Bureaucratic Boil Over

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[RE: Ortiz y Pino, “The Quest for Health Care Reform,” Dec. 14-20] If Jerry Ortiz y Pino thinks the current system under which health insurance companies have undue influence over individuals’ medical decisions is bad, wait ’til he gets his wish for universal health care.

The fact is that, contrary to the wishes of proponents of nationalized health care, the first change that will happen is that the government, not individuals, will have final authority over what treatments are offered and when. In other words, government bureaucrats will replace insurance companies and the problems of inefficiency and bureaucracy will worsen.

Canada is one of the many nations that have enacted a single-payer plan. In 2005 a Canadian physician sued the government of Quebec, and won, over its rationing of health care. According to a 2002 survey by the Commonwealth Fund, 53 percent of Canadians with health problems reported difficulties in seeing a specialist when needed. The physician alleged that the province’s regime of restrictive health-care regulations was oppressive to the point of illegality.

Instead of further socializing our medical system by adopting Canada’s system or some other socialist model, government should explore ways to give individuals control over their medical spending. That is the best way to keep the insurance companies—or anyone else—from calling the shots.

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit

[RE: Letters, “Very Low Food,” Dec. 14-20] While I appreciate your concern for those living in poverty, I disagree completely with your insinuation that giving wealthy citizens tax cuts will have any negative impact on the problem. While the guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is our given right in this country, you must realize that it is for everyone, including the wealthy. For you to assume that it is OK to steal from the rich to feed the poor (in the form of higher taxes), then you are infringing upon the right of liberty for those who are wealthy, and installing a socialist society.

Since you group them as "the wealthy,” I would assume you’re not one of them. Neither am I, nor have I ever been. I grew up on that fine line between middle class and poverty. I never asked for handouts, and I wouldn’t now. It’s easy to say tax the rich and feed the poor. But, as one of the great minds of our time, Milton Friedman, has said, “people readily spend much more freely with other people’s money than they would with their own.” The rich have been taxed and taxed and taxed, and we still have poverty. In fact, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population pays roughly 40 percent of the entire country’s taxes. Ask them how they feel about their “pursuit of happiness.” And just to be clear, we are not guaranteed “happiness” by that right, only the “pursuit” of it. Worrying about how we’re going to feed our children or pay our bills is part of that pursuit. Since when did my pursuit become the responsibility of some “richies” in Washington, or New York, or right here in New Mexico for that matter? It wouldn’t be their choice if I decided to have children and wasn’t able to feed them. I work hard and I take responsibility for myself, and if some day I find myself rolling in dough from all of it, I would sure hate to be penalized by higher taxes for my achievements. In the end, you must afford everyone their rights. You cannot accept your own freedom and deny those same freedoms to others.

As for the problem of poverty, 10,000 years of mankind hasn’t ever solved it. We may have been closest of all, however. At the turn of the century (1900, that is), America had the largest middle class society on Earth, one of the lowest poverty levels in the world and people were getting richer. That was long before federal income tax, cigarette taxes, food tax, fuel tax, unemployment tax, inheritance tax, liquor tax, luxury taxes, marriage tax, property tax and social security tax, to name a few. Add to those all of the transportation taxes and communications taxes we pay and it’s no wonder the poverty level has grown.

Running The Red

There’s some talk about the civil liberties implications of these things [Re: Newscity, “Seeing Red,” Oct. 26-Nov.1]; talk which may be well-founded. But I’m more concerned about other things:

1) There’s a rigid and arbitrary aspect to this program. The red-light motion cameras are one thing but the still cameras like the one hiding near Lead and Walter SE are another. This camera and others like it capture an instant without context. Was the speeding driver (a) drunk, playing with his/her little phone and weaving all over the road; or (b) sober, undistracted and driving skillfully on an empty street? No matter. $150. This is crap—even rape and murder are recognized by the law as possessing various degrees of evil.

2) Why the hell does the fine get sent to Cleveland, Ohio? How much of it actually goes to the coffers of Albuquerque?

3) How come nobody gets busted in Albuquerque for ignoring their turn signal lever (takes a lot of work to move that thing), or driving with their food, their office or a dog on their lap?

Oh yeah—I’m guilty. I did it. I’m driver (b).

Two Lane Traffic

I’m glad Albuquerque has committed itself to better public transportation because, if the system is thoughtfully designed and implemented, it will benefit those people either who cannot afford to or don’t wish to drive, and it should lessen the amount of pollutants that are spewed into the air. Greater Albuquerque is growing in spread as well as density.

I’m a recent transplant from Boston, so any advice I offer is based upon a long lifetime of often frustrating experience with public transport in Boston and New York City. New York City has it all over Boston with a system of subway trains and surface busses. Street cars are the No. 1 headache in the Boston system. Please don’t tell me that Albuquerque is planning to use "light rail vehicles" and not streetcars. Light rail vehicles
are street cars!

