I have read with concern several recent news accounts that describe extraordinarily offensive comments made by Gov. Paul LePage in discussing the Internal Revenue Service’s role in administering provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The employees of the IRS are among the most dedicated and hardworking in the federal government. Gov. LePage’s comments are disturbing on so many levels, but I am particularly distressed that he would attack public servants in Maine and across the country who come to work every day committed to giving their best for the American taxpayer.

We at the IRS take very seriously the duty we have to properly implement federal laws as directed by Congress, and we welcome constructive dialogue in regard to the implementation of these laws. But I must strongly object to comments such as those made by Gov. LePage, which serve no constructive purpose, and do a disservice to the employees of my agency.

Douglas H. Shulman

IRS commissioner

Washington, D.C.

Health reform law greeted with optimism and worry

I want to echo and amplify the thoughts of state Reps. Linda Sanborn and Sharon Treat in their June 24 Maine Voices column (“Care reform’s future not in court’s hands”) about health care reform.

I also want to add a word about a population not mentioned in the column, one that doesn’t often get a mention in the debate about health care reform: people with mental illness.

Mental illness is far more common than many people like to believe. According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as many as 20 percent of American adults experience a mental illness in a given year.

People with serious mental illness suffer as much as, or more than, anyone under the current health care system. Studies repeatedly show that individuals with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier, on average, than people in the general population.

Low-quality, inconsistent and uncoordinated health care is one of the drivers of this statistic.

I represent an organization called Amistad, located in Portland, that is a consumer-run membership organization for people with mental illness and other life challenges.

Too often, we witness the effects of poor health care: members dying very young of the same diseases — diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — that normally kill people 20 or 30 years later.

We have been heartened by the potential for health care reform. Patient-centered medical homes, parity for substance-abuse and mental-health treatment, coverage for pre-existing conditions, expanded eligibility and subsidies for purchasers of private insurance — all of these can be enormously positive developments for people with mental illness.

The consumer movement looks forward to working with government officials, provider organizations, advocates and other stakeholders to help implement health care reform in Maine.

Patrick Quinlan

Portland

Bill Dunn of Yarmouth asks an easy question about Obamacare (“Readers continue to debate Affordable Care Act ruling,” July 10), which is to explain the difference between putting the government between patient and doctor and putting an insurance company between patient and doctor.

It is a very sad question. Why? Because I assume Mr. Dunn is a tax-paying citizen who has a very limited education of what the Founding Fathers envisioned for this country.

In a word, the difference is freedom!

You can get rid of your insurance company; try getting rid of the bureaucrats we will be stuck with once Obamacare takes effect.

Paul Anderson

Saco

Forces in Afghanistan fail to improve women’s lives

Over and over, the U.S. government has claimed that in spite of all their setbacks in Afghanistan, Afghan women have made “progress” under 10 years of NATO occupation.

But recent facts tell a different story: a story that points to worsened conditions for Afghan women:

Afghan women have a life expectancy of 51 years.

Afghanistan ranks last in both maternal mortality and infant mortality in international rankings.

According to UNICEF, 68 percent of Afghan children under 5 suffer from either stunting or malnutrition.

Abuses against women have increased, such as jailing women for adultery who are rape victims. Recent legislation signed by President Karzai gives husbands the power to coerce sex and withhold food from their wives at their discretion.

Afghan women’s organizations working to reduce poverty and empower women and girls say they receive little or no funding from their government, forcing them to operate on a shoestring, limiting their activities to providing basic services rather than focusing on long-term changes for women.

In light of these facts, the clear humanitarian response is to call for an immediate withdrawal of NATO forces in Afghanistan and insist that NATO funding be redirected to those organizations actually providing basic services for the women and children of Afghanistan.

Pat Taub

Codepink Maine

Portland

Newspaper’s offshore hiring overlooks local skills, needs

When I recently called the circulation department of the Press Herald to ask for a new paper delivery box, I noticed a strong accent from the person who answered my call.

After I had completed the conversation, I asked out of curiosity where the person was located. I was a little surprised that the answer was “in Central America.”

I do understand the concept of economics driving business decisions, but was shocked and disappointed that my “local paper” decides to use an offshore answering service instead of helping put a few more American people to work with a job that could be done by nearly anyone with a phone connection available.

Randy Scott

Union