I had written a blog regarding the current Medicaid shortfall crisis and Governor Barbour’s solution as being unethical. Well that seems to be an under statement. Governor Barbour is being down right mean-spirited to get his hospital tax which is going to increase the medical crisis in this state. According to the Jackson Free Press (JFP) story entitled “Medicaid Ultimatums”, Governor Barbour has threatened to cut $375 Million dollars in state funds to hospitals if he does not get his hospital tax to offset the $90 million shortfall. House Democrats want to instead pass an increase on the sin tax on cigarettes, ideally to a dollar a pack which would bring in “$162.8 million in new annual tax revenue” and “almost a $1 billion in long term savings from tobacco related health issues.”
Governor Barbour is not serving the best interests of Mississippi. Instead he is serving the interests of the tobacco industry for whom he once served as a lobbyist. When Barbour was sworn in as governor he swore to serve the state of Mississippi not the tobacco industry. Barbour is revealing himself as a person who holds no integrity for the office of Governor.
In October 2007, Governor Barbour addressed the campus of Wesley College. During the chapel service ” The Governor’s message was clear – Your personal faith shapes your values, and Judeo/Christian values were the foundational values that shaped our country. Governor Barbour expressed to the students that Christians today should be involved in the political process.”
I agree that personal faith shapes our values, however, I am afraid that Governor Barbour’s values are not based in any understanding I have of Christianity. If they were, then he would see without a doubt that saving lives is more important than tobacco profits. He would see that supporting a medical system that is able to serve all of Mississippi is of greater value than his loyalty to his former employers, the tobacco industry. Instead, his values and his threat if played out may result, as JFP reports, in “medical facilities to… cut staff, raise fees or even close doors in some cases” at a time when the economy continues to reel under the threat of recession with skyrocketing gas and food prices, unprecedented mortgage foreclosures, and unemployment rates at 5.9 % making Mississippi’s rates one of the five highest in the country. If he makes good on his threat, then a medical system already struggling to close the gap in services will only increase the already deepening medical hardships the underserved and under insured face. Jesus said, one cannot serve God and mammon (money). It seems by Governor Barbour’s behaviors that his values are based on personal monetary gain. Something we saw in the aftermath of Katrina when his family received multi-million dollar contracts in the clean up efforts.
Ironically, Barbour is an ordained Deacon in his Yazoo City Presbyterian Church. I say ironically, because having been ordained a Deacon in the Presbyterian Church myself, I know the role of Deacon in the Presbyterian denomination is to assist in the pastoral needs of the church, tend to the sick, and aid the impoverished. A role he obviously feels he can sloth off as Governor. Sorry, Governor, ordination is life long and a calling from the most high; it is to be integrated into one’s entire life and cannot be taken off like a winter coat when it gets too hot to wear.
It seems to me that Governor Barbour had a choice when he became governor, to use his ordination as Deacon and the life long calling that ordination demands to help shape his policies to create a more compassionate, a more just Mississippi for all its citizens OR to use his connections as former tobacco lobbyist to promote and protect an industry whose product has resulted in the loss of millions of lives and economic hardship on the survivors. The Governor still has a chance to choose according to “[his] personal faith values.” Choose wisely.
Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond