Dear Tom,
One good tirade deserves another.

Your recent parade of dubious statistics and Teabag talking points [Defeat of health care a victory for hope, Tom Carraher, Viewpoints, Feb. 10] was impressive, in particular the thunderous outrage with which they were delivered.

Your newfound concern for our nation’s deficit and debt is quite touching. Conversions are always welcome. Apparently, however, that concern only kicks in when a Democrat occupies the White House. Odd that, though you are a capable writer, we didn’t receive a single letter to the editor from you during eight long years, as a Republican administration inherited a sizable budget surplus and turned it into a staggering deficit, the largest in this country’s history. And not one word from you all those years about the reckless irresponsibility of cutting taxes (mostly for the rich) while fighting two wars, one of which (Iraq) was based on a lie and the other (Afghanistan) neglected long enough so the enemy could regroup and expand the conflict.

Not one word about the Bush administration ignoring its obligation to effectively regulate the inevitable excesses of the free market (in this case the banking and mortgage industry), which brought us all to the brink of worldwide economic collapse. Maybe you just weren’t paying attention.

Now suddenly you’re outraged that government was forced to step in and save your ass (and everyone else’s). Thanks to their efforts, we managed to dodge another Depression (for the time being), but you’re still mad as hell.

Sorry, but your outrage rings a little hollow.

You’re right about one thing though – you and I live in different universes.

In my universe, health care is a right and every American should have equal access. In the teabag universe, it’s a privilege. You have to “earn” it. Access is based on what you can afford. The rich deserve better health care because they have more money.

In my universe, insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to deny coverage based on “pre-existing” conditions. In my universe, health care costs are escalating so rapidly, they will soon wreck what’s left of our economy. In the teabag universe, all you need to do is cap malpractice payouts at $250,000 and let people cross the border to buy health insurance in some other state and everything will be just fine.

In my universe, the free market has produced the most expensive and least efficient health care system (millions of Americans without coverage) in the developed world. In the teabag universe, any attempt to reform that system amounts to a total government takeover, complete with death panels.

In my universe, all bills are imperfect, but doing anything would be a vast improvement. Imperfect bills can be improved if they’re worthwhile and this one is. In the teabag universe, an imperfect bill is a bad bill, even though this one is basically the same plan the Republicans proposed as an alternative to the Clinton plan in 1993 – back when Republicans were still responsible enough to propose alternatives.

In my universe, good government identifies what’s wrong, devises ways to fix it, then makes a good-faith effort to do so. In my universe, government’s goal is to improve the lives of all Americans. But it only works if the people elected believe it can be a force for good. In the teabag universe, government is always the problem. It can’t do anything right (except fight wars) and must be obstructed every step of the way – with massive doses of misinformation and fear-mongering.

No, I don’t think the American people are stupid. I think they’re scared. When people are scared, they sometimes do stupid things, like voting against their self-interest. That’s what just happened in Massachusetts.

Thanks, Tom, but I prefer my universe. Yours is a cold, ugly place, self-contained and insulated – like a used, soggy teabag.

The strange thing is, I know you’re a good man who loves his family. Yet your politics seem devoid of compassion. I know a lot of conservatives like that – good people, heartless politics. You can do better. My challenge to you is to inject some humanity back into your world view. We could all use a little more of that.

But if you decide to write a rebuttal, spare us the onslaught of statistics derived from questionable sources. To update Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies, statistics and, worst of all, conservatives brandishing statistics. Your “sources” have played fast and loose with the facts too long. You’ll have to earn back your credibility.

One more word of advice: Even if you don’t believe in climate change, don’t admit it in public. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Denying it just makes you sound like … well, like a teabagger.

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