Sending a little love to Alabama’s Republican governor |

Sending a little love to Alabama’s Republican governor

“We are afraid of religion because it interprets rather than just observes.

Religion does not confirm that there are hungry people in the world; it interprets the hungry to be our brethren whom we allow to starve.”

– Dorothee Solle

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is about as popular as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward.

Riley is a Southern Baptist conservative and the newly elected governor of Alabama. Normally a left-wing zealot like myself would like him about as much as cold sores, but he has won me over.

Anyone who, in one fell swoop, can tick off the ACLU, the Christian Coalition and fiscal conservatives is OK by me.

Alabama Republicans are calling him a traitor and a Judas. Liberals say he has fractured the line between church and state. It’s been rumored his own dog is growling at him. I think I might be the only person in America who has recently written him a fan letter.

If Riley gets his way, the citizens of the Cotton State will be given a serious tax goose. Faced with a $675 million deficit, the largest since the Depression, the governor has called for the biggest tax increase since the Civil War. Only the state’s poorest citizens will be spared.

It is tough being indigent in Alabama. The state has the lowest income threshold in the nation for state taxes. If families of four make any more than $88.50 a week, their paychecks are taxed.

Riley has gone on record as saying, “It is immoral to tax a family making less than $5,000 a year.” His proposed tax package would increase the yearly income threshold for a family of four to $17,000.

Though the poorest will get a break, the rest of the voters will be asked to shoulder a $1 billion-plus tax burden, the largest in Alabama’s history. It is understandable that many of the governor’s former supporters feel betrayed.

As a congressman, he consistently opposed new taxes. Most assumed he’d hold that line as state leader. But once taking office, he has found that to keep the state functioning, the only solution is a tax increase.

And, as if to rub salt in the wounds of the Christian right, Riley is suggesting that to oppose the tax package would go against God’s will.

Riley said, “According to our Christian ethics, we’re supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor.”

In other words, if you call yourself a Christian, maybe it’s time to start behaving like Christ. Two of the governor’s top cabinet members resigned as soon as they heard their colleague suggest that God supports taxes.

The Christian Coalition was equally disdainful of Riley’s plan. It supported what it thought was a Baptist conservative when what it got is a leader who wants to raise taxes in the name of the Father.

For once, the liberals and the religious right can agree on something. Though the liberals are more forgiving in terms of new taxes, they can’t stomach a leader using the Bible as an argument for governmental policy.

The sum total of what I know about Bob Riley is what I just told you.

I would guess that he and I have little in common politically. That said, I have to give him credit. Any leader who can anger both sides equally is usually doing a good job.

Most politicians are more interested in the needs and wants of those who supported them than what’s best for the general public. By the same token, many voters want what benefits them as individuals rather than what best serves mankind.

I’m guessing the governor hates taxes and knows that by raising them, he is slicing his political throat. I also would guess that he realizes that suggesting Alabamans have a Godly obligation to give tax relief to the poor is as politically healthy as appointing Michael Jackson as minister of sex education.

We seem to have a politician who cares more about what he feels is right than what he knows will get him re-elected. How refreshing.

On Sept. 9, the Alabama voters will decide if the governor’s tax package will be ratified. Three years later, they will decide if the governor gets re-elected, should he run.

It appears the good governor is more concerned about the first vote than the second. To me, that says more about him as a man and leader than any religious or political affiliation S

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America,” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio, and read in several mountain publications. He lives in Breckenridge.

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