Editorial: Struggling Illinoisans need opportunities, not gimmicks

Posted Online: Sept. 03, 2014, 11:00 pm
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
Gov. Pat Quinn is drinking water instead of ice tea at restaurants this week. What do you suppose the couple with two young children struggling to make it on minimum wage jobs will make of such hardship?

The Democrat governor also told reporters he had to make do with graham crackers for dinner because of his pledge to eat on less than the $79 it's estimated a minimum wage worker in Illinois has available for basic living expenses each week. Imagine how bad things would be if he also had to rely on limited finances for a roof over his head, paying his gas and electric bill, and getting from here to there in a car on its last legs. (Consider, for example, that the governor had to content himself with a banana for breakfast. That might seem like exotic foodstuffs to a poor couple living in a food desert where fresh fruit is hard to come by.) Gov. Quinn also doesn't have to worry about stretching a dollar to pay for child care or what happens to a precarious household financial balance if the old water heater finally gives out.

Many are giving the host of politicians taking the live-on-minimum wage challenge high marks for shining a light on underpaid workers. And we, too, would be singing their praises if these "challenges" didn't often seem more like campaign strategies than serious efforts to increase opportunities for constituents desperately in need of them.

Take, for example, the fact that Gov. Quinn announced his challenge at a campaign event. Or the Nov. 4 minimum wage advisory referendum which analysts say is designed to increase Democrat voter turnout, particularly in Chicago. That's where such numbers will be especially critical in Gov. Quinn's neck-and-neck race with Bruce Rauner, his wealthy GOP opponent still being dogged by remarks about the state minimum wage being too high. He has since said he'd back a state minimum wage hike if it is accompanied by reforms to improve Illinois' business climate. It is the latter which we are convinced will help Illinoisans at all income levels that ought to take center stage in the current debate.

Instead we engage in divisive class warfare that trivializes the real challenge facing struggling Illinoisans.
As Mark W. Anderson, noted in a recent opinion piece for Channel 5 NBC in Chicago, "By dipping in his toe to see how the other half lives, politicians like Quinn are in danger of practicing a political version of 'slum tourism': experiencing poverty from the position of knowing that no matter what happens during your visit, you'll be okay in the end.

"Quinn's move may end up generating a lot of positive headlines, and maybe even a boost for his political campaign.

"But it's no way to make a real difference in the life of even one person suffering the hardships of living on minimum wage.

"That takes vision and commitment and hard work. Not gimmicks. "


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)