Utah legislators decided since there wasn't much money to spend, they would send messages instead. The irony is the messages are themselves expensive and have little chance of persuading either the federal government or fellow U.S. citizens, as most of them don't care what Utahns think.
Under the guidance of Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Utah is going to join a dozen other states and sue the federal government over health care. Shurleff says no government has the right to force citizens to carry insurance. Applying that same logic, could counties in the state start suing Utah for forcing the citizens to buy auto insurance?
Perhaps some would argue that auto insurance is required, because it helps pay the costs of innocent victims of accidents, but health costs are no different, just more hidden. When an uninsured citizen seeks medical care in an emergency room, we all eventually pay, either through taxes for Medicaid or through increased medical costs that get passed to insurance providers and then to consumers.
To make the announcement that the state would muster all its forces and spend tax dollars to prevent Utahns from having equal access to health care, Shurtleff walked into the news conference on both legs. That ability was the result of intensive medical treatment and most likely state-funded medical insurance after a terrible motorcycle accident nearly cost him his leg just a short time ago.
It seems disingenuous of one who has benefited tremendously from modern medicine and superb insurance, to lead the charge against insurance for others. This is particularly true when thinking of the nation's uninsured children, who can't speak for themselves, and must rely on the compassion of adults.
I have family at both ends of life's spectrum right now, needing medical care. My grandma is getting assistance as she approaches the end of a long, full life, and at the same time, my 8-month-old niece is recovering from an intensive procedure that required surgeons to remove and reshape the front of her skull and eye sockets, and this is just the first of many surgeries she will eventually endure.
For families who don't have insurance, those medical costs would compound a traumatic situation with crippling debt. Medical bills are a primary cause of bankruptcy, and Utah has one of the highest bankruptcy rates in the nation. With our emphasis on children, this is a state that needs insurance.
The Utah Legislature is also sending messages about federal control of state land and federal control of Utah-manufactured guns. The land bill establishes Utah's eminent domain unless the property was obtained by the federal government with the consent of the Legislature. The Freedoms Firearm Act prevents federal regulation of any gun made, sold or kept within state lines.
Legislative counsel and the governor both acknowledge the bills are on shaky constitutional ground and may cost millions of dollars if challenged by the federal government in court, but despite the governor's feeling that the bills could be "tilting at windmills, and braying at the moon," he just signed them into law.
In the end, who's listening or cares about messages from Utah? Are we just talking to ourselves to hear our own bravado? Even conservatives, outside the state seem dismissive of our opinions. Case in point: how the rest of the nation reacted to the presidential bid of Mitt Romney.
A radio listener from the Bible belt recently called in to a program on National Public Radio and suggested when the "big one" hits, he hopes it takes out the fringe states of Utah and California. Leaning too far left or too far right often invalidates the sender's message.
In another interview on NPR, actress Chloe Sevigny, who plays a fundamentalist wife in the HBO series Big Love, was asked how she prepared for the role of a polygamist, "Did you just go to Utah and hang out for awhile,' the interviewer asked laughing. Apparently, citizens outside the state don't take us as seriously as we take ourselves and our own messages.
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If Utahns send a message and no one cares, why waste the money right now?