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 Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)