Monday, May 09, 2005

The Reverse NASCAR

Stock car races run around the track counterclockwise--so they're always turning left. At the Legislature, these guys only know how to steer to the right. So they just don't seem to understand how that gives Gov. Napolitano the center.

I have a Thursday noon deadline for my column, but the budget deal at the legislature came together around midnight that day, 12 hours after I had to file. So I had to switch gears, and tenses, because the legislative leadership caved and gave the Governor basically everything she wanted (CPS salary increases, $7 million for the downtown Phoenix medical school, increased funding for all-day kindergarten) and what the Republicans got was a $15 million tax credit for private school tuition donations. I think this will be this coming week's column, but $15 million a year is a lot less than what we're paying for the new Cardinals stadium, and that is now my new minimum level for ginning up outrage.

So, about the headline: I do think it's correct that at the legislature, ideology trumps facts. But getting out of the session trumps even ideology. The really jarring thing in the paper, though, was seeing the University of Arizona referred to as UA instead of U of A. But then we're a metro Phoenix paper, so tough luck, Wildcats.

East Valley Tribune, May 8, 2005

Some experts have speculated that because conservative ideology is so bulky, filling so much space inside the brain, it leaves ‘wingers with insufficient room for less important stuff, like facts.

Several letters to the editor this past week provided support for this hypothesis by insisting that the U.S. Supreme Court was perfectly justified in any overreaching to stop the 2000 Florida recounts because the justices were only slapping down an out-of-control state judiciary.

This isn’t a principled position at all, because it means conservatives support an out-of-control federal judiciary, provided they like the outcome: “Two wrongs make a right -- if we go last.”

But one actual fact squeezed out by their ideology (yes, this means you, T.K. of Mesa) is that it wasn’t Gore who originally asked the courts to step in. The case is called Bush v. Gore, at both the state and federal levels, for one reason -- Bush went to Florida state court first, demanding that judges take over. You could look it up, but you won’t; it’s more comfortable that way. No room.

This same problem, of space being unavailable for facts that don’t fit the ideology, was also on display in the state GOP legislative leadership’s budgetary stonewalling of the proposed new Phoenix campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. While they finally threw in this towel late last week, for most of the session it appeared as if their determination not to let anything happen that could be viewed as a victory for Gov. Napolitano wouldn’t let any actual facts to enter their consciousness.

This cranial overcrowding apparently prohibited GOP leadership from understanding the proposal or acknowledging the already-completed work behind it, and freed them to repeat, and repeat, things that simply weren’t true, like insisting that “there’s no plan” for the new school.

The reality -- like anything as minor as “reality” would matter to these guys -- is that there were numerous plans already in place for the new medical school, including for each stage of the remaining organizational and start-up process. There’s the accreditation plan, preliminary work on which has already been submitted to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national accreditation authority for medical schools. The Arizona Board of Regents finished the facilities plan, for renovating the three historic building to be used for the classrooms and clinical rotations. UA prepared the staffing and equipment cost plans for the “Level I” first phase of 24 students per year, plus consolidation of existing Valley-wide clinical rotations.

ASU completed its plan for its Biomedical Informatics Department that will co-locate with the medical school and play a key role in future medical education. ASU even has provided cost projections for the next 6 years. Finally, the Flinn Foundation has retained a consultant to develop the plan for building, expanding, and funding possible expansion to the next, Level II, phase.

To use technical medical terminology, the new medical school had more already-prepared plans than Carter’s has liver pills.

(That’s a lot more plans, you’ll note, than these same legislators’ instant voucher proposal, which costs far more and yet has no Arizona studies behind it. But ideology leaves no room for consistency, either.)

Since UA opened the only medical school in the state decades ago, the population of Arizona has multiplied several times. You might think that leaders of the state would see the need to expand the number of doctors being educated and trained to keep up with that growth. But that would require knowledge of facts, and unfortunately for Arizona, in any contest at this Legislature between facts and ideology, you know where to bet.

Physicians also should recognize how their GOP “friends” at the Legislature view government’s role in public health. As Sen. Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) said, doctors make enough money that educating them should be their own problem.

Maybe the legislators’ cranial space shortages kept them from being able to deal with actual facts. But in putting their partisan battles with Gov. Napolitano ahead of the public interest in fixing Arizona’s chronic physician shortage, it’s our health that will suffer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sam- So what happened to a meaningful State employee pay raise this year? Yet again, we (I am a non-uniformed ADOC employee) are set aside for more palatable issues. Instead our retirement contributions goes up again (for the 2 time in 3 years- that needs to be examined for neglience) a 2.5% contribution increase vs. a 1.78 raise, health care costs may be covered ??? And yet we still are some 23% under the market rate. In Corrections alone we carry a 20 to 30 % and higher vacancy rate, yet not a word from the Legis on how to staff our prisons .... We under go a tremendous incident, extreme overview, yet despite Blue Ribbon Panel/Maricopa County investigations, no action on this problem, just a flat 1410 per uniform while we lose our best and brighest to Border Patrol, INS and DPS ... Who has gotten come 8000 per raise just in the last 2 years. Why are State employees continually ignored? Are the Right that callous to disregard those that work for the citizens? I gues the answer is obvious, given the long term lack of action/movement on this issue.