Dr. Kagen, let me first congratulate you on your election to the House of Representatives and welcome you to Washington! As I had said in my “holiday card” to you, it was a pleasure to help work on your campaign, as you were the third politician (and I use that word loosely) who ever impressed me, behind Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
I spent much time criticizing Mark Green during his stay in Washington, and generally critique policies and politics in general on a daily basis. By no means are you immune to this criticism. Prior to joining your campaign, I sent a critical letter… the issues raised in there were never addressed. I will continue to raise issues as I see them time and again over your stay, probably a few times a year. Whether you choose to respond or not is up to you, as I do not mind either way.
As you may have noticed, this is an “open letter”, meaning I am publishing it on my website, The Framing Business. This should not affect you, as the words I write are only a reflection upon myself and my own views and not yours in any way. Let me just raise some basic points for this letter.
The Budget and Deficit
According to the online edition of the January 5, 2007 The Post-Crescent, you made the following speech: “I rise before you today in support of pay-as-you-go fiscal discipline and to help bring an end to deficit spending … We cannot realistically begin to solve the many problems we face until we completely reverse the misguided fiscal policy of borrow and spend and borrow and spend which has driven our country into more debt than our children can possibly repay. Let us agree to live within our means here in Washington just like families do in Wisconsin.”
First, I always think it’s politically a good move to mention “Wisconsin” or “Wisconsin families” whenever possible. As a representative of those people, mentioning them or making allusions to them or telling stories is a good way to win support in the future. People like knowing their representative is really one of them. So, I applaud this and I would suggest you continue to approach this matter in a similar way in the future.
More to the point, I like how you brought attention to this issue. I do recall during your campaign that keeping the budget realistic was one of your goals and you did not believe in living beyond your means. (I had made a comment regarding your semantical choices and diction on the matter, but I agree in the general sense.) The resolution passed. Well done.
Keeping on the budget is an important thing, as we Wisconsinites know all too well from the deficit that Tommy Thompson left us. With billions leaving this country to fund a war that will never see that money returned, it’s time to tighten the belts on the pork projects. (While many corporations will be rich from the war, the average American is left holding the bag in ways many do not even realize.)
Health Issues, Health Care and Insurance
The cornerstone of your campaign was health care. As a physician, this is obviously something you are very knowledgeable about compared to the average citizen. And your plan was very good, as best I could understand it (I freely admit I’m not able to comprehend every detail of the various facets of Medicare law).
My recommendation would be to chop up your plan into bite size morsels. The “No Patient Left Behind” initiative is brilliant, but passing it as a whole — even with a Democratic majority — is not likely, especially in your freshman year. Yet, individually, many of the resolutions should pass with flying colors. (The national insurance pool I think will likely fail, as much as I like the idea.) Be sure to address the more popular ideas first to get a foot i nthe door. I think the plan to make all prescription drug prices public knowledge is the best part of the plan. We are at the mercy of “Big Pharm” and this would help even the playing field, as they say.
Other health issues might be something to address, particularly if this is to be your trademark. One issue of great concern to me is the effects of depleted uranium on the human body. Soldiers use depleted uranium in bullets, and there is reason to believe this is hurting the health of soldiers and causing birth defects in Iraqi babies. Rep. Jim McDermott, also a license physician, is interested in this topic as well. He also has an interest in universal health care. While he is known to be quite liberal and therefore controversial, he might be a valuable colleague in many health issues you wish to pursue.
My biggest concern with your campaign was your position on various foreign policy issues, particularly with Iraq and Iran. I will not rehash those complaints here. In short, I would advise you to keep abreast of current events and do background research before voting on bills if you have time. With all due respect, your campaign made it see mto me you were not overly knowledgeable on foreign policy… so keeping this a minor aspect of your policies might be wise.
I am counting on you to keep military aggression low, diplomacy high and always keep an open mind. President Clinton had his faults, but what he was probably best at was interacting with other world leaders. Keeping the impression of America as a “friend” and not as a “gadfly” or “world police” is always a good move, in my opinion.
I would ask you to look into anything you hear and make sure it’s fact and not rhetoric. I am a defender of Iran. Not that I think Iran is a place with great civil liberties or a dream home — it’s not. But the words of the leader have been misquoted time and again in the newsppaers to make him appear crazy or violent (“the next Hitler”). Also, somehow America now believes that Iran wants nuclear weapons despite them never saying any such thing and always standing by their peaceful reactors (which we supplied them with). Examinations of their technology, statements and religion made it clear that their pursuit of the bomb is unlikely and would be suicide.
Last, always keep in mind the ethical “priciple of universality”, that something is right or wrong for everyone, no exceptions. America likes to view itself as the exception, but we are not. Are weapons tests by other countries a concern? Absolutely. But keep in mind what it must be like to be another country with an American military base or an American ship off the shore. Would America allow a foreign base in the country or a Saudi warship to float in the Gulf of Mexico? Absolutely not.
As you have not done anything worth critiquing at this juncture, getting into concrete matters is a bit difficult now. But I hope I have laid down the foundation of where I will be coming from in the next two years. As I said, feel free to reply or not as you see fit and feel free to accept or reject any suggestions I throw your way. Best of luck; we’re all counting on you.