Thursday, June 29, 2017

Happy Historic Holiday - You Were There

Happy Fourth of July

Perhaps the greatest historical moments and insights pass by us unseen, unnoticed, and quickly forgotten.  In the case of American statesmen, such is often the feeling – even as they, especially Presidents suffering the long grind of office, sadly recognize their own vanishing influence.  Recall Lincoln’s comments 154 years ago that what he would say over the fields of 45,000 dead: “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here…”

But those 272 words – a two to three minute consecration of the planned cemetery in Gettysburg – identifying the significance of our democratic philosophy, and the importance of a terrible civil war’s coming end. 

In that spirit, I offer this inspiring read from an adult who spoke rather than employed electronic shorthand, who thought deeply about our country and its responsibility to the world: our citizens, to each other. 

With all the assaults and hurly-burly, it may seem centuries old, but it was delivered a scant 6 months ago.

Read...and gain strength again.

Farewell speech of Barack Obama delivered in Chicago in January of 2017.

“It’s good to be home.  My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks.  But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early 20s, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life.  It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.  It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it. 

After eight years as your president, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government. 
It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

This is the great gift our Founders gave us.  The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well. 

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow. 

Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did.  That’s what you did.  You were the change.  You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.
In 10 days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy:  the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next.  I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.  Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so.  After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth.  Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.

But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works.  Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people.  Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now. 

That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.
Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity.  The beginning of this century has been one of those times.  A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well.  And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland. 

In other words, it will determine our future.

Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.  Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again.  The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.  The unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.  The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.  Healthcare costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years.  And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our healthcare system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it. 

That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse. 
But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.  Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class.  But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles.  While the top 1% has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and healthcare worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics. 

There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend.  I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free.  But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas.  It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.

And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible.  We can argue about how to best achieve these goals.  But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves.  For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself.  After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America.  Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.  For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.  I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

But we’re not where we need to be.  All of us have more work to do.  After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.  If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce.  And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women. 

Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system.  That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require.  But laws alone won’t be enough.  Hearts must change.  If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change. 

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised. 

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles.  America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened. 

So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own. 

None of this is easy.  For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.  The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.  And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

This trend represents a third threat to our democracy.  Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them.  But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible. 

Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting?  How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?  How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing?  It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating.  Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you. 

Take the challenge of climate change.  In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.  But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. 

Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem.  But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket. 
It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

That order is now being challenged – first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power.  The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.  It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever.  We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists – including Osama bin Laden.  The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory.  ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe.  To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

But protecting our way of life requires more than our military.  Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.  That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing.  That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.  That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.  That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem.  For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression.  If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid.  ISIL will try to kill innocent people.  But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.  Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

Which brings me to my final point – our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote.  When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.  When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings. 

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift.  But it’s really just a piece of parchment.  It has no power on its own.  We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make.  Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.  Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law.  America is no fragile thing.  But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.
In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.  We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.
It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title:  Citizen.

Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands.  It needs you.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Persevere.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.  And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed. 

Mine sure has been.  Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.
That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.  I hope yours has, too.  Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 – and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off. 

You’re not the only ones.  Michelle – for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend.  You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor.  You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.  And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.  You’ve made me proud.  You’ve made the country proud.

Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion.  You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily.  Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad. 
To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son:  You were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best.  Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.  We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

To my remarkable staff:  For eight years – and for some of you, a whole lot more – I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism.  I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own.  Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you.  The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.

And to all of you out there – every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change – you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful.  Because, yes, you changed the world.

That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started.  Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.  This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country.  You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.  You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.  I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.  For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours. 
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can. 

Yes We Did. 

Yes We Can.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America."


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monday is Juneteenth Day

Monday: Juneteenth


Monday, June 19th is Juneteenth.  152 years of Juneteenth Independence Day.

The date celebrates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the loss of the Civil War and the abolition of all slaves in the state of Texas.  This was two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1st. 

In Chicago, many events will be held on the weekend, and a free concert will be held in Millennium Park at 6:30 p.m.  Customary celebrations, like those held in Texas in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s provided an opportunity for simple freedoms like singing, dancing, and readings from worshipped artists.

