Friday, May 15, 2009

Junkets that would open politicians’ eyes to real problems

Far too many of the wrenching problems faced every day by mere mortals are being ignored by political policy makers because of their scant hands-on experience with issues or purposely distorted information from those whose interests would be threatened by solutions.

Before declaring their objections and opposition to legislation, naysayers would benefit from on-the-ground lessons.

For virtually the entire 117 days of the state Legislature's second longest session, lawmakers argued in their chambers over whether to adequately finance a state road building and maintenance program. In the end, the votes were to shortchange a sensible program, and thus add another year of highway struggles for Idaho drivers.

How vastly different the outcome might have been had every lawmaker endured the experience of driving state roads up one side of Idaho and down the other, thus encountering what everyday commuters experience in their daily lives with pavement cracks, holes, bumps and ruts.

The same is true for stubborn anti-environment politicians and their patrons in industry that insist in the face of overwhelming data that global warming doesn't exist, or, if it does, it's negligible.

One of the newer anti-climate-change-mythology adherents is Wyoming's first-term U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, from the oil town of Casper. He introduced S.724 in the Senate to amend the Endangered Species Act to prohibit the Interior Department from using global warming as a factor in threats to species. Barrasso also asserts that using the Clean Air Act to fight climate change will be "a disaster."

Barrasso and like-minded opponents of cleaning up the air need one of those hands-on encounters. For starters, they need to visit the Earth's polar regions to see the real-time meltdown of glaciers and the struggle of polar bears to survive without normal ice floes.

Then they need a day or two in the Maldives, the picturesque Indian Ocean nation of atolls and 1,192 islets, whose government fears global warming will soon send rising ocean waters over the low-lying country, where land is an average 4 feet 11 inches above sea level, and its highest point is barely over 7 feet.

The Maldives Republic is trying to buy land in other nearby nations to prepare to relocate the entire Maldivian population of an estimated 300,000 before the island-nation is flooded.

Finally, the congressional claque that opposes health care programs covering virtually all Americans with cries of "socialism" need to forgo their exquisite government health care and struggle for a few months to deal with family illnesses the way 46 million uninsured Americans do every day.

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