Having been raised in Eastern Kentucky and considered “poverty level” at many stages during my lifetime, I have felt the sting and pressure that economic hardship can render on a married parent, a single parent, a child, a student, an employee and an employer. I have been on every part of that spectrum.
I grew up in a home considered “low income” in spite of the long, hard hours my dad worked. I have been the employer interviewing people who desperately needed work. And I have been in a position where I was forced to choose between hiring someone who needed to work badly and someone else who did not, but was far more qualified for the job.
I have been the wife and mother in a two-income household with above average income, and I have been a single mother of four struggling to have enough food to get through the week. I have been the social worker and the client. None of these roles is easy in hard economic times. But on more than one occasion, a bleeding heart stepped in and handed me a lifeline.
Today our country and state are faced with decisions. A budget, in many ways, is a moral document. After all, it tells everyone where our priorities lie. It clearly and numerically demonstrates, in black and white, what we feel deserves the most attention.
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This is a sobering fact; it gives great weight to the task of assigning those numbers to real, live, walking and breathing human beings. The whole world can look at that one document and make several conclusions about where our priorities lie.
Kentucky is on the receiving end of massive changes to our national budget. Much of what I see being cut is aimed at further weakening the poor and needy and empowering the wealthy.
Gov. Matt Bevin plans to call a special legislative session this summer and make tax changes that are blatant attacks on the impoverished and working classes, and more assistance for the wealthy.
Is this the justice you desire for your state? Is this fair to you and those who have less than you?
Ultimately, we have a choice. A bleeding heart, empathy for the lives of others, may not seem very profitable to those for whom profit is the bottom line. However, economically, it could be positive as well. And even if it’s not, I would rather help someone than hurt someone any day of the week.
I dream of a day when my leaders build a budget based on the Golden Rule, not on lining their own pockets but on serving the citizens.
I will do my part to make it a reality, if not for my generation then for my children and their children. The future is in our hands, and it can be kind and profitable. It does not have to be a choice. The right leaders know this.
Please let your representative know that you do not support a tax system that hurts Kentucky’s working families. You can make a difference in the fight to make all of our citizens happier, healthier and stronger. We are in this together.
Susan D. Lutes of Beattyville is a mental health professional and educator.