Tag: Illinois

Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

NEW POLL: Bruce Rauner is in deep trouble in re-election bid

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is completely separate from any election judge duties that the author may have in Illinois during the 2018 midterm elections.


Anzalone Liszt Grove, a Democratic pollster, recently did a pre-election opinion poll for the American Heart Association, and they found Bruce Rauner trailing “Generic Democrat” by a large margin. The poll found that Rauner trails “Generic Democrat” by a 47-32 margin, with that margin being quite a ways outside of the poll’s margin of error.

You may be wondering why a group like the American Heart Association, which is a non-profit group that aims to promote cardiac care, hired a political opinion pollster. However, the reason why the American Heart Association had Anzalone Liszt Grove release the polling data in the first place is because they were primarily interested in opinion polling on a proposed sugary drink tax in Illinois, which is considerably more popular than Rauner is according to the poll.

As someone who served as a poll worker during the actual voting during the November 2016 elections in Illinois, I can tell you that “Generic Democrat” or its Republican counterpart, “Generic Republican”, never appear on ballots. That’s because “Generic Democrat” and “Generic Republican” are merely designations for an unnamed major-party nominee that are used by pre-election opinion pollsters, typically with one calendar year or more remaining until the election for the office in question. There are three Democrats currently running in a contested primary for Governor of Illinois with more candidates expected to enter, so that explains why you didn’t see declared candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Chris Kennedy or Ameya Pawar, or potential candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Daniel Biss or Andy Manar.

In Illinois, it is not that difficult for a Democratic nominee to outrun “Generic Democrat” in a statewide race. Although “Generic Democrat” in Illinois is not a real-life person, if it were, it would be someone with a ton of political connections to State House Speaker Mike Madigan and/or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both of which are thoroughly despised by voters outside of the City of Chicago and are despised by strongly left-wing voters in Chicago.

However, Rauner does have one ace-in-the-hole that unpopular politicians running for governor in other states don’t have, and that is the redistricting process that Illinois uses (outlined by Article IV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution). If the General Assembly (Illinois’s bicameral state legislature) cannot pass a congressional and state legislative redistricting plan prior to a certain deadline with either the governor’s support or by overriding a gubernatorial veto before June 30 of a year following a federal Census, an eight-member commission presumably consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans (per the state constitution, the State House Speaker, State House Minority Leader, State Senate President, and State Senate Minority Leader each appoint two members) would draw the maps, unless the commission can’t agree on a map by August 10 of the year in question; in that case, a ninth member, whose name is drawn at random and can be of either of the two major political parties, is added to the commission. The winner of the 2018 gubernatorial election in Illinois will, provided that he or she remains in office in 2021, have the power to approve or veto any maps that the General Assembly passes. If the redistricting process goes to commission, there is likely a 50-50 chance that the commission would approve a Republican gerrymander that Rauner would want.

Bruce Rauner is extremely unpopular in Illinois for a large number of reasons (mainly because his union-busting policies would destroy Illinois’s economy and his unwillingness to negotiate with anybody who doesn’t strongly agree with him), but the general election is a long ways away.

Women’s March participant wins Urbana, Illinois mayoral primary

On January 21 of this year, millions of women in the United States and around the world participated in a series of Women’s Marches in protest of the horrendous policies of President Donald Trump.

Last night, the Women’s March scored its first major electoral victory in a Democratic primary for Mayor of Urbana, Illinois:

An eight-year Urbana city councilwoman who campaigned on the promise of improving economic development in Urbana is one step closer to becoming mayor.

Diane Marlin took the Democratic mayoral nomination by a landslide in Tuesday’s primary — piling up 2,427 votes to 12-year incumbent Laurel Prussing’s 1,510 and Evelyn Underwood’s 316.

Next up: An April 4 date with Republican Rex Bradfield in the consolidated general election.

Diane Marlin was a participant in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois Women’s March, and now she has defeated a longtime incumbent mayor of one of Illinois’s most progressive cities. I live in another municipality in Illinois, but I wish Diane well in the general election in her city!

Illinois Democrats should hold an annual state Democratic convention

Unusually for a state-level Democratic Party organization, The Illinois Democratic Party does not hold an annual state Democratic convention. With Republicans controlling both the White House and the Illinois Governor’s Mansion, it’s clear that Illinois Democratic leaders should seriously consider holding state conventions on an annual basis.

Unlike many states, major political parties in Illinois are run by directly-elected state central committees, with elections for state central committee slots held during the spring primary elections in even-numbered years. For Democrats in Illinois, two state central committee members are elected from each congressional district.

While most or, if required by law, all party business can be conducted by the state central committee, an annual state Democratic convention would allow Democrats an opportunity to give prominent Democratic elected officials and activists an opportunity to get publicity that the local media, particularly the media in downstate Illinois, often will not give Democrats, as well as an event to rally the party faithful and encourage rank-and-file Democrats to organize political strategies to win over Illinois voters and advance progressive political ideas.

Illinois Democrats are in a great position to capitalize on the unpopularity of Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner. However, a state Democratic convention is needed to effectively rally the resistance to Trump, Rauner, and their Republican allies.

One of the most right-wing newspapers in the entire country couldn’t find a single Betsy DeVos supporter in the education community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally written on Medium by the administrator of this blog and has been republished in full.


