How do we choose to treat the weakest among us?

( – promoted by Sue Prent)

I attended the Legislative Breakfast in Enosburg Saturday 4/11 and heard all about the large shortfall in the state budget. The legislators were talking about where to make cuts and of course, social programs were the main target. It’s easy to look around and see scarcity and failure and no way out but to tighten down and cut.

My comment to the legislators was: I feel hopeless and frustrated because my country, and my state, are afraid to address the true cause of the increasing poverty and suffering experienced by more and more people. Our country has great wealth and resources, concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and corporations. We do have the resources to solve all our problems, but we don’t have the will.

If sustaining programs that are vital to the wellbeing of the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and children at risk means that my taxes might go up a little, that’s OK with me.

I grew up in relative poverty in Sheldon, but my parents instilled in all of us the belief that we could not turn away from helping those in need. As well, the poverty of that time was nothing like what exists now. There were decent-paying local jobs – the Pulp Mill, the Railroad, Fonda, Energizer. I could leave home and support myself on an entry-level waitress job.

There were no corporations masquerading as “persons” so that they could use vast amounts of money to influence elections.  CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965; now it is 331-to-1. There were 12 billionaires in the US in 1965; now there are 536. US federal corporate tax revenue as a share of GDP is one of the lowest in the world at 1.6 % today, despite record-breaking profits. Income inequality is obscene and it is strangling the life of this country. This IS fixable, if the will to do it is there.

Who are “We”? Who gets pushed off the boat, who gets abandoned, who is disposable? Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Let’s all take a good look at that.

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