Justice .

Public Outcry in Nebraska – Then Gov Pillen Changed His Mind on $18 Million Child Food Aid. ◦

It seems a public outcry in Nebraska helped move Gov Jim Pillen (R) to rethink his priorities about food aid for kids (his priorities which were dealt with quite unfavorably here recently – Jan 8, 2024).

Public Outcry in NebraskaA public outcry in Nebraska responded to Gov Pillen’s earlier rejection of $18 million in food aid for kids.  See this article on PublicChristian: I Don’t Believe in Welfare … but … Socialism for the Rich.  Here’s a quote:

So – what do we want?
a) Rich people doing whatever they want while ignoring the poor kids’ suffering (and that of their families and communities)?
b) Or would we rather have a society that cares about its kids – OUR kids?

A Big Change for Pillen and Nebraska Republicans

We – Nebraskans and many others – are truly appreciative of the Governor’s about-face. It matters a great deal, to a lot of kids and families and communities. And no matter what the external issues and pressures, it’s not easy for a Governor to make such a public about-face. We are impressed.

The Nebraska Examiner, in an article Feb 12, speaks of

weeks of criticism on social media and in letters to newspapers, a protest vigil outside the governor’s residence, a petition signed by more than 6,000 people, as well as an effort in the Nebraska Legislature led by State Sen. Jen Day to override the governor’s refusal to take the funds.

The Examiner article also gives some of the Governor’s explanation of what prompted the change – talks with kids, and with Republican Senator Aguilar (of Grand Island):

On Monday, Pillen said it was a conversation with Grand Island Sen. Ray Aguilar as well as a visit to Boys Town a week ago, and talking with school kids involved in a youth legislative day that helped sway his opinion.
“This isn’t about winning, it’s about doing what’s best for kids in Nebraska,” he said …
It’s been an evolution of information”

That appeal worked – from the Governor uninformed to the Governor better informed. We can go for that! The Examiner also quotes Eric Savaiano of Nebraska Appleseed:

he was “thrilled” that the governor had changed his mind. “This would not be possible without the tremendous amount of outreach and pressure the public put on our elected officials to do the right thing,” he said in a press release.

Sometimes our voices really do matter!
The Hastings (NE) Tribune, in a Feb 12 article, gives a little more substance to the influences Pillen felt:

Pillen said he decided to accept [the Federal] money … after meeting with a group of high school students from around Nebraska who visited the state Capitol this month.
They talked about being hungry, and they talked about the summer USDA program and, depending upon access, when they’d get a sack of food,” Pillen said. “And from my seat, what I saw there, we have to do better in Nebraska.”

Got that right!! And now, in this one matter, we already are doing “better in Nebreska.” May it continue!

Some QUESTIONS and OBSERVATIONS – Was It the Public Outcry in Nebraska, Or Other Factors?

  1. Why put someone in such an influential government position who is unaware that kids in his state really DO have hunger issues?
  2. It seems he really was willing to go listen (or sit down and listen) to the real victims of his policy. That’s impressive!
  3. Is the Governor having a change of heart? – towards caring about the suffering of the non-well-off, non-powerful citizens of this state?
  4. Or is this just a political maneuver because of intense pressure brought to bear by citizens from both parties?
  5. Or, I suppose it could more or less be both. Having some emotional response AND seeing it as a political opportunity.
  6. Is this a slippery slope for a radical right Gov to step onto? — acknowledging that there ARE some legitimate, and often undeserved life-threatening needs among the poor people of Nebraska – needs that his office could help with, that he could influence the Senate toward helping with?
  7. Why did he have only Republican Legislators stand with him for the announcement when it was Democrats who were most vocal and active (though not ONLY Democrats) against his prior rejection of the food assistance? Still some Republicans do deserve some credit for this.
  8. I wonder how much and what kinds of Republican intra-party “negotiations” went on leading up to this announcement.
  9. The Examiner and AP articles both credit strong public outcry, from all directions and from both parties. That’s important. Sometimes our voices DO matter.
  10. Or is this just an easy call – help the kids. Duh! Get credit for being sensible, maybe even a bit of a nice guy. How elementary. But when it comes to rural hospitals and nursing homes, better tax deals for the already wealthy, blatant excessive funding of right-wing candidates to buy the Legislature, trying to weaken (and maybe destroy) public education, opposing tenure at UNL and other state universities and colleges, big government poking in to personal healthcare decisions, medical marijuana … those things and others are both politicized, and of great importance, AND not such easy good-vibes-choices as food for kids.
  11. I guess we still have our work cut out for us.
  12. I don’t know if it was public outcry in Nebraska that caused the change, but we can be glad for both: the public outcry AND the change.  It matters.
  13. And, it’s bringing tax money back to Nebraska – to be spent in local stores, for a very good purpose.

See Also, here at PublicChristian:
Whatever You Did, or Did Not. Matthew 25. (Jesus on how he thinks about things like this.)
“I Do Not Believe In Welfare.” Ok. But They Love Some Socialism for the Rich. (A reaction to Pillen’s original rejection of the $18 million in food aid.)
Was Social Justice Part of Jesus’ Message? Oh Yes. 4 Scriptures. (I believe you can’t have “justice” without “social”, and you can’t really have Jesus without “social justice.”)

Questions for us:

1. Do you tend to get involved in “public outcry” against brutal, callous treatment of ordinary people by very-well-off politicians? Under what circumstances?
2. Which of the many concerns mentioned in item 10 in the list above might be of equal importance to summer food supplementation for youth?

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