The Good Book tells us that those who hunger for righteousness will be satisfied, that the merciful shall obtain mercy and that the meek will inherit the very earth. This is good news for Pennsylvanians who fit into those categories because the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor Wolfe are using this year’s budget showdown to further the ongoing, successful bipartisan crusade to make life for our state’s needy hell on earth.
The bad news is that the Bible doesn’t tell us when to expect this relief but it is definitely not forthcoming from the leadership of either political party. Austerity is the name of the game. The two sides are duking it out over conflicting conservative budgets. In a state that already has one of the most unequal tax structures in the nation (according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy), we are given the choice of balancing our budget on the backs of poor and working people through such measures as regressive taxation; cuts or freezes in services; and increasing our pious state’s involvement in gambling (and preying on people who are often low-income or suffering from a serious addiction).
Not mentioned so far are state-run brothels, although it’s been said that pimping is profitable if not easy. Also off the table is any talk of taxing profitable corporations (including fake nonprofits like UPMC) and the rich.
So intent are both sides in “winning” — and so great is their disregard for the people who are suffering while programs aren’t funded — that they can’t even agree on stopgap funding measures while they calibrate the extent of our long-term suffering.
Meanwhile, who are the sufferers?
- The meek. They don’t come much meeker than foster children,many of whom are victims of abuse and neglect; public and parochial school children, pre-K to twelve; homeless adults and children; victims of domestic violence; people who suffer from serious mental illnesses and disabilities; and those caught in the throes of serious addictions, including gambling.
- Those who hunger for righteousness (a.k.a., justice). Just about anybody who utilizes Neighborhood Legal Services or a women’s shelter needs some justice. So does anybody mentioned above.
- The merciful are about to be laid off, if they work for legitimate nonprofits and tend to the aforementioned sufferers: social workers, therapists, counselors, nurses, case managers, etc. School employees are next if the budget stalemate, now well past the 100-day mark, drags on much longer.
I love reading the gospel according to Matthew, to which I’ve alluded in this piece, but I disagree with his conclusion. The meek and humble will not get what they deserve on this earth — or in this state — unless they become decidedly unmeek in making their demands known. Instead, they’ll continue to be the sacrificial lambs for the austerity budgets demanded by the wealthy and faithfully passed by Republicans and Democrats alike.
— Jim Collins