Around the release of the alt-health plan currently making its way through Congress, several elected leaders have gone where elected leaders sometimes go – blaming the poor for being poor.
Perhaps it’s to assuage their consciences or justify their current proposal which would make it more expensive for those with the fewest resources and limit options for children. Maybe they spend so little time around those who live in low income that they have no idea the challenges of escaping that economic reality, including those created by government-created housing patterns that limit access to living-wage jobs, reliable transportation, and sound public education.
Perhaps those leaders don’t understand or care about the impact of chronic illness, both on those who suffer from it and those who are caretakers, or they ignore the value of preventative care that could either head off a developing illness or make managing it easier.
Perhaps, as Jesus warned, some of those elected to represent us cannot see past the plank in their own eye to remove the speck in someone else’s.
Here’s the thing – who would choose to be poor or sick?
What percentage of the 43.1 million Americans living in poverty in 2015 were delighted to be there?
How many of the 133 million in the U.S. who live with chronic disease – that’s just the ones with chronic disease – are happy with their diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, or other ailments?
The utter lack of compassion in arguing that folks don’t want to be well and financially secure (not rich, secure!) is staggering. The failure to see the image of God in those so easily relegated to daily struggles and early death is heartbreaking.
Poverty or illness isn’t most people’s prioritized endgame. The proposed health care plan will not help them get better on either front. It fails to improve on the Affordable Care Act, instead representing a significant step back for many. If the current proposal is a purely economic decision, say so. If it’s meant to punish people who are sick and don’t have the means to get better, as some comments have implied, say that. But let’s not pretend it will make people healthier.
Speaking on Saturday at the NC Bread for the World Conference meeting at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Durham, Gene Nichol made it clear how North Carolina is failing its poor, especially its poor children, listing some of the ways the General Assembly’s has negatively impacted the most vulnerable among us:
The litany sounds almost boring – because we’re used to it. As if we agreed with the assessment that the main thing wrong with NC is that those at the bottom have too much and those at the top don’t have enough. Cutting the state income tax rate, shifting to sales taxes, especially car repairs, alliance repairs and the like, overtly, overtly, in a demand that the poor pay a bigger share of NC taxes and the wealthy pay a smaller one. From 2013-2016, giving the top one percent a 15,000 tax cut, while raising, actually increasing the taxes of the bottom 40%. Though rich people take home a greater share of NC wealth and income, already, than has occurred in a hundred years.
Cutting NC’s modest subsidy for child care for poor, working families. Ending the state’s appropriation for legal aid. Slashing the seats available for Pre-K for poor kids.
I won’t go on, won’t finish the list. It disgusts me. I don’t like to mention it out loud. I don’t like to be reminded of it. As if it were suddenly thought it acceptable, even admirable, to take from the poor to render to the wealthy.
We just, as you all know, finished a hotly contested election in NC. We had a little discussion of Medicaid expansion. Some discussion of our commitment to schools. Nothing about hunger. Nothing about poverty. No mention that we have the worst hunger for kids, or among the fastest rising child poverty rates, and concentrated poverty rates, among the most yawning and insurmountable gaps between rich and poor. As if these are all just unavoidable, unobjectionable, untroubling, natural occurrences. Delivered by the hand of Jesus. Such is life for Tar Heels. We don’t expect anything different. Don’t want it. Don’t aspire to it. As if we actually warmed to a growing economic apartheid.