By David Underhill –
MOBILE, Ala. – A prayer for the Alabama legislature as it reconvenes in a special session, following another special session that failed to find funding enough to allow the state’s Medicaid services to function at a level keeping the needy alive.
Schemes to finance the services with a lottery, or with the billion dollars in compensation due to Alabama from BP’s 2010 offshore oil well eruption, or with various other budget and tax juggles all died in legislative deadlock. As expected, payments to medical providers began to shrink, with impacts especially dire for children and elderly in poor rural areas.
The next blows will hit dialysis clinics, and if they close kidney disease patients will die. So the legislators are back in the Montgomery capitol staging a show of seeking solutions. Most of the drama involves the BP billion.
Dear Lord, we humbly come before You confessing we have fallen short of the glory of God but swearing we shall do our utmost as sinners in this wicked earth below to carry forth the mission You have bestowed upon us.
We acknowledge that within your Holy Scriptures You instruct us to sell all that we have and give the proceeds to the poor, thus achieving treasure in heaven, and come and follow Lord Jesus. This is a greater burden than we sinners can bear. But we are comforted by knowing that elsewhere in the Gospels You counsel that ye have the poor with you always.
We interpret this to mean that we must not give of our abundance so lavishly as to eradicate poverty entirely, else how could the poor be with us always. And we interpret this to mean that the burden of caring for the poor must fall heavier on the poorer than the richer, since the burden of selling all they have and giving away the money from the sales would be much greater for the wealthy than for others. Their lives would suffer a wrenching change for the worse, which would be more than they could bear. But those already poor who sold their meager possessions and gave the money to those even poorer would suffer very little change in their already miserable circumstances, which would be a small additional burden for them to bear. Thus would be fulfilled the Biblical injunctions both that the Lord never gives us burdens beyond bearing and that the poor must always be with us.
As legislators we consider it our ordained godly responsibility to inscribe these sacred injunctions into secular law. Therefore we feel duty bound by our loyalty to the Lord to protect and perpetuate the tax system we have devised, which makes the poor pay more through sales taxes on their essentials of food, clothing and shelter and the rich to pay relatively less through low income and property tax rates for them.
We realize, Dear Lord, that these precarious arrangements leave us scrambling from crisis to crisis every year as we try to formulate budgets for the next year that don’t leave too many people either dying or rioting in the streets. And with your Divine intervention we usually accomplish this in some haphazard fashion.
Especially when You bless us with a disaster. In 2005 You sent hurricane Katrina and numerous tornadoes since then. The wreckage was so immense that huge amounts of charitable and federal government aid arrived. Then in 2008 you caused, or allowed to happen, the Great Recession. In the following years economic stimulus money from Washington to overcome this recession saved our state budget from death.
And then, praise Jesus, BP’s oil well exploded offshore from our Gulf of Mexico coast in 2010, costing so many lives and causing damage so vast and lasting that BP has had to shower many billions in blessings upon the region for fines and compensation, with one billion coming directly to the state of Alabama.
This salvation arrives not all at once but in installments over eighteen years, enough to keep our Medicaid program breathing and to patch some potholes in our roads. Barely enough.
And it isn’t enough to pay for our other needs: more prisons, police, financial inducements for businesses to move here – but we needn’t tell You who already knows all things.
Our plea is only that You not forsake us in your dispensation of disasters. Send us next whatever calamities You choose, but ones preferably with a big payout here while inflicting their greatest wrath upon nearby places rather than upon us.
We concede it is not charitable to wish disaster upon others while hoping to reap benefits for ourselves from the event. But we trust that our earnest attempts to carry out your holy Scriptural instructions through our legislative service will bring your mercy to us and to those we represent.
Yet we know that when You sent the Flood to cleanse the earth, many innocents had to perish along with the wicked. Besides the animals, only Noah and his few virtuous passengers on the ark survived. We pray that our virtue is acceptable in Thy sight.
If all else fails, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley could still go after the federal billions to expand Medicaid.
© 2016, David Underhill. All rights reserved.