Here are excerpts of editorials published in Illinois newspapers.
November 14, 2020
Sauk Valley Media
Voters deserve a reasonable and moderate approach from the government and its leaders
The new wave of COVID-19 mitigation that threatens a second state closure has left many Illinoisans feeling like their concerns aren’t being listened to. Meanwhile, small merchants such as restaurants, bars and salons are wondering who is looking out to protect their employees and the future of their businesses. Many can point to a lack of cooperation and information at the state and federal levels.
The frustration is clear. Just look at the results of the Nov. 3 general election, from a state resolution to change how we are taxed, to congressional candidates barely eking out wins, to a local county leader losing his position, voters made a point. Consider:
U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos and Lauren Underwood won narrow re-elections to Congress that a year ago would have appeared to be unconscionable. Bustos, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect her party’s candidates, was the most telling race. Bustos won the 17th Congressional District with just 51.9% of the vote (her lowest percentage in five congressional races) against Esther Joy King, a first-time Republican candidate who was an unknown just four months ago.
Bustos said this week she won’t seek a second term as chair of the DCCC to spend more time serving her district.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the Associated Press could finally call incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood the winner of the 14th Congressional race over Republican Jim Oberweis. Underwood won by 4,288 votes.
Perhaps the most voter backlash involved a politician who wasn’t even on the ballot: Gov. JB Pritzker. Pritzker made a $50-million donation to the Vote Yes for Fairness campaign to support the proposed constitutional amendment to change the state flat tax rate to a graduated rate. The governor was also the face of the proposal, which was soundly trounced.
What was most concerning for many voters could have been that the proposed amendment would not prevent the Legislature from raising income tax rates, and, in fact, would make it easier for them to do just that.
This was in the Illinois Secretary of State Office’s pamphlet “Explanation of Proposed Amendment”: “The Amendment gives the Legislature power to increase taxes on any group of taxpayers with no limits and no accountability and without any requirement to use the additional revenue to fund essential needs such as healthcare, education or public safety.”
We still see “Pritzker Sucks” signs throughout the state.
Illinois has an unsettled and dissatisfied electorate seeking answers, and, in some cases, change. Voters deserve a reasonable and moderate approach from the government and its leaders.
Every candidate made promises to work harder to serve their constituents. Each winner needs to be transparent in how they expect to address on their constituents’ behalf the problems they face, and do so in a spirit of bipartisanship.
We face drastic problems of underfunded pensions, a troubled state budget that’s trickled down to the local level and, most immediately, the pandemic that appears to be heading into a winter surge stronger than what we experienced last spring.
Much is expected from our elected leaders but the results fall far short of those expectations. Now each of the last week’s winners have another chance to prove us wrong.
November 13, 2020
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Don’t let your guard down.
We’re as weary of COVID-19 as everyone else. The virus has handcuffed society and made 2020 a year we’d be glad to forget, but will never be able to.
We’re in the middle of a second (or third) wave of the virus’ effects. We’re seeing and reading reports of some of the same alarming happenings we saw in March and April, and some are even more dismaying. Mobile morgues have been established in Texas. Iowa reported a 50% positivity rate this week. The United States is approaching 11 million cases, 21% of the world’s total. The United States has 4% of the world’s population.
The United States will pass 250,000 COVID-19 deaths soon. A projection by world aggregator Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts 200,000 more deaths by March.
We can’t seem to figure out a way to co-exist with the virus. In some cases, we abandon caution and encourage sporting events, even with the possibility of outcomes like the one we saw last weekend when Notre Dame’s football team scored an upset victory, and fans flooded the field, so caught up in the moment they were giving no thought to social distancing or their own safety or anyone else’s.
The virus is playing havoc with court cases and nursing homes and law enforcement. Restaurants and bars have been a specific target of governmental regulations. Everyone has a reason to consider themselves an exemption from the rules and even if a majority does follow those rules, we’ve decided against anything punitive against those who do not.
We still have to be on guard. More than ever, a key cause of the virus spreading is small groups in homes. Those will be even more prevalent as the temperatures cool, and the temptations will be large to those who treasure their holiday traditions and gatherings.
That’s the depressing stuff. But there have been positives, and we have the capability to increase those.
Promising news has arrived about a potential vaccine. That alone doesn’t mean we’re out of the darkness, but there’s a light ahead. It may feel as though it will arrive with the speed of the Pony Express rather than Amtrak, but it will arrive, ultimately.
Even the most skeptical in the science community are now expressing hope.
And we can help make things more positive. Even as outdoor dining becomes impractical and indoor dining is prohibited, we can still use curbside service. We can order through the personal shopper services offered at some stores. The people filling those orders and hauling things to your car are an important part of our economy.
There will come a day when we’re no longer dreading opening Zoom. There will come a time when we can hug one another, a time when we can imbibe together, watch a movie or a play or a concert together again.
We’re closer than we’ve been for months. Let’s help one another get to the finish line.
November 14, 2020
What to do about colleges getting hammered by COVID-19
The news that the University of Illinois System stands to lose $270 million this year because of COVID-19 should come as no surprise.
The pandemic has pummeled every sector of the economy, with higher education no exception. Colleges and universities nationwide expect to lose up to $120 billion this year.
If there’s one place the burden of that financial hardship must not fall, though, it’s on the shoulders of middle-class families and young people in the form of ever-higher tuition bills.
The pandemic, truth be told, is forcing American higher education to reckon with a longstanding problem of escalating college costs. More than 40 million Americans were buried under $1.6 trillion in student loan debt before anyone ever heard of COVID-19.
There’s no quick fix. But responsibility for making higher education more affordable should fall squarely on the shoulders of the federal government and colleges and universities.
Any new national economic stimulus package must “go big,” as we urged in an editorial last week. And part of going big is shoring up the finances of our nation’s colleges and universities, beyond the $14 billion provided by the CARES Act in March.
The additional revenue is needed to help schools pay for the utterly unexpected, yet absolutely necessary, costs of fighting the pandemic, such as for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, buying new technology for remote learning and purchasing personal protective equipment for employees.
But it’s high time, looking beyond this immediate crisis, that colleges and universities themselves did much more to rein in costs. Enough with the expansive new athletic centers, plush dorms and fancy dining halls.
Now more than ever, with the economy reeling, the public expects cities and states to put their budgets under a microscope and find every bit of savings before raising taxes. The same should go for colleges and universities before raising tuitions.
There’s no getting around the immediate need for federal assistance. As the leaders of 46 higher education groups wrote in a letter to Congress in September:
“Many of our students and their families are struggling with reduced incomes and job losses, resulting in the need for billions of dollars in increased student aid. Our schools educate 26 million students, preparing them to compete and succeed in an increasingly difficult economy, and fueling the path towards a recovery.”
We ask only that colleges and universities couple that request for pandemic rescue funds, necessary as they are, with an acknowledgement that higher education became essentially unaffordable for many young Americans a long time ago.
What is being done about that?