Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek
My family has been quite, um, productive lately.
I mentioned quite a while back that I come from a big family. I'm the youngest of eight kids, so it's not all that surprising that the next generation, my nephews and nieces, would be adding to the family about now. But it's funny how it seems to happen in spurts.
Jim and Denise will have their hands full when they add twin boys this summer to their family that already includes first-born toddler, James Mario. Julie is bringing her second son into the world in late May, giving Jack a baby brother. Frank and Danielle just revealed they're joining in and will welcome a sibling in the fall for Nora Cathleen. Add these babes on the way to the other twins and 10 other marvels we have already in that generation and, by the dawn of 2017, we'll be up to 16 in the extended clan.
Nothing better in the world, right? Well, darn right! Still, I can't help but worry about all of them. These new additions will live in Illinois, as do a few other great nieces and nephews who already are here. And really, I mean, what are we doing to them and all the others like them?
I don't get it. I check Facebook for the latest updates on all those families and then I consider what else I see. Headlines like these: "Cook County shows biggest population decline in U.S," "Chicago area sees greatest population loss of any major U.S. city, region in 2015."
Meanwhile, Chicago teachers are supposed to walk out of their classrooms on April Fools Day and could go out on a full-fledged strike in May. Our public universities are collapsing, along with our pothole-filled streets. Gang warfare is out of control in certain Chicago neighborhoods. Our state politicians sit on their hands, making up excuses about how they're slaves to their leaders, while the leaders argue over whether one of them called and asked to meet with the other.
Wait. So, who are the children here?
And why aren't there more of us with children we love in Illinois raising more of a ruckus over all this nonsense by the adults who play pretend at being our leaders?
Our lives and our futures all are intertwined, unless or until we leave Illinois. Don't you see?
None of us trust government and its history of political corruption in Illinois. We're in month nine of no state budget, so many businesses aren't going to take a risk by adding jobs or expanding in this shaky climate. That adds to joblessness.
Chicago's finances are a mess. Its credit just was downgraded two more notches by an independent agency. Chicago's debt is skyrocketing. Illinois' finances are a mess and its debt is skyrocketing without a budget. It was a mess in Illinois before any of that, with the worst pension debt in the nation.
And yet, Chicago teachers are walking out, believing they aren't being treated fairly. I come from a family of teachers, but I just don't get it. One day isn't going to do too much damage to our children, but why walk out on them? What message does that really send? As President Obama likes to remind us, our children will watch us. Children will listen. They will learn from our actions. I get that a lot of union members believe they've been wronged and they don't believe the numbers, but I think we're a lot closer to trying to squeeze blood from the turnip than they do.
It's all intertwined. We don't trust government. Government fails us. That hurts jobs and fewer jobs means less tax revenue to pay teachers and cops and firefighters. Mostly, it hurts the children.
Nearly one quarter of every dollar we send to Springfield goes to pay public workers who no longer work. They're retired. That quarter is going to pay their pensions. That leaves 75 cents for all the public grade schools and high schools and universities and state police and parks and health care and everything else.
So, as the politicians sit on their hands and refuse to make a move until after the November elections, we're hit with teacher walk-outs and word that our most populous city and county are hemorrhaging people.
It's all intertwined. The more people leave Illinois, the more the few who remain will have to pay in taxes to cover the cops and firefighters and teachers.
The more we let the politicians we elected dicker around and shirk their duties, the harder it will be on those babes in the wombs in my family and yours.
I don't want to do that to Jimmy and Jack or Declan and June or Nora, nor to any of those babes in production. What about you and yours?
NEXT ARTICLE: Time for the Chicago Housing Authority to do its job, Andy Shaw writes