State should help the poor

Cody Stanley, Grand Forks

Jesus said to help the needy. We have many poor folks in North Dakota-over 80,000 people in our own state live below the poverty line. Luckily, with a $1.6 billion surplus, we have the resources to help them, as we were taught to do.

But during the last legislative session, Republicans refused to do so. Instead of devoting a portion of the state’s bounty to our most needy residents, they did one of two things. Either they bestowed gifts on outsiders (e.g., over 80 percent of tax cuts went to out-of-state corporations), or they shoved the cash into vaults that were already bursting at the seams with money.

Consider, for example, Republicans’ policies toward Head Start, an early education program for low-income children. We know that poverty impairs kids academically. As a result, the 4,000 North Dakota children in Head Start rely on the program to give them a chance in the race of life. When Republicans in Washington, D.C., including our own Kevin Cramer, forced sequestration on the nation, among the programs that suffered cuts was Head Start. Meanwhile, back in North Dakota, the state’s Republican lawmakers refused to reallocate resources to make up for the federal shortfall. From the $1.6 billion surplus which the oil- and gas-rich earth has given us, they would not part with a single penny for the sake of the children. Consequently, kids have been cut from Head Start, teachers and their assistants have been dismissed, bus service diminished, and instructional hours slashed.

To lord over piles of money and turn away the poor is the exact opposite of what Jesus enjoined us to do.