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State Politics Fri Jan 23 2009

The Political Game Means Things for People

The "game" of politics is always interesting for various reasons, and the jockeying of personalities and organizations can fixate us. So it's occasionally easy to forget that politics is ultimately about governing, and governing impacts people's day to day lives -- not just big general social patterns we read about, for example, in the Chicago Community Trust's great Vital Signs series, but in so many personal, material ways.

WBEZ's Gabriel Spitzer filed a great story illustrating just how the mess at the top of our state government is having real, disastrous effects on your friends and neighbors. While insulated politicians stick and move, babies go without formula in the wealthiest nation on Earth. Whatever your views on the services government should provide, there is a real material situation in front of us and when government fails to meet its responsibilities, we are all indicted in the failure as the ultimate source of government.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on the hook for failing to provide promised care to children or the elderly.

Besides paying nurses, Bethel also buys formula for babies, meals for needy families and books for teens. Right now, the state is almost 3 months behind in paying Bethel back- last fall, the lag stretched to 5 or 6 months. That means Bethel doesn't have cash to pay the light bill or make payroll. The agency has cut almost a fifth of its staff and lately, they've even been running out of the basics. Margaret Daniels works with new mothers.

DANIELS: It's really disheartening when a parent comes to you and say, I need Pampers for my baby. Then you gotta go home thinking I'm not able to provide this service we're supposed to provide because of the state funding. Now take that dilemma, and multiply it by about 50-thousand. That's how many invoices the state is sitting on from childcare providers, nursing homes, hospitals and others all over Illinois. In the past, those places could just go to their banks and borrow money to get by. But now, for many agencies, that safety net has been yanked away. Steven McCullough says Bethel can no longer borrow against what it's owed.

UPDATE: Missed it this morning, but Angela Caputo has a post up about this same issue at Progress Illinois, which rules.

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Jeff SmithAuthor Profile Page / January 25, 2009 9:16 AM

Thanks, Ramsin, for pointing this out. Our broken politics at al levels are not just fodder for twitter amongst political junkies, or sensational entertainment, no matter how much they resemble tabloid fare. In fact, the sensational tends to obscure the real costs of corruption, the damage being done to citizens by decision-making based on cash and clout rather than real benefit. Reform is necessary not just for some fuzzy notion of idealism, but because we can't afford business as usual any longer.

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