the danger I see in this administration. The volume and scope of Trump’s dishonesty attacks one of the strongest unifying principles we have as a democratic society: that while we each have our own opinion, we all work from the same set of facts (apologies to Senator Moynihan). The constant barrage of falsehoods from now-President 
 Trump is acting to politicize facts themselves, to a degree that we’ve never seen.

How can we function as a democracy if half of us believe that, for example, the economy is growing when its actually shrinking? Or that crime is in decline when it’s actually rising? Or any objective fact that’s not actually true about our country or our world? This, more than any one particular policy issue, threatens to make our divisions irreconcilable, and our democracy nonfunctional.

The fake news industry in general is a serious problem, one that requires careful consideration of many competing values. However, dishonesty from the office of the President requires no such deliberation; it’s always, in every conceivable situation, deeply harmful to the fabric of our Republic.
 
 So while I understand the need for civility, and for respect for the office, my request to you is to use your position to oppose, vocally and visibly, this ongoing campaign of untruths. As my Senator, I want to hear from you that these lies are unacceptable conduct for any public servant, much less one with such awesome responsibility. I want my representatives in particular to refute blatant lies, and defend the right of the American people to honesty and integrity from our elected officials.

Please, think about this issue, and how much potential your office affords you to make a positive difference. I vote for you in part because I trust your integrity, and right now, it seems to me to be a vital asset in defense of our common values. Thank you for your service to Maine, and your consideration of this issue.

Respectfully,

Adam Masterman

Dear Congressman Poliquin,

My name is Adam Masterman, and I’m an elementary school teacher and father of two living in Freeman Maine, which is an unorganized township about an hour north of Augusta.

First of all, thank you for serving Maine with honor and distinction. I don’t always share your views, but I respect your integrity, and I believe you try to act in the best interest of us here in the 2nd District. This is the first time I’ve written to you, and I hope you will give my concerns a fair hearing.

We all know that the Affordable Care Act is contentious, and that it’s future is uncertain under Republican leadership. I don’t expect you to change your position on the law based on the concerns of a single constituent; however, there is a dimension to this problem that should be something we can all agree on.

Whether people like it or not, millions of people now depend on the ACA for their health insurance, including many here in the 2nd district. They depend on provisions like the one that lets them stay on their parents plan until they are 26, or the one that lets them find coverage even with a pre-existing condition. These are the types of provision that many Republicans, including the President, have said that they would consider an important part of Republican health care reform. However, there also seems to be strong movement, in the House especially, to immediately repeal the ACA without a replacement bill.This would be catastrophic.

If the Republican party can craft an alternative to the ACE, they deserve a fair hearing for their proposal. However, in the absence of that, repealing the ACA alone is irresponsible and destructive. The present Congress has two years to carefully weigh alternatives to the ACA; there is no reason for an immediate repeal. And without an alternative in place, too many Mainers and Americans will be forced into personal financial crises. 
 
 So my request to you is to reject any knee-jerk proposal to repeal the ACA without new legislation to protect vulnerable families from a devastating loss of healthcare. This is an issue where partisanship must be balanced with pragmatism, and Maine lawmakers have a long and proud tradition of finding that balance. I ask you to find that balance, and proceed with caution and prudence on this issue that impacts so many.

Thank you again for your service, and for your consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,

Adam Masterman

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