Last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution opined that “Nathan Deal’s ‘religious liberty’ veto could define his legacy.”
There are no two ways about it: Gov. Deal is on the right side of this important issue. Even Better Georgia — arguably, Deal’s toughest critic — applauded the governor’s resolve in standing up to right-wing extremists who want to turn Georgia’s clocks back to the pre-Civil Rights Movement era.
But to focus solely on Deal’s religious “freedom” veto is to ignore the 600,000 uninsured Georgians who can’t see a doctor because of his Medicaid blockade. It’s turning a blind eye to the thousands of people who will go bankrupt from hospital bills or die because Deal is blocking the tax dollars we’ve already paid from coming back into the state.
Because of his Medicaid blockade, which Deal calls his biggest health care “accomplishment,” six rural hospitals have closed on his watch. At least a dozen more are on the brink of closure. It’s doubtful that people living in the communities decimated by Deal’s disastrous blockade are cheering him on for his religious “freedom” veto.
Even children aren’t safe from Deal’s terrible health care policies. The governor is blocking sensible medical marijuana legislation while those afflicted with seizure disorders, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, autism and a host of other serious diseases are forced to either continue suffering or break the law by smuggling the medicine across state lines.
Eighty-five percent of Georgia voters support a safe, regulated in-state cultivation program and medical marijuana legislation has strong bipartisan support and support from a majority of doctors, but Gov. Deal refuses to budge and has even threatened punishment for medical marijuana patients and their families.
While Deal is villainizing some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens for trying to get the medical care they need, he continues to collect $10,000 every month from his junkyard tenant Copart, which owes the state of Georgia $75 million in back taxes.
But even that massive amount of tax revenue wouldn’t put a patch on the gaping education funding hole that Deal has created. Since taking office, Deal has shortchanged schools billions of dollars, causing stagnant teacher wages and overcrowded classrooms. Combined with his historic cuts to the HOPE Scholarship, Deal has done as much as possible to cripple education — and Georgia’s future.
In 20 years, when hateful zealots are still hiding behind religion in their attempts to oppress certain groups of people, will we remember Deal’s religious “freedom” veto? Or will most Georgians think about the immeasurable — in some cases, irreparable — damage Deal has done to our state?
We can’t allow Gov. Deal to rewrite history with one veto of one bad bill. While it may be fair to give the governor a pat on the back for taking a stand for equality, shouldn’t we be able to expect that from our elected leaders?
Then again, maybe it makes complete sense that our celebration of the governor’s religious “freedom” veto is over-amplified. After all, Nathan Deal has set a very low bar for himself.