I have lived in Encinitas for the past 23 years, so you have served as my representative in Congress for the whole of your Congressional career.
Nonetheless, this will be the first time that I have communicated with you, and I am doing so based on the expectation that you will emerge the victor in this season’s congressional district contest.
I am not writing to ask anything of you personally, nor am I writing to support you. I have not voted for you in any prior election, and probably will not do so in the future. Nonetheless, you are the representative to our national assembly of all the people of the 49th District including myself, and I have made an effort to participate as a citizen in this complicated, promising, deeply frustrating experiment of a nation.
With the election of Donald Trump — recognizing that you were a vocal supporter of his — and the Republican Party’s capture of Congress and many state-level offices, the possibility of significant changesexists in and beyond the next four years
So, while I expect that our points of view differ substantially on many issues of the day, and probably in a broader philosophical sense as well, I feel a duty to share with you what I believe to be important; what I would have us in this small corner of the world, and in the nation, working toward.
In broad strokes, it has always made sense to me that for America to realize the best of itself, it would have to work hard to help all of its people live lives of dignity.
This would include modest material comfort to ensure that all people have a roof over their heads, adequate food and clothing; support for babies and young children to help even the most disadvantaged make the most of their early and key developmental years; an emphasis on quality education for all children; access to health care independent of the ability to pay; an emphasis on creating meaningful work for all who can work, and remunerating that work sufficiently so that people, whatever their skills and aptitudes, have the ability to live decent if materially modest lives, a status that greatly increases their opportunities to participate in a broader world, and to give.
I am 57 years old, and as long as I can remember I have felt that the best of America was realized in our nation’s will to generosity, to empathy, and to inclusion, qualities that take work to realize if you believe as I do that the most dominant human quality is greed. America has had to work hard, to fight within itself, and to take steps forward and back and forward again, to come to some sense of self-identity as a giving place; a place that cares, at least to some extent, for its own.
When I was younger I had hoped that we would have achieved broader consensus with regard to these goals before my life was over. I am far from certain that we will have done so in my lifetime. Nonetheless, the following represents my “top eight” list of action items that, were we to focus on them, I believe would do most to move us toward realizing a country that exhibits care for, and husbands the best in, all of its people.
1 – Addressing climate change: The scientific consensus, and my personal experience, suggest that we are moving rapidly toward severe damage to the habitability of Earth. If we can’t find the baseline sanity and related will to address this reality, then I suppose we don’t deserve to maintain use of this world. As always, the wealthiest residents of the planet will have the best chance to stave off the effects of the many disruptions and disabilities these changes are bringing. However, even their children will face greater exposure to these nightmares.
2 – The changing economy: The ways in which humans produce their needs and wants are changing. The combination of increasing mechanization of labor, the mobility of capital and the ability to exploit cheaper labor globally accounts for much of the concentration of wealth and the loss of jobs in the U.S. If this country cares about all of its people, it must prioritize assistance to those losing jobs, including significant investments in public education, enhanced access to higher education, and consideration of how all people will be sustained even if we come to a point where there simply isn’t work for everyone who needs and wishes a job.
3 – Campaign/electoral reform: It seems that wealth and its related power and influence now drive governing, which in turn is supposed to drive the constant revitalization of our democracy. While I don’t hold out much hope for it, I believe that a society interested in justice would seek to move toward publicly financed elections; would ban large individual and corporate contributions, PACs, dark money and the like; would move to a more impartial redistricting methodology; and would do away with the Electoral College in favor of direct elections.
4 – Financial reform: The Great Recession from which we have partially recovered was a direct result of the prioritization of the American financial sector’s greed and sense of entitlement. As a result, millions of Americans lost their life savings at the hands of greedy speculators driving an economy that progressively is focused more on using money to make money than creating real value. I believe that if Americans, in a moment of reality-based clarity, understood how they are viewed as pawns and dupes by the corporate kings and speculators of our world, we would be on the way to a very different society. There is no material reason that our government couldn’t prioritize the average citizen over big banks, investment firms, and multinational corporations in making law and policy. The fact that it is much the opposite speaks to the moral bankruptcy of most of those who inhabit positions of power and influence.
5 – Access to health care: I have worked in community health for the past 21 years. Every thoughtful piece I have ever read regarding the U.S. healthcare system acknowledges that the only route out of the current unsustainable chaos of our system is a single-payer system. Currently healthcare provision is based largely on the ‘needs’ of corporate capital and the pharmaceutical industry. A relative handful of individuals’ desires and greed are prioritized over the needs of hundreds of millions of Americans. We could reduce costs significantly and quickly were we to move to a Medicare-for-all system, while the rich could still get their medical needs met outside that system if they so desired. The fact that we continue to lag behind much less wealthy nations in the quality and cost of our healthcare is a testament to how deeply enthralled government remains to a handful of interests that lack any true concern for the quality of most Americans’ lives.
6 – Education: Given the changes I noted in the nature of our economy above, it is clear that education from birth through young adulthood is and will remain the prime determinant of economic success for our children. The gulf between those who receive a quality early-life education, and those who don’t, is great and it is expanding. I know people in their early 20s making more money in a year than their parents ever dreamed of based on acquisition of computing or biotechnology skills. If we don’t take affirmative steps to ensure the readiness of a much larger portion of our population for the new economy, we will become a nation abject in its division between a class of ‘haves’ and a much larger group of those who live on the edge with little hope for improving their lives.
7 – African Americans: Since I was a child it has seemed to me that our nation has never sought to come to grips with the reality of the disabilities that African Americans face in this country. The legacies of slavery and Jim Crow continue to live on in the barriers that many African Americans face to full acceptance — even of their basic humanity — in this country. I believe that our nation has a special, federal responsibility to act in favor of those African Americans who have lived in poverty across generations, assisting families and communities with investment and support to break the cycle of poverty and so redress the realities of oppression that have marked this national community.
8 – Infrastructural investment: Much has been written about this of late, and it was addressed by many candidates in the 2016 Presidential election. The nation is in need of significant work to both shore up and modernize a variety of infrastructural elements, from roads and other transportation necessities to housing to energy production. Doing so thoughtfully will produce hundreds of thousands of jobs, improve quality of life, and potentially address environmental concerns.
It is my understanding that you are the wealthiest member of Congress. It seems to me that you are thus in an excellent position to exhibit real leadership by addressing these core concerns above. In doing so, you will illustrate that those who might be expected to be farthest removed from the daily struggles of the lives of average Americans understand that on our current course our nation will fall away from its original precepts and fail; or we can – if we so consciously choose – work to realize the best in ourselves and our country, and set us on a course of decency, sustainability, and livability for all of our citizens and the planet itself. I don’t know you, and I don’t know what is important to you as a human being. But if the items above are not meaningful to you and the focus of your efforts as a legislator, it would be difficult for me to consider that you are truly the people’s servant in any sense.
If you choose to champion these concerns, I would be pleased to support your efforts in any way that I can.
Joshua Lazerson is an Encinitas resident.