Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cutting Budgets Has a Moral and Human Cost

ALL ACROSS AMERICA, IN WASHINGTON, D.C., STATE CAPITALS, COUNTY seats and city halls hard decisions are being discussed about how to cut government budgets.  This is no longer even a debate about “whether” to cut, and unfortunately, neither is the “what.”  It seems that all that’s left to decide is, “How deep to cut the human services budgets?”

Today (February 7, 2011), the governor of Florida announced his intention to cut the state’s budget by $4.6 billion, which includes $1.4 billion to pay for additional tax cuts for property owners and corporations.  And what will these cuts impact?  Public education is the big loser ($3.3 billion), along with services for the disabled and for children and family services ($352 million).  But he found a way to almost double the budget for his office to $638 million.

But, what was most disheartening was to hear the cheers from the 1,000 plus people who gathered in the Baptist church, often interrupting his speech with applause.  Cheers . . . not tears.

And Florida isn’t alone.  This is happening all across America – and while people gather to cheer the news of tax and spending cuts – tens of thousands of people . . . families, children, the old, the sick, the disabled, and many more . . . are facing a bleak future.  And while they shed tears of despair, fear and pain – we cheer.

I don’t write this to rant against these cuts – there are many sides to this debate with decisions that are difficult at best – but I do write to remind us what God, through His prophet, Isaiah, said He expects from His followers:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”                                           
Isaiah 58: 6 & 7 

“If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul . . .” 
Isaiah 58: 9 & 10

During his all too short life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about many injustices, including a society that creates, then ignores, the poor while building its own wealth so it can consume even more.

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.  On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.  One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. 

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar.  It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”                                 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967)

No – I don’t have any answers to this financial crisis faced by governments all across America.  But I do know that cutting essential services for food, childcare, healthcare, housing, and education should be felt by more than just those suffering from the cuts.  The pain is real, and we should share it, too.

When we share the pain of the hurting, we share the pain of God . . . and when we share this pain, and do something about it, God says

“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”  
Isaiah 58, vs. 8 & 9

“Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.” 
                                                                                                                    Isaiah 58, vs. 9

Let’s save the cheering for when “our light breaks forth like the morning.”  In the meantime, let’s “extend our souls,” and by doing so help “satisfy the afflicted souls.”