Do you have a real-life do-gooding dilemma? Please send it to email@example.com and Sandy will try to answer it.
I know there's a raging debate around health care in Congress and the media, but I don't know how to engage in a meaningful way. My friends are all updating their Facebook status in support of the president's plan, but to be honest, I don't even really know what the plan is or whether I support it. And I can't imagine that updating my Facebook status will really make a difference. What should I do?
If you aren't interested in taking a drastic step such as, say, calling the president a liar in front of all your colleagues, I'd suggest you start by doing some research into the issue.
Health care is so complex that even millions of dollars a day in TV ads and countless newspaper and magazine articles haven't enabled most Americans to understand what the disagreements are and how we should feel about them. Death panels, uninsured babies, and euthanizing granny don't leave a lot of room for substantive discussion.
And the process of getting legislation passed isn't simple, either. Several House committees have approved health reform bills, but the Senate is moving more slowly. The health, education, labor, and pensions committee passed a health reform bill, so now they're just waiting on the finance committee to pass its version. If everything goes through, the bills will be reconciled "in conference" and, ultimately, signed into law by the president.
But how can you understand the legislation without a law degree and hours spent poring over the text? I find the Kaiser Family Foundation's section on health care reform to be informative and impartial. Kaiser has six short briefs in its Explaining Health Care Reform series, ranging from "How Might a Reform Be Financed?" to "What is an Employer 'Pay or Play' Requirement?" Even more helpful, Kaiser has a tool that allows you to do a side-by-side comparison of different reform proposals.
Once you've done your research, use your three key tools—money, time, and voice—to join the debate. But I beg of you, Dylan, don't follow the lead of the engaged citizens you've see in the news for whom participation means drowning out the discussion entirely. This debate is too important to join in a way that is anything but constructive.