The opinion and editorial page, we journalists are taught, is supposed to be a “marketplace of ideas,” in which no idea, short of outright bigotry, hatred and/or violence, is unwelcome.
That was certainly the case on Wednesday when a blog by Linda Gorman, a teabagger troll who makes her living scaring the bejeebers out of the less thoughtful among us, appeared in the newspaper where I work. Gorman pretended to have given thought to the effects of SB 17-267, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s bill to keep open hospitals in small communities where families, businesses, and local governments struggle daily just to pay the bills. Because the bill would reclassify the hospital provider fees paid to the state so they wouldn’t be restricted under TABOR, Gorman’s right knee jerked reflexively and she spewed out a string of half-truths, untruths, and just plain insults.
Time out: If you don’t know what the hospital provider fee or TABOR are, you must be very new to Colorado. Welcome; I hope your stay with us is enjoyable but brief.
Back to Gorman: The thesis of Gorman’s piece seems to be that SB267 would hurt patients.
Gorman uses a pathos-laden narrative to try to portray a creative, bi-partisan attempt to fund badly needed improvements in health care, infrastructure, and education as something nefarious. She claims to be an economist, but her real talent is in cramming right-wingnut buzzwords and trigger phrases into every sentence. She deliberately mischaracterizes every aspect of SB267 to cast it in as bad a light as possible.
Allow me to demonstrate by doing the same thing to Gorman’s arguments: The only real solution, as far as the bitter-enders are concerned, is that people who can afford health care can get it, and those who can’t afford it can die. Problem solved. We also need to stop feeding poor people so they’ll learn to toil endlessly for minimum wage, and we need to flush public education because only rich people’s kids really need an adequate education, and that can only be done with an elitist private education – you know, like France had in the 1700s.
In the extreme right-wing world, citizens have absolutely no social responsibility toward their fellow human beings, taxes are an onerous burden, and not paying taxes magically stimulates the economy because we can clearly see how much of Donald Trump’s wealth has trickled down to all of his undocumented Mar-A-Lago workers, right?
Only in a mossback’s fevered imagination do enterprise funds – used successfully by municipalities for more than a century to fund infrastructure – become “slush funds” and members of the Colorado General Assembly become automatically irresponsible spendthrifts.
Gorman’s characterization of the “real problems” is the stuff of ultra-conservative wet dreams. There are, with apologies to Mark Twain, lies, damn lies, and Gorman’s reality.
“The problems began,” Gorman writes, “when the state and federal governments started raising electric rates, disrupting the financial industry, purposefully destroying jobs in coal country, expanding federal control over water, and raising health insurance rates to ruinous levels.”
And she calls herself an economist!?
Electric rates have followed demand ever-upward; as more people wanted more electricity for more things, more money was needed to provide it. It was pure supply and demand, something an economist should understand.
Disrupting the financial industry? Excuse me, Prof. Gorman, but the financial industry is doing just fine. Have you checked Standard & Poors recently? Moody Investors? Fitch Ratings? Any of this ring a bell for you?
As for purposefully destroying jobs in coal country, Colorado’s coal industry has been suffering from poor market conditions for years as natural gas surged in popularity and demand.
Federal control over water? Last time I looked the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation was still in place and control of the state’s waters were determined entirely by state law and interstate compacts.
Raising health insurance rates, yadda, yadda, yadda; look, Prof. Gorman, even you should know that health insurance rates are set by the insurance companies themselves. In fact, there’s an entire state agency devoted to the task of keeping insurance rates of all kinds as low as possible.
Gorman’s worst offense, though, is her throwaway line: “Rural Colorado sustained itself for well over a hundred years.”
Clearly, the woman has no clue what life is like in rural Colorado. It is not sustaining itself, which is why rural legislators are trying to squeeze whatever money they can out of the state’s coffers to keep hospital, roads, and schools going. The tiny towns that dot the eastern Plains cannot afford to meet federal water and sewer standards without massive assistance from federal and state funds. Counties are strapped to keep farm-to-market roads open year-round, and the number of crumbling bridges in the Colorado Outback is mind-numbing. Sustaining itself? I think not. Of course, if Gorman had her way, we’d let it all go to hell and buy our food from Argentina.
Senate Bill 17-267 isn’t going to hurt anybody except the ultra-conservatives whose heads will explode when it works exactly the way some of the smartest people in Colorado designed it to work. Republicans in the state senate have shown tremendous courage and poise in helping guide this thing to a successful conclusion. Even an anti-government anarchist would have to admit that.