As a critical election nears, it is time to focus on being a “common good” voter. We do not hear the words “common good” often, but those words are imperative in any election. Too often we are stuck in “tribes:” pro-science or anti-science, liberal or conservative, Trumpster or anyone-but-Trump, masked or unmasked. But truly, the only words that matter are “common good.”
Over the next weeks, I will be looking at a few of the social justice issues that demand our attention, especially in light of our own congregational commitments.
- Congregational Commitment: Promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized, especially women and children, and work with others to identify and transform oppressive systems.
With the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), 20 million citizens received health care coverage, including nearly 3 million children. Persons with pre-existing disabilities could receive coverage, and young adults, who often cannot afford health insurance, could remain on their parents’ policies.
A March 2020 Gallup poll shows that more than half of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act. Support of the ACA has actually increased under the current administration. But the 2020 Federal Budget proposed $844 billion in cuts over a decade, for a budget decrease of 85%. Outreach and policyholder assistance has been cut by 90%, so many people don’t even know that they are eligible for coverage.
The 2020 budget also includes $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts — such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps — and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits.
Care for our children, our elderly, the weak and the marginalized are suffering death by a thousand cuts. We must act as the voice for those who will be left without healthcare.
- Congregational Commitment: Foster God’s web of life personally, communally and ministerially by advocating and supporting just policies and decisions to reduce the impact of global climate change.
During the last three years, the current administration has attempted to roll back 100 environmental rules. These include everything from lowering fuel efficiency standards (both a climate and a pocketbook issue), to allowing coal power plants to emit greenhouse gases, to allowing hunters to kill animals while they are in hibernation, a practice that can be compared to shooting a human while she is asleep in her bed.
Five million acres have burned in the western United States and more than 30 people have died in wildfires that broke last year’s records, which broke the records of the year before. According to Michael Mann, the director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, “It’s clear that ‘dangerous climate change’ has already arrived,” Mann said. “It’s a matter of how bad we’re willing to let it get.”
Meanwhile, hurricanes and other devasting natural disasters are becoming more common and more deadly. Jascha Lehmann, lead author of a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, says that climate change causes the extremes to become more extreme – the hot and dry areas become even more hot and dry, causing both destruction by fire and death by famine, and wet areas get warmer and hold more moisture, making hurricanes stronger and more dangerous,.
The current administration withdrew the United States from the Paris Accord, a monumental agreement with 196 nations that moved us to address climate change with serious commitment. As California, Oregon and Washington burn, this serves as a precursor to what will happen to the rest of the United States if we ignore our present dire reality.
We need to become the voice for our world, to save it – and us – from destruction.
As we continue to consider how to be voters for the “common good,” do your own research on the topics that we have raised today and those we will discuss in the coming weeks. How will you speak up to stand for the marginalized, and to honor and value our common home?
Our voices need to be heard.