Email #199: “interested to know”?

Thank you for your form letter regarding the Older American Act. I’m glad that you are “committed to making sure the government keeps its promise to our nation’s seniors,” especially since they “have spent a lifetime earning a living, paying taxes and preparing for their retirement with the understanding that they will be taken care of by our federal government.”

I didn’t write to you specifically about the OAA, but I did write about the President’s proposed budget and its deep cuts into such programs. It is unclear to me how your stated commitment above relates to your strong belief “that the federal government needs to take a close look at every federal program and determine where and how the budget can be cut.” How exactly does the government keep its promises to older Americans while also cutting its ability to do so?

But I’m more confused by your comments regarding H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act which keeps the government running through September. You said that I may “be interested to know” that it “provides $838 million in FY 2017 for nutrition programs administered by the ACL, which includes Congregate Meals, Home Delivered Meals, and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program.” You’re right; I am very interested. These are precisely the sorts of programs the President would cut.

You then go on to give the dates on and votes by which the bill passed the House and Senate to become law. Your detailed attention to the bill implies that you supported it, but when I looked it up, I was surprised to find that you were not among the 131 Republicans and 178 Democrats who voted for it. You instead joined 102 Republicans and 15 Democrats to vote against it. Among Virginia’s 11 Representatives, you were also in the minority of 5 Republicans who opposed it, since Republicans Barbara Comstock and Scott Taylor voted with Virginia’s 4 Democrats.

So why are you highlighting a bill that was passed into law against your wishes? And not just any bill. From January through April, you voted in 100% agreement with the Trump administration on 26 separate bills. You broke with the administration for the first and only time in May when you opposed the appropriations act, though the next day you were back in line, voting for “Trumpcare” and bringing your average to just under 97%.

But when it came to providing $838 million for food assistance, you actually voted against the President. So, yes, I am “interested to know.” Since other constituents writing to you about the OAA and related programs will be “interested to know” too, please correct your form letter to clarify that you voted against this essential funding. The omission, while not an overt lie, is intentionally misleading and creates the impression of manipulative dishonesty.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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