State budget should reflect community’s values and morals

| June 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

The politicians in Minnesota have not found common ground in the budget debate.

While they continue to work to resolve the budget differences, we offer a couple of thoughts to consider.

First, the moral measure of this bud­get debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.

Second, our Catholic social teaching does not believe that taxation is the state confiscating what is ours for its purposes. Nor does it teach that taxation is based on the Robin Hood syndrome — rob the rich and give to the poor. Rather, taxation, we believe, is the means by which a democratic society gathers it resources to promote the common good. This is a shared sacrifice amongst all. And our society will be judged by future generations by the way we take care of those in the dawn of life, those in the dusk of life, and those in the shadows of life.

Third, in evaluating our direction as a society, we must remember that a good society is ordered to meet basic needs, both individual and communal. It ensures that needs for food, shelter, health care and physical safety are met. It ensures opportunities to learn, to engage in meaningful work and play, and to participate fully in social, cultural, economic and political domains. In short, we must order our communal resources to ensure that these basic human needs are being met.

Health care for all

For the Catholic Health Association of Minnesota, we apply this specifically to health care issues. As a statewide organization of providers of older adult services as well as acute care and clinical services, we examine the health and human services budget very closely. Through our teachings and traditions we make it clear that health care for all is a community responsibility. This responsibility has two key aspects.

First, our community cannot be deemed whole or just if it does not shoulder its responsibility to provide health care.

Second, our community is obligated to make sure health care is available to all, even those who cannot pay. Because of this community obligation, we are compelled to promote policies that ensure that every person has access to health care.

The application of these principles to the current proposals raises a couple of questions:

» If, as the budget sheets say, we are restricting access to services provided to the elderly in the elderly waiver program by cutting rates, and placing caps on enrollment, are we fulfilling our community responsibilities to our el­derly?

» If, as the budget sheets say, we will be removing health care coverage from more than 100,000 people, restricting access to health care to those who would be in the Minnesota Care and Medicaid early enrollment, are we moving to ensure that every person has access to health care?

In short, as a state, does the budget live up to our moral principles, which have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children, and reaching out to those in need?

Toby Pearson
Pearson is executive director of the Catholic Health Association-Minnesota.

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