Guest Editorial: Ideology, political courage and public policy
February 17, 2015
The February 11 issue of the Park Record was a treasure trove of news and opinion.
One of my favorite columnists (Amy Roberts) explained why it is common for conservatives to deny science, specifically the science of global warming. It seems that the conservative mind is less likely to accept new ideas that run counter to their established beliefs even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. This results in large numbers of conservative law makers obstructing the battle against global warming.
At least with these folks it is honest ignorance motivating them.
Across, on the editorial page, there was a Guest Editorial from our Representative from Heber City, Kraig Powell. He extolled the power of popular democracy in defeating attempts to reduce the effects of wood burning on air pollution during the Wasatch Front’s inversion season. It seems that good science can also be beaten by loud and angry voices. Several hundred loud wood burners decried the efforts of the DAQ to reduce PM 2.5 by banning wood burning during the inversion season. It seems that this action would infringe on their God-given right to poison their neighbors.
The DAQ backed off after several public meetings, apparently afraid that any action they would take would be countered by the legislature. We can have some sympathy for the few in the crowd for whom wood burning is their only heat source. The Legislature started to address this issue during the ’14 session by proposing to authorize funds for heating appliance conversion, but at the end of the session, never adequately funded the proposal. Instead, it seems that cowering to the loudest angry voices, to the detriment of millions subject to the inversions is all we can expect from our legislators.
On the front page there was an excellent explanation of the Medicaid expansion controversy that is currently riling the legislature. Several comprehensive studies concluded that full Medicaid expansion was the cheapest and most effective way to provide healthcare for the poor of the state. The cost in the out years comes out to less than 4 cents per resident of Utah per day. The Billions in lost tax money that will come into the state is likely to offset this cost in economic expansion. Healthy Utah is a less effective but acceptable alternative. The Frail Utah proposal is both wasteful and mean spirited and leaves 100,000 Utahns with our healthcare. This controversy should be settled in the next 2 weeks. We shall see if rational thinking, ideology or political cowardice wins this argument.
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Lastly there was an inspiring story, buried in the center of the paper. Our newly elected Sheriff, Justin Martinez, successfully and courageously talked a potentially homicidal, certainly suicidal, gun wielding felon in to surrendering peacefully. At a time when police across the country are, it seems, routinely killing unarmed perpetrators of fairly minor crimes, Justin went the extra mile, showing extreme personal bravery, to talk this man down. He is a credit to our community. If only half of our legislature had one tenth the courage exhibited by Justin, perhaps we could actually solve the problems facing our state.
Representative Powell seems to believe that responding to the loudest voices in the room is democracy at its best. I think that a better exercise in democracy is to turnout those who refuse to accept facts or who lack the courage to stand up to the mob.