Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care Reform is Salt Lake Light Rail. Trust me - it makes sense

When I lived in Salt Lake City, as preparation for the Olympics, Salt Lake City decided to put in a light rail system. It would go from downtown Salt Lake, and extend all the way out to (if memory serves me correctly) South Jordan. The idea was pretty simple - a train system that could run up and down the city, and the town buses would simply slave to that. Get on a bus, ride to the light rail to where you need to go, get off and either be within walking distance or get onto another bus. Salt Lake City already had a pretty decent bus system - but the light rail would make it excellent.

Only problem was - this was Salt Lake City. And people protested the building of a light rail. Protested spending "my taxpayer dollars on something I don't want or need!" Protested - with signs, in city meetings - about how they wouldn't touch it, how it was a big waste, how any government spending was just evil. Evvvviiiillll!

Even though it would reduce driving, decrease gas spending, improve air quality with less cars running (and in a city like Salt Lake that can be hit with some horrible smog because of the air trapped by the mountains, any little bit helps).

In the end, the light rail was built anyway.

And it was a hit. Huge hit. So huge, that it was packed the first several weeks and they had to add in extra cars. So useful, that the Mormon church buys up the entire light rail every six months for their biannual conferences and the entire city rides for free. Why? Because instead of having everybody try and park downtown, people can get a cheaper hotel room on the outskirts of town, get onto the light rail, and be downtown in 20 minutes bypassing all of the traffic.

So successful, that last I heard from residents, they were planning on extending the light rail all the way up and down the state so more people could save gas and money. I wonder how many people are still protesting this "evil government" service that provides so much worth to the city, to the residents, to the businesses?

When I sat in the Health Care Town Hall meeting, it felt like being back in Salt Lake during those light rail meetings. Granted, not quite as many rude shouters - but there were still angry people outraged that their government would provide a service that *they* didn't personally approve (even though the democratically elected leaders did, and in a representational democracy that's how it works).

People are screeching that *they* personally didn't approve health care reform (even if a majority of the voters do). Government has no place in providing health care based on the Constitution. Then again, the Constitution doesn't mention roads, light rails, or other things, but it does say:

"...promote the general welfare..."

And the Necessary and Proper clause:

"The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." - aka, Congress has the power to make whatever laws it needs in order to fulfill its charter (as long as it doesn't violate citizen's rights as defined in the various Amendments or steps on the Executive or Judicial branches' powers.) So if Congress decides to make a law to institute health care, or food safety, or the like to "promote the general welfare", it can do so (again, provided it doesn't trample on someone's personal rights).

My bets is at the end of the day, we're going to have a health care bill. I'm hoping it has the Three Big Things I think it will need to be real reform: constraining health insurance companies to prevent them from denying care, requirement that all citizens are signed up for insurnace, and the Public Option to provide competition against private insurance companies as a check on their power.

If it does, I'm going to bet that US Health Care Reform is going to wind up like Salt Lake Light rail - a lot of noise and protest, followed by a long period of "Woah. This is *awesome.*"

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