In Aurora, The Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Foundation will hold a celebration  at Farnsworth Ave., and Grand Blvd.   This event is free to the public and will feature entertainment, singing, dance, spoken word, moon jumps, basketball tournament, games, chess, entertainment, motivational speakers and fun for the whole family.

Why June 19th?  It was on that date in 1865 that Union soldiers under the command of General Granger finally washed ashore in Galveston to inform the Texans of what had transpired.  By and large, Texas and its citizens were not impressed.  The limited size of the Union force and the increased numbers of slave-holders fleeing southern states to Texas as the war ravaged their plantations made for little response or acceptance of the news.

Other stories and conspiracy theories, most likely apocryphal, surfaced as reasons for the delay in the announcement for over two years after the President’s Proclamation.  The soldier sent to carry the news to Texas was murdered by those who wanted to prevent such information from reaching the fields.  Plantation owners kept the information from their work force to maintain order and production.  The Union soldiers were complicit in keeping the information from slaves to assure cotton crops were picked before freedom.

In fact, slaves worked and tilled the fields for over two years after they had been acknowledged free men and women in the Capitol.

Despite the Lone Star pushback, after Lee surrendered in April of 1865, it was only a matter of time before the tide of change would sweep across the nation.  Texas Supreme Court decisions in the next decade reaffirmed the status of freedom for those brave African Americans who had cautiously celebrated their liberty in June in the streets of Galveston upon first hearing the news.

Other racial justice organizations will mark the day remembering the horrific history of the slave trade and its everlasting impact on a people and two continents separated by over 5000 nautical miles. 

Over 2 million died while crossing the Middle Passage into America. 

At least as many others perished during the forced transportation across West Africa to the waiting ports.

Estimates of total captives brought to America for slavery run as high as 12 million.

Several hundred captives were chained together below decks in deplorable conditions, suffering cramped contagion and death on the journey.

Insurance brokers provided for coverage in cases of drowning, but not simply deaths.  As a result, some historians visualize the Atlantic sea bottom marking the exact paths of ships with the mountains of bones left from throwing strings of sick or unwanted slaves overboard. Deplorable.

It’s small wonder that Juneteenth will likewise mark the strong, resentful argument for reparations by racial justice organizers like the Black Land and Liberation Initiative.  They and others symbolically revisit the issue by highlighting General William Sherman’s original order in 1865 by recognizing a national day of action.  According to writer Aviana Willis, “In 40 acres across 40 cities black people will take nonviolent direct action to occupy and reclaim spaces such as abandoned schools and empty lots, with the goal of putting these spaces into service of the community.”

Black Land and Liberation Initiative states it clearly:  “We are people who have been enslaved and dispossessed as a result of the oppressive, exploitative, extractive system of colonialism and white supremacy.  In this system, our labor and its products have been taken from us for generations for the accumulation of wealth by others.”(http://blacklandandliberation.org/)

General William T. Sherman
“We have been taught in school that the source of the policy of “40 acres and a mule” was Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, issued on Jan. 16, 1865. (That account is half-right: Sherman prescribed the 40 acres in that Order, but not the mule. The mule would come later.) But what many accounts leave out is that this idea for massive land redistribution actually was the result of a discussion that Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton held four days before Sherman issued the Order, with 20 leaders of the black community in Savannah, Ga., where Sherman was headquartered following his famous March to the Sea. The meeting was unprecedented in American history.
“Today, we commonly use the phrase “40 acres and a mule,” but few of us have read the Order itself. Three of its parts are relevant here. Section one bears repeating in full: “The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.”
“Section two specifies that these new communities, moreover, would be governed entirely by black people themselves: ” … on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves … By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro [sic] is free and must be dealt with as such.”
“Finally, section three specifies the allocation of land: ” … each family shall have a plot of not more than (40) acres of tillable ground, and when it borders on some water channel, with not more than 800 feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection, until such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall regulate their title.”
“With this Order, 400,000 acres of land — “a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast,” as Barton Myers reports — would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves. The extent of this Order and its larger implications are mind-boggling, actually.” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/)
Stanton had gone to a group of African American preachers and ministers at the conclusion of the war, asking what would be an appropriate payment for the debasing of a race and people.  The answer was the assurance of future economic freedom by receiving land on which to farm, land that had been taken in Sherman’s march along the southeastern coast of the United States.  Sherman later threw in the single mule with the 40 acres – as many of the pack animals were now available after the war.
“And what happened to this astonishingly visionary program, which would have fundamentally altered the course of American race relations? Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor and a sympathizer with the South, overturned the Order in the fall of 1865, and, as Barton Myers sadly concludes, “returned the land along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts to the planters who had originally owned it” — to the very people who had declared war on the United States of America.”
Only a small handful of states – Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota – do not recognize the date as a day for observance, a ceremonial holiday or state sanctioned holiday.  45 other states, including Illinois, recognize the date’s importance and its observance of the participation and achievements of African-Americans in the progress of our country.  Senator John Cornym of Texas is sponsoring an effort to make Juneteenth a national Day of Observation this year.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Humpty Dumpty in Illinois...

