Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
and push the afflicted out of the way…
Sin is its own punishment. Do something wrong and generally something bad will happen. It’s the law of cause and effect. If I drive too fast, it can result in a ticket or an accident. This is not punishment meted out by a vindictive God; this is a result of my behavior. Of course, sometimes we do bad things and get away with it. Other times, we do bad things and someone else suffers the consequences, perhaps someone we will never meet.
Such is the case of lawmakers in Raleigh proposing a budget for the people of North Carolina that leaves many of us without access to adequate healthcare and continues siphoning funds from public education. It’s likely those who voted for this budget and those who are now faced with the dilemma of whether to override the Governor’s veto will never meet the folks who can’t afford insulin or the school children using battered books.
By now we should all know the refrain from our failure to close the Medicaid gap:
- Nearly half a million people could qualify, including 150,000 people with behavioral health needs and up to 23,000 North Carolina veterans.
- In the first 5 years, an estimated 37,000 jobs could be created with an annual economic influx of $4 billion.
- Many of these jobs would go to rural counties, where the local hospital, if there is one, typically is one of the five biggest employers. These are not just health care jobs, but also construction, retail, food services, etc.
We should all know the refrain from our failure to support public education:
- Adjusted for inflation, classroom funding is 42% below what it was 10 years ago—the onset of the great recession.
- Our teacher pay competitiveness is 44th, meaning the best teachers will make more money finding a new job either in a different state or another profession. Many do.
- Current support staff funding is half what it should be to supply the recommended number of nurses, social workers, and counselors; all of whom, studies show, make our schools far safer than the armed guards (also known as school resource officers) who currently walk the halls.
These are some of the effects caused by the funding decisions of previous state budgets and they will be the effects of the current budget proposed by the General Assembly if the Governor’s veto is not upheld.
By any decent measure, this is an unjust budget. By the measure of Amos’ plumb line (7:7), this is a sinful budget. The entire book of Amos is a treatise on the abuse of power to disenfranchise the poor. He mentions taking advantage of people in the marketplace by using weighted scales (8:5b) and imposing unfair fines to pad payrolls (2:8b). He derides elected officials beholden to donors (5:12) and admonishes those who live in the lap of luxury with no thought for those from whom wealth is extracted (6:4-7).
Besides a budget that suffocates the most vulnerable, the money piece is part of a bigger power grid with parts like the 2020 census and the district voting maps. When those elected hoard power by manipulating the census and gerrymandering the maps, everyone may suffer, even eventually those who abuse their power.
In the short term, however, the consequences for this evil constellation of events continues to fall most heavily on those who can least weather the storm. We applaud those who are doing their part to stem the tide by refusing to support a budget that creates injustice.
In this instance, justice sustains the veto.
If you’d like to share that opinion with your elected officials, click here to find out who represents you. For contact information click here for senators and here for representatives. To find out how your senator voted on the budget, click here. For your representative, click here.