Large portions of America see Kentucky as a land of uneducated, ignorant hillbillies who still think the world is flat. Unfortunately, that impression is reinforced by 21st century events and perhaps it is well-deserved.
Who wouldn’t believe the label when they see the Noah’s Ark replica that many Kentuckians believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and was created with dinosaurs roaming the fields. Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the $100 million ark, was subsidized by state government and invites schoolchildren and their teachers to become educated to the “reality and factual information” contained in Genesis in the Old Testament.
Too many believe that if their religion conflicts with the Supreme Court, then the court takes the back seat. Look at Kim Davis who said the Supreme Court was irrelevant in America, that the Wild West is the operative law in Rowan County and that only she could decide that it’s OK for murderers, rapists and pedophiles to marry, but gays can’t. And many Kentuckians applauded.
Now comes Gov. Matt Bevin’s theory of medical care. Republican Rep. Addia Wuchner explained the new theory of health care: if you make quality health care more difficult to obtain, it will spur people to get jobs.
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Put another way, this curious theory is that if the poorest of the poor are made to pay part of their meager income for health care it will incentivize them to get higher paying jobs, as if they wouldn’t have already done it, if possible. Or else they should cut their working hours, thus reducing their income to volunteer somewhere.
Wuchner has the nerve to say: “It is actually toxic charity and insulting to individuals’ human dignity when we continue to think that Medicaid-eligible citizens are incapable of engaging in their own health care…”
She is saying that if you are really sick, you need to get out of bed, get a better job and pay part of your medical care. And the sicker you are, the better job you need to find because you should be capable of paying for your own medical care and stop accepting this toxic charity. And if you are too sick to even get out of bed, I guess we will come by and turn out the lights.
What is really insulting is the disdain for poor people who are barely getting by day to day. There was an old saying about Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater who was quite wealthy due to the fact that he was heir to a department-store fortune. The apocryphal story is told that Goldwater encountered a beggar and told the beggar if he had any gumption, he would go out and inherit a department store.
Where is compassion in Kentucky? Where is the Judeo-Christian edict to take care of the downtrodden? There really are poor people who cannot afford medical care and need our help. How can cutting costs on the backs of the most vulnerable among us be acceptable?
Bevin and Wuchner might spend some time at soup kitchens or homeless shelters. I would ask them to meet desperate people who are barely living on the edge, hear their stories, better understand their hopelessness and perhaps feel their pain.
If they did, they would go back to Frankfort and amend their preconceived notions of the poor to a more compassionate version. And it might even tamp down the notion that we are all uneducated, ignorant hillbillies.
Marty Solomon, a retired University of Kentucky professor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org