The installation of above-ground tracks require the elimination of a center strip and two lanes of automobile traffic. This is fine provided the routes for "light rail vehicles" are situated on avenues with six or more lanes. In Boston, no streetcars ply roadways with less than two lanes in both directions for autos plus one lane each direction for the public transport. This may seem irrelevant given the less dense (but rapidly increasing) vehicular traffic on most Albuquerque streets, but parts of Central Avenue will become parking lots as car and trolley traffic halt while pedestrians get off and climb aboard at each stop.

Keep in mind that unless and until public transportation networks the entire metropolitan area of Albuquerque, automobile traffic will not decrease. Albuquerque drivers who have to make stops at multiple locations throughout the city will still take their cars but devise routes that avoid public transit routes where merchants await their patronage. Those from various areas inside and outside Albuquerque who come into the city to patronize shops, service centers and restaurants will continue to take their cars.

It seems a shame that a rail system (maybe monorail?) was not paired with the sections of I-25 and I-40 that traverse Albuquerque. It would have been expensive, to be sure, but it also would have provided the bones for a web of surface-based public transport that could have combined light rail trolley on some of the wider avenues and boulevards with busses on the narrower. At the very least, the proposed initial route from Old Town to Nob Hill should extend, as other readers/letter writers have pointed out, to the Kirtland base and Sandia Labs.

Let’s get more efficient and environmentally safe public transport, but let’s get it right.

Environmental Equation

William DeBuys’ "An Altered Land" [Feature, Dec. 7-13] was excellent. My ancestors homesteaded at Cox Canyon, where today a compression station sits yards from the remains of my great-grandparents’ cabin.

I am, like Tweeti Blancett, appalled that so few people speak out, not just about methane production, but strip mines, land speculation, energy-consuming water-diversions, ever-expanding tourism, sprawl and disappearing wildlife in the San Juan Basin. But the region’s problems must be viewed in a national context.

Which brings us to I = PAT, an equation that is to the environment what E = MC
2 is to physics. Both are potentially world-destroying. Impact (I) equals population (P) plus affluence (A) of a society times the level of harm done by the (T) technologies employed.

In 1906, India reached 300 million people; in 2006, we reached 300 million and, absent a national debate or honesty from our leaders, we grow at rates that could, like India, take us to one billion this century. Because of our affluence, the impacts–to the San Juan Basin and hundreds of other places–have been and will be staggering, which is exactly why we are one of two major players in climate change.

Dependence on foreign oil has doubled since the ’80s, but not coincidentally, population mushroomed from 200 million to 300 million since 1967, even as we turned our backs on a more temperate economy, less restrained personal consumption or energy conservation. (Climate change solutions are not just about driving fuel-efficient cars.)

What worries me is elected officials’ (of both parties) unwillingness to lead on everything from environmental protection to honesty about the population tsunami that means we’re one of only three nations with more than 300 million citizens. If they won’t address I = PAT honestly, what hope do we have of workable answers to climate change or any other problem?

A Matter Of Health

I would like to thank Jerry Oritz y Pino for drawing attention to “The Quest for Health Care Reform” [Ortiz y Pino, Dec. 14-20] in the United States. I want to take a moment and extend some thoughts about his article. With health care reform, a commitment toward advocating for an effective and just health care system must be illuminated. The existing health care system is generating social, economic and political injustice. New Mexico is in the process of analyzing three health care models by a national expert. Many states throughout the United States are working on reorganizing health care systems.

The Health Care for All New Mexico Campaign is a statewide collaboration of organizations and individuals working toward affordable, accessible and accountable health care. As a member of this campaign, a New Mexico Highlands University Masters of Social Work candidate and someone who has indigent health care, I believe all people have the right to affordable and accessible health care. A few questions need to be asked: What are the necessary alliances in this transition process regarding health care systems both as a state and nation? Also, in what way is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights being considered in this process? New Mexicans’ health has to be a priority, not something to negotiate. Again, thank you, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, for drawing attention to this situation. For more information about Health Care for All New Mexico call (505) 314-0656 or visit www.healthactionnm.org.

Compassionate Conservative

If the president is sincere in implementing a new direction for U.S. policy, there is a bi-partisan issue which will show real compassion. The genocide in Darfur and Chad must be stopped. President Bush needs to act decisively in backing the African Union, the United Nations and the international community. The appointment of an ambassador to the U.N. who will use every means to prove that our United States will not tolerate further mass murder and violation of human rights can’t be postponed. Every day of procrastination is one too many. Ending these atrocities can be a belated success in his presidency. None of us would oppose such action.

How much does he care?

Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to letters@alibi.com. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

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