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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Letters, We Get Letters

Many years ago I wondered why nobody developed a publication which just printed letters that citizens write to their members of Congress, their newspapers and other outlets. The vast majority of these epistles never reach beyond their immediate recipient — a pity as this sample of mail we have received on a recent day:

— Several elderly people wrote to complain about the new so-called “Catastrophic Health Care Law”, which does not cover long term nursing home care or extended home health care, but does impose a hefty tax on many elderly persons;

— A retired woman from Miami writes complaining about sharp increases in her auto insurance despite her 40 year good driving record;

— A man from Shreveport, Louisiana writes to call attention to hospitals “using ‘buckets’ for disposal of hazardous waste material from the patients occupying room”;

— An Arizona writer complains about the $1 1/2 million the government allocated to move Ronald Reagan out of the White House and the $800,000 cost for a new car for George Bush;

— From southern Ohio — strip mine country — comes a plea for help in opposing a company planning a large landfill to bring in 10,000 tons of East Coast garbage a day;

— Touching many a tender nerve of homeowners was the letter from a Long Island woman about property taxes rising so rapidly that they are driving elderly from their homes or driving them to the fear of such;

— A Bedford, Texas man sends the message that a higher gasoline tax won’t bother businesses or others on an expense account that is deductible, but it will bother the average motorist who cannot deduct the added tariff;

— Out of Seattle, Washington, a writer encloses an article about hundreds of illegal sweatshops employing Asian immigrants in the San Francisco bay area;

— A retired Ford auto development executive engineer finally confesses his being on the same side with us concerning the defeat of the Reagan Salary Raise in Congress;

— What appears to be an Ohio-based engineering firm executive advises that the recent incidents of aircraft metal failure may in part be due to an increase in acidic atmospheric conditions leading to higher corrosion levels and “to electrolytic action”;

— A family from Ontario, Canada enclosed a long letter detailing to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines what terrible service they received on a trip to the Caribbean;

— A representative of a 12 year old girl informed that a pair of silicone ear plugs had fallen apart during a swimming race causing infection and bleeding;

— From Sacramento, a retired chemist sends information about ozone emissions from office copying machines;

— Several letters from mothers worried about apple juice contaminated with the cosmetic chemical, Afar — a cancer-causing substance, after seeing the 60 Minutes show;

— A Louisville, Kentucky man writes with the sensible suggestion that drug companies be required to put their instructions or warnings in large type so that they can be read “without a magnifier;

— Two people write — one about bad drinking water in their community and the other about arrogant treatment by her water company;

— A Florida gentleman submits a thoughtful missive on three of his pet food peeves — artificial smoke flavoring, ‘butter’ flavoring and “slimy, greasy, supposedly fresh chicken”;

— A Wisconsin woman writes about “trash television” and the growing soft pornography that television programs now reflect;

— A Fort Worth, Texas cable splicer for the telephone company narrates her experience with accidentally starting a fire, but had no company fire extinguisher on her truck — she lost her job;

— Then there was the citizen who wrote “Tell the Taxpayers if they want good government, never re-elect.”

These voices of the people need wider expression — a cable television program, a tabloid newspaper devoted to them or some other medium. In addition, were there a central data collection system for complaints, our country would be alerted to problems and trends much more quickly than the formal and too often insipid polls provide.