Here are excerpts of editorials published in Illinois newspapers.
November 10, 2020
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
What lies ahead for President-elect Biden
Congratulations, President-elect Biden. You’ve made your share of history already, from receiving the most votes for U.S. President in history to your running mate, who becomes the first woman and the first woman of color to be voted in as vice president.
But there are other things you must keep in mind both during an after this transition of power. First, you didn’t exactly receive a mandate. You received the most votes for U.S. president in a single election. But second all-time on that list is President Donald Trump. Your 74 million votes outdistance his 71 million. His 71 million votes, by the way, exceeds the total number of votes cast in the country in 1964.
Half the country did note vote for you. But you are going to win the popular vote, unlike President Trump. He governed the last four years with half the country opposed to his election. You’re walking into that hornets’ nest this year. That makes even more important your remarks over the weekend that you understand there are people who didn’t vote for you and are disappointed, but you intend to be a leader for all, not just those who supported you.
Speaking of hornets’ nest, you’ve been watching a horrifying 2020 along with the rest of us. What terrifies half of us delights the other half, except for COVID-19, which has made a mess of the economy and of our household budgets. Your administration will probably be in charge of distribution of the vaccine. If you want to show your administration is different, make the distribution calm, peaceful, equitable and without issue. You’ll also be nursing a damaged economy, and you’re going to have to have some clever ideas — ideas we haven’t heard much about from any politician this year — if you’re going to succeed.
Ahhh, success. How can we define the success of a Biden presidency? Perhaps the most important goal is bringing the country together, not allowing the extremists on either side of an issue to frame the debate. That’s a far bigger challenge than it seems at first glance. See, the extremists don’t see themselves as extremists. They see themselves as correct, and those opposing them are wrong. Extremists don’t want to compromise because they think they’re 100% correct. The only way to address their concerns is to start listening to them and find out exactly what they want and why, and exactly what they fear and why. We can’t even begin to attempt to unite until we — everyone on every side of every divide — start listening.
Assuming the Georgia Senate vote will go in your favor would be a mistake. Instead, you need to prepare for dealing with the country’s version of the despicable Illinois Speaker of the House, U.S. Senate President Mitch McConnell. McConnell has established himself as the leader of the “no’s” who plays politics with the country at stake and as a man whose memory conveniently fades if the circumstances will play in his favor.
McConnell will be as obstructionist as he’s been throughout his reign. Your party did not flip the Senate — also a sign that you don’t have a mandate.
It may seem that surviving the slog that led to the election should be victory enough. It’s enough after a fashion. But you also have to remember not all the people crowding streets in the last week have been cheering for you. Words, protests and votes mean nothing unless they’re backed up with action.
You and your backers don’t have to extend any kind of acknowledgment toward opponents, particularly if you feel they’ve been singling you out. But it might also be worth considering that giving an ear to your political opponent might be the most patriotic thing all of us can do right now.
November 9, 2020
Tenants protected while landlords get stiffed during COVID-19
Many people who rent a home instead of own have lost income and jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it caused. For most of them, any financial setback can mean the difference between having a roof over their heads or being homeless. No one wants to see a wave of evictions, particularly during a public health crisis.
When the pandemic hit, Gov. J.B. Pritzker imposed the first of a series of 30-day orders protecting renters from being removed from their homes if they couldn’t pay their rent. His latest order came in October, extending the moratorium at least through November.
But you know who else is hurting? Landlords, many of whom own only a few properties and depend on rental payments to cover their own bills. Pritzker’s orders treat them as a public resource to be tapped at will, without much regard for their own needs. The Chicago City Council also has issued stricter rules on landlords who decide not to renew leases.
There are some obvious problems here. These measures don’t provide help to property owners struggling to pay mortgages and property taxes, not to mention maintenance costs. “My landlords are very desperate,” Chicago lawyer Carol Oshana told WBEZ. “They have (renters who) are working but don’t want to pay.”
Tenants, in theory, are obligated to make up all the missed payments once the moratorium ends, but that’s cold comfort for owners who need income now — and who may never be able to collect what they’re owed. Michael Glasser, president of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance in an October commentary, said there aren’t enough safeguards in the moratorium to weed out those cheating the system, the ones who aren’t paying because they know they don’t have to.
“Housing certainly is a necessity, but so are food and medicine. We don’t require grocery stores to provide free food, nor pharmacies to provide free medicine. Yet we require housing providers, including our smaller, more vulnerable neighborhood housing providers, to offer housing for free regardless of the circumstances,” he wrote.
The moratorium is also overly broad. Will County landlord Craig Horvath told the Daily Southtown that he’s saddled with one tenant who hasn’t paid rent for more than a year. He thinks the governor should allow landlords to proceed with evictions that they initiated before the original order came down. “This is incredibly unfair to me as a landlord, as my problem existed prior to anything related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
In the long run, forcing landlords to bear these burdens is bad not only for them but for tenants, because it will make investment in such properties riskier. It could end up reducing the supply of rental housing. No one comes out ahead if these buildings end up in foreclosure. The governor has taken steps to rescue tenants. He needs to find ways to help landlords too.
November 8, 2020
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Hard times in Springfield
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Fair Tax” amendment to the Illinois Constitution was designed to give the governor and legislators a totally free hand in deciding what to tax and how much to tax. Not only did it authorize escalating rates of taxation on escalating levels of income, it also permitted multiple taxes — surtaxes — on the same income.
The governor estimated that it would generate $3 billion-plus in new revenue in 2021. But that would have been just the beginning as revenue-hungry state officials tried out their new tax-levying toy on the public.
The old saying is that if one doesn’t ask, one doesn’t get. Well, Pritzker and legislators boldly asked for a blank check, and skeptical taxpayers responded with an emphatic no.
That raises two questions. Why did voters say no to the request to repeal the constitution’s flat-tax mandate? What’s the next move for state leaders?
The first is easier to answer than the second.
It is extremely difficult — and should be — to pass a substantive constitutional amendment. There are still thousands of ballots to be counted, but current numbers show 55 percent in opposition, not even close to the supermajority that’s required.
Beyond that electoral hurdle, Pritzker & Co. faced a skeptical public that indicated it didn’t trust the governor and legislators with sweeping new tax powers.
Pritzker & Co. routinely denounced the “millionaires and billionaires” they intended to target with higher tax rates, an argument that’s generally proved to be effective. But critics struck back at what they called the “politicians’” tax proposal, asking why anyone would expect our elected officials to do anything with new revenue other than go on another spending spree.
Vote Yes For Fairness Chairman Quentin Fulks did not bother to hide his anger over the election results. He lashed out at “millionaires and billionaires” and Republicans.
“Now lawmakers must address a multibillion-dollar budget gap without the ability to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. Fair Tax opponents must answer for whatever comes next,” he said.
Fulks’ anger is misdirected — it was the voters who said no.
As for Illinois’ financial future, who can say? Some legislators will immediately want to raise the current 4.95 percent flat tax. But that’s easier said than done.
Illinois’ financial woes go back at least 20 years and are attributable to a variety of reasons. Illinois has had its share of bad luck — economic recessions and the coronavirus lockdown — that drove down revenue.
But our elected officials have hardly been responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars in their approach to funding pensions, balancing budgets and paying bills.
The notion of spending reductions is, largely, an anathema to them, and their attitudes are not likely to change.
Illinois’ elected officials have been kicking the can down the road for years, hoping that the day of reckoning would never come. It may not be here quite yet, but state officials are running out of places to hide.