This is my bishop's testimony at the NH House Finance Committee Hearing. His points, for me, illustrates not only the problem here in NH, but can also be applied to the tendency to blame public workers (especially teachers) for the current economic problems facing many states and municipalities.
Testimony before the House Finance Committee Hearing on the Budget March 10, 2011 By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
My name is Gene Robinson, and I am a citizen of Weare. I am also the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. I fear that what I will have to say here today will be a bit like whistling in the wind, but as the leader of some 15,000 Episcopalians all over this state, and as one person of faith, I must say it anyway, or else will find it hard to say my prayers tonight.
If I sound angry to you, you’re right. But I’m not angry for myself, but on behalf of the poor and vulnerable on whose backs this proposed budget is being balanced.
The Jewish scriptures of the Old Testament, and the Christian scriptures of the New Testament, have one overriding theme: it is that the God of All Creation will judge humankind, not by our accomplishments, nor by our GDP, nor by the average test scores of our school children, but by how well we care for the poor and vulnerable in our midst. No other theme is so thoroughly driven home in Holy Scripture.
As a moral and spiritual leader of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire, I have to say that the proposed cuts to the services and social safety net of our New Hampshire community fly in the face of every moral value I hold dear. Let’s be clear: belt- tightening in challenging times is a good thing, but it is NOT moral to unilaterally tighten the belts of OTHER people, against their will and to their detriment, while allowing ourselves to go scot-free. We are not asking the most vulnerable to make a sacrifice – because sacrifice comes as a free offering from those willing to bear the burden themselves. When sacrifice is perpetrated on the vulnerable and weak by the strong and prosperous, it is social abuse.
If there is belt-tightening to be done, we should be tightening our OWN belts and coming up with the resources to do what a civilized society does: to care for, and not cut services for the poor, the disabled, the blind, the unemployed, the impoverished elderly, the uninsured, and children living in poverty. Those who would lay quick claim to the moral ground of “family values” are proposing a budget that undermines vulnerable families all across this great state.
So, do what you are going to do. But make no mistake – this budget is simply irresponsible and immoral. Pass this budget if you think you must, but don’t do it in the name of Yankee frugality and fiscal responsibility. Sitting here in one of the most prosperous states in the Union, let’s just call it what it is: a stubborn and selfish unwillingness by us, the privileged, to tighten our OWN belts for the good of our fellow citizens who are truly in need.