“Couldn’t Put Illinois Together Again…”


Less than a week ago, the Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza reminded all of us that since its inclusion into the Union the state of Illinois has never undergone a single year without a budget.  Since the inauguration of the Rauner administration in Springfield, the state has had no fiscal budget for going on three years now.

Rauner calls this a “dereliction of duty.”

It’s more than that.

Seniors  will continue to lose meals on wheels and in-home care. People experiencing mental illness will be denied treatment. Survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse will be left without services vital for their safety and well-being. The list of suffering goes on.
The providers of these services have exhausted their funding options, including their reserves, lines of credit and grants from angel donors. Most have received no state payments since last fall. They simply cannot survive; a rash of new closings will likely occur; the state’s social service infrastructure will continue to erode. Meanwhile, a number of school districts across the state are facing the reality that they might not be able to start school on time in the fall.
Moreover, Illinois will also continue its tumble deeper into debt, building on its mountain of unpaid bills, and falling into junk bond status—a crisis that threatens the long-term health of the entire state.” 
(Responsible Budget Coalition:  http://responsiblebudget.org/node/185)

The downgrades to Illinois’ bond ratings continue.  Now we have approached junk-status.

Under Governor Pat Quinn there were nearly as many downgrades as for Rauner, but Quinn’s were the result of unfunded liabilities – NOT self-inflicted wounds as a result of forced impasses.  Did Rauner really expect a Democratic Majority in both houses to buckle under his demands or else?

Or else what? 

Creating unimagined suffering for the marginalized and infirm?  Razing the universities’ educational systems and funding?  Snowballing a stockpile of unpaid bills into an Everest of nearly $15 billion, which will drain successive general revenues for decades?  Shaping a beast of interest payments, which could have been used for easing real obligations?

The Responsible Budget Coalition continues: “Fiscal experts from across the political spectrum—from the Civic Federation to the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago to the Center on Budget and Tax Accountability to the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children—all agree that Illinois must adopt a budget that includes substantial new revenue in order to get out of this mess.
“The Senate Democrats should be commended for voting for substantial new and permanent revenue.  But too many of our elected officials lack the courage and honesty to support what they all know is needed.”

And, yet, the Senate Leader Cullerton reminds us all, “He hijacked the grand bargain in the middle of the process. Told the Republicans to vote no and didn't give the support and the same thing happened in the House and as a result we don't have a budget." (http://abc7chicago.com/politics/gov-rauner-responds-to-state-lawmakers-failing-to-pass-state-budget/2060305/)

Even though offerings of property tax freezes and workmen’s compensation reform were added. Rauner has disdained these offerings.  They “don’t move the needle” enough, he now says. 

“It's well past time to stop making preconditions, pointing fingers, making excuses, and cynically seeking to gain political advantages.”  The Coalition continues: “ And, as we’ve said since the outset of this impasse, the Governor shouldn’t place more importance on his non-budget Turnaround Agenda items than doing his basic duty of proposing and approving a balanced budget and working to fund vital services for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Meanwhile, the Governor continues in his Griffin-sponsored run for office in 2018, splicing together a fallacious argument on the broken government he leads in his faux workshop with reams of duct tape. 

The current backlog of bills is nearly half of General Revenue with a tax increase.  How many years and what size tax increase will be necessary once Rauner is gone?  What kind of payments will we all make to amend this disaster?

Feeling marginalized yourself?

Resist, Illinois.