Letters to the Editor 5/9/13
DOUGLAS DESERVES HIS DAY
Here in central Illinois it should be noted that a historical figure had a birthday on April 23. It was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois’ own “Little Giant.” Though short in stature at 5 feet, 4 inches the man made up for this with his booming voice and high ideals. It seems as if only the communities of Winchester, where he began his career in teaching, and Jacksonville, where he then went to college, noted this occasion.
Four years earlier, Lincoln’s 200th birthday was noted statewide, as it should have been, but sometimes we as Illinoisans, particularly rural residents of our state, should also look to Lincoln’s rival as a source for local pride. If it weren’t for Douglas and their famed debates for the U.S. Senate seat, Abraham Lincoln would not have had the national recognition to secure his party’s nomination for the presidency in 1860. When Douglas secured the Democratic nomination, his views on letting states out west individually vote on the issue of slavery before entering the union so alienated the South that Southern Democrats bolted the convention and nominated their own candidate, thus ensuring Lincoln’s victory.
Douglas always considered himself a man of the West and took the issue of American westward expansion to heart. Born in Vermont on April 23, 1813, Douglas relocated to then-frontier western Illinois in 1833. He thanked the atmosphere of community amongst the Illinois frontiersmen for his successes in teaching, in his legal career and especially for his career in local politics that soon took him from statewide to national fame. Douglas was the author of the Homestead Bill which guaranteed a 160-acre farm to any settler who agreed to farm the land. This 160-acre farmstead concept may seem quaint, but at the time it encouraged young men to settle their families out west and engage in agriculture as a career. Not only was Douglas not bitter about losing the presidency to Lincoln, he in fact toured the country stumping for the union cause at the outbreak of the Civil War.
It was during this tour that he contracted typhoid fever and died on June 3, 1861. If only more present-day politicians focused on rural issues and, above all, placing patriotism over partisanship, as Douglas did in his last days.
MINIMUM WAGE WOES
Often overlooked victims in the state’s wrongheaded zest to raise the minimum wage are consumers of services provided by the many nonprofit human service agencies in Illinois. For those agencies which receive a fee-for-service payment for doing the state’s business, many will most assuredly be put out of business. With the past four minimum wage increases, none were matched with an increase in the state’s reimbursements. The agencies were expected to absorb the cost increase. While some were able to do so, those days are now over.
The mission-critical services of these nonprofit agencies often encompass health care. For instance, services to support the developmentally disabled and individuals with a serious mental illness daily make the difference between life and death. These services are the lowest cost, community-based effective interventions. The previous alternative has been state-run institutions and hospitals. Once the state destroys this community-based provider safety net, it would take years to rebuild. How many people with a disability must die?
There are two solutions. One is no wage increase. The other is to pay for it, increasing the state’s expenditures by several billion dollars. The past six year’s behavior indicates they will do neither. They will raise the minimum wage, then deny their responsibility to pay for the increased costs and watch people die.
Michael Rein, executive director
Transitions of Western Illinois