As a frequent visitor to the Aspen-Snowmass area for more than 10 years, I occasionally read The Aspen Times' website to stay informed of local news and commentary, including Melanie Sturm's column. When I read Agustin Goba's Nov. 10 letter to the editor titled "Shame on Aspen Times columnist," I felt compelled to write my own letter to refute Goba's inaccurate statements and to condemn his offensive ones.
Goba claims that Sturm's statement that "Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are consuming more annually than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bailouts" is a "boldfaced lie." I am a certified public accountant employed by a major public accounting firm as a tax director, so I decided to research the numbers myself.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the combined cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in fiscal year 2012 was $1.482 trillion. In comparison, the office reports that the cumulative (not annual) cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been $1.4 trillion through fiscal year 2012 while the net cost of the program bailouts, after repayments, has been $24 billion.
Indeed, Sturm was correct, as the $1.482 trillion spent in the past fiscal year on the three mandatory entitlement programs exceeds the cumulative $1.424 trillion spent on the two wars and the program bailouts. Furthermore, when other entitlement programs and interest on the debt are included, total annual mandatory expenditures exceed $2.4 trillion, as Sturm has previously pointed out.
Living in Maryland, I am very familiar with the negative consequences of a political culture dominated by one party. Though Colorado residents must endure a barrage of political-campaign advertising at election time, they are fortunate to live in a state where there is a vigorous debate of important political issues. Citizens are better represented when divergent political views are contested and defended and when politicians cannot take their (re-)election for granted. The debate, however, should be civil and respectful and certainly shouldn't include the deplorable and scatological name-calling employed by Goba.
In writing fact-based and thought-provoking commentary on the important issues facing our country, Sturm is most certainly not "an embarrassment to Americans."
Shame on you, Mr. Goba.