Whatsoever you do to the least of my people
That you do unto me. -- "Whatsoever You Do" by Willard F. Jabusch, a Catholic hymn based on Matthew 25
But as I sat at the forum held by Phil Moffett and Ken Fleming on Thursday to discuss pensions, and reflected on what was happening I simply couldn't stomach it any more.
I was raised Catholic. I will not pretend to be a good Catholic, or a great Christian. I do not currently attend church. But I attended for years, and I listened and read the words of Jesus, and saw them lived through my parents, and in the people around me. What I learned from those lessons was what seems like common sense to me now, not just religious doctrine.
- Love one another
- Take care of one another
- Look out for one another
- Have empathy for and understanding of your fellow man
- Help the poor, hungry, lonely, sick, and downtrodden
- Know that you'll never be perfect, but that you should strive to be a good person each day
- Lying is bad
- Greed is bad
- Selfishness is bad
- Stealing is bad
These government workers expressed their concerns on a personal level. Yes, this would impact their wallet and their futures. But they also expressed the very real concerns about what happens to our education, police, fire, and other social services when these plans are rolled in. What happens if we have a mass exodus of experienced teachers retiring? What happens if the many state roles where a lifetime pension is the main recruitment tool suddenly lose that perk? What happens to recruitment in areas where Kentucky's youngest are at risk and there already aren't enough people to fill the slots, such as teaching and social work? How many will suffer?
As I watched teachers, firefighters, social workers, and cops express their fears for both their own futures, the future of their professions, and the future of Kentucky to Phil Moffett and Ken Fleming, I noticed that both men appeared to be there for the most Catholic of rituals, doing penance. Except instead of hearing what our state's workers had to say to go forth and sin no more, they merely took their lumps, gave a few cursory "I feel your pain" statements, and counted the minutes until they could say they did the least they could do. If you read between the lines of their answers (or lack thereof) to the questions and concerns raised, it was clear they were probably backing the plan, no matter what. Fleming mostly remained silent, but Moffett seemed to be angered by challenges to the plan, arguing with an FOP representative and then asking incredulously and condescendingly why these state workers hadn't done or said something until now.
Ignoring that many retirees HAD sounded the alarm years earlier, what kind of question is this? Our state employees have been victimized here. Is it customary to blame victims for the fault of others in Moffett's world?
Why didn't they raise the alarm sooner? Perhaps, because they, like me, had basic faith that people were working for them. That people in office and running pension funds would recognize the importance of state workers and act accordingly. Perhaps because, unlike many of the people in power in Frankfort and the people pulling their strings, they pursued a higher calling than greed and screwing over anyone necessary just so they could add some more digits to their income or the income of those who could keep them in power.
If you look at Bevin, Moffett, Hal Heiner and the many other Republican lawmakers that have supported this attack on our promise to state employees, you see no appreciation from them for the hard work they're doing. Bevin, Moffett, and Heiner have regularly attacked our state's professional educators in the most personal of ways. And now they've extended their attacks to the firefighters, police, social workers, corrections employees and others that keep Kentucky safe and secure. It's not hard to see that the end game is to weaken all of these institutions, reduce the tax money going to them, and redirect that money to businesses and other private interests. This is how so many of these men and their donors have made their fortunes. Attacking the least of us so that the wealthiest of us can see gain.
Bevin has cloaked himself in his Christianity as a sort of shield for his character, starting his inauguration with a prayer service that surrounded him with some of the most divisive pastors in the state. He has openly promoted "See You At The Pole" and "Year of the Bible" events in social media. He's even gone as far as to say pastors who criticized his empty "solution" for violence in Louisville were going to hell for doing so. Never mind that in the same meeting, Bevin broke a contract he signed for the facilities he used by closing the meeting to the press, lied about the vocal opposition he received in that meeting, and then tried to spin his intentions when it was clear that the residents and spiritual leaders in the area were offended by his suggestions. Indeed, Governor Bevin's reaction to any sort of criticism about how he treats those who are hurting, or have been offended by his actions is to spin and attack, not seek understanding or forgiveness.
I can only ascertain from these actions and the actions of the men and women who support Matt Bevin that this is because their faith and spirituality is for simply for show. It's a ticket into the connections their churches can bring them, and a way to make themselves feel better at night after they help the rich get richer and chip away at the livelihoods and safety nets that serve the poor and middle class. They can call themselves Christians if they like, but with their lack of empathy, compassion, and concern for all of their fellow man, I find it hard to call them good or decent people in the way that the Gospels of Jesus instruct.
On October 27th, Governor Matt Bevin once again took to social media to attack his critics, decrying a request from Tom Shelton, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, to accommodate teachers with time to travel to Frankfort and address pension reform in person. Bevin said “Bringing mayhem to Kentucky, disrupting teachers, disrupting students, disrupting families, disrupting the state’s economy, to prevent us from solving this crisis, this isn’t the solution, it’s not the right thing to do, shame on you for even calling for this.”
No Governor Bevin, shame on you, your lawmaker friends, and your wealthy political puppetmasters for even making it necessary. Shame on you for your attacks on the government employees that educate, protect, and make the state stronger. Shame on you for your lack of empathy, caring, and concern for anyone who doesn't support you or can't further your own selfish interests. And shame on you for ramming a 505 page plan written by and crafted for anti-government out of state interests down the throats of the entire state and becoming indignant when people rise up to let you know that this plan will hurt them, the state, and the professions they love.