Ashley Wolf said she feels “incredibly blessed” to earn a home through Habitat for Humanity. The single mother, who works for Lakeside Presbyterian Church, feels God’s work in her life when she helps fix up the home on Terrence Street or eventually incurs debt to sustain it. To qualify for the program, your economic means are thin. So Wolf has not had it that easy. Yet she feels the opposite of entitlement or resentment or all the other phrases imposed on people about whom we know so little.
Ashley Wolf feels blessed.
That’s how nearly all the Habitat homeowners feel.
These people are not slackers or takers. They are meatcutters, ministers, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends. They are building Storm Lake and Buena Vista County and Iowa and the United States.
We should feel blessed to be with them.
But many of us are angry at the less fortunate.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former conservative Republican budgetmeister in Congress, this week warned about a “war on the poor” that is not becoming of a civilized people. He is enmeshed in a battle with his legislature over whether to expand Medicaid in his state under the Affordable Care Act. Kasich, like Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, wants to accept federal funding to help more people having a hard time get by. Branstad found compromise with Iowa Senate Democrats. Kasich finds confrontation with a Republican-dominated Ohio legislature.
“I’m concerned about the fact that there seems to be a war on the poor,” Kasich told The New York Times on Tuesday. “That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy. You know what? The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the WPA” (Works Progress Administration).
Kasich says he is motivated not by politics but by Christian compassion.
The son of a mailman urged sympathy for “the lady working down here in the doughnut shop that doesn’t have any health insurance — think about that, if you put yourself in their shoes.”
“For those of us who live in the shadows of life, for those who are the least among us, I will not accept the fact that the most vulnerable in our state should be ignored,” Kasich said earlier in a speech.
House and Senate conferees met for the first time Wednesday to find a solution to passing a farm bill that has already been delayed by a year. The main hitch is insistence by House Republicans that $40 billion be cut from nutrition programs over the next decade — 10 times as much as the Senate proposes to trim.
When budget sequestration threatened to furlough USDA inspectors at meat processing plants, Congress cut funding from school nutrition programs to avoid the furloughs.
It’s not just health insurance or nutrition. It’s heating assistance for the poor and elderly. Loans for first-time homebuyers. Grants for daycare centers to provide for the children of poorly paid laborers. Sustenance for Upper Des Moines Opportunity, which is always stretched to the limits. Pell Grants for college students from needy families. Head Start to help entire families learn English and realize the American Dream.
They don’t stop there. They want to privatize Social Security and Medicare and break the promise to entire generations of Americans.
The Tea Party is going after the entire social compact built by this nation since the days of Teddy Roosevelt.
The hard-right in Ohio has promised primary challenges against any legislator who votes with Kasich.
Fortunately, the public indicates in polls that they don’t want vouchers for health care, that they believe in nutrition programs, that they love Social Security the way it is, and they don’t believe you kick someone when they’re down. Most of us still believe you lift people up.
Kasich’s former colleagues in the US House would do well to take a few moments to reflect on the governor’s criticism.
They should also think about Ashley Wolf, a woman of good cheer and her lovely three-year-old daughter Naomi, as she spreads the Gospel through her life in Storm Lake.