Above the fold on the front page of today’s issue of The News-Gazette, a Champaign, Illinois-based newspaper that covers the east-central part of Illinois and has a very right-wing reputation, was this story about how many in the public education community are opposed to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the office of U.S. Secretary of Education.

In The News-Gazette’s attempt to find a DeVos supporter, they couldn’t find a single one in the educational community in East Central Illinois.

The strongest opposition to DeVos came obviously from teachers’ union leaders, although many in management (i.e., public school administrators) strongly opposed DeVos as well. Sheila Greenwood, the superintendent of schools in the Bement, Illinois public school system (covering southern portions of Piatt County, Illinois), said this about DeVos:

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators’ questions last month that she contacted her legislators, “begging them to put a stop to this insanity.”

“She couldn’t answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing,” Greenwood said. “I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

Jeremy Darnell, the superintendent of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley public school system in Illinois (map of district here), said this about DeVos:

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was “very evident” she lacks understanding of current education issues.

[…]

“Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics,” Darnell said. “All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

The Bement and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts are located in some of the most Republican areas in all of Illinois, and voters in both school districts voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The closest person that The News-Gazette could find to a DeVos supporter was Mr. Seth Miller, the superintendent of the public school system that I attended, the Westville Community Unit School District in Illinois. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Miller’s thoughts about DeVos were basically of the “give DeVos a chance if she’s confirmed” mentality without offering any explicit support of DeVos:

“We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support,” Miller said. “… Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system.”

Having seen video clips of the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it is clear to me that, if confirmed, DeVos would be a downright horrible Education Secretary.

Peter Roskam is afraid of his constituents

The resistance has officially come to the Chicago suburbs:

The protests earlier today against Congressman Peter Roskam of our state’s 6th Congressional District were in response to Roskam’s congressional staffers canceling a constituent meeting because he’s afraid of being held accountable the media:

Rep. Peter Roskam’s (R-IL) office cancelled a meeting with constituents about Obamacare on Wednesday when a staffer for the congressman learned that a reporter was present, according to the Aurora Beacon-News.

Constituent Sandra Alexander told the Beacon-News that she arranged the meeting about the Affordable Care Act with Roskam’s staff ahead of time and informed them that she would be bringing along a small group.

But staffers cancelled the meeting before it could begin, ostensibly because there were members of the media present

Even though Roskam’s district was gerrymandered for him thanks to Mike Madigan and his cronies, there is a huge opportunity for a Democratic candidate to run against Roskam and possibly ride a wave of left-wing backlash towards the Donald Trump-era Republican Party all the way to a congressional victory.

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

madison-wi-women-march-1-21-2017
Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

We now have a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary to celebrate the Illinois bicentennial

Next year, Illinois will celebrate the 200th anniversary of our state gaining statehood, and, as a proud Illinois Democrat, there is no better way to celebrate our state’s bicentennial than a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Well, we’ve officially got one, and it’s in the Democratic primary for governor:

“I am running because we’ve gotten to a point in this country where wealth worship is the only qualifier for public office, trumping public policy. Chopping benefits or declaring strategic bankruptcy or selling companies off in pieces for profit is somehow seen as the secret ingredient for an Illinois utopia,” said (Ameya) Pawar.

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar is officially running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois, joining businessman and former University of Illinois Board Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy, who intends to formally launch a gubernatorial bid later this month. CGK and Ameya are probably not going to be alone:

Does Pawar have the wherewithal to go up against the potential primary election cash of Democratic billionaires (Chris Kennedy & JB Pritzker)? Or to take on, maybe, a couple of state senators (Kwame Raoul & Andy Manar), a pair of congresswomen (Robin Kelly & Cheri Bustos) or an Attorney General named Madigan?

A note to gubernatorial candidates and potential gubernatorial candidates: don’t ask me if I want to be your lieutenant-gubernatorial running mate, because the answer is going to be no, and I’m currently serving a two-year term, which includes the spring 2018 primary, as an election judge in Vermilion County.

The proposed Danville, Illinois beltline would be a road to nowhere

danville-beltline
Approximate map of proposed Danville, Illinois Beltline (proposed route is in red and hand-written on a Google Maps printout)

One potential road-building proposal that could receive federal funding from any kind of federal infrastructure bill that could be passed with either Republican or bipartisan support in the Donald Trump era of American politics is an eastern one-quarter beltline highway around the city of Danville, Illinois, which has been proposed for many years:

The originally studied beltline was for a highway to bypass the city on the east side to connect Interstate 74 with Illinois Route 1 north of Danville.

The proposed beltline route, to run parallel to Bowman Avenue but farther east, ran from West Newell Road, hooking south on Bowman Avenue, going east on Poland Road and then turning south through farm fields, east of the railroad tracks east of the airport, stretching south between Daisy Lane and Brewer Road and hooking up with Interstate 74 and Perrysville Road.

The Federal Highway Administration approved construction of a new Interstate 74 interchange between the Bowman and Lynch Road exits years ago.

Some residents have voiced concerns in the past about the beltline’s need and the potential to hurt existing businesses, the impacts on their properties and increased noise and traffic.

It’s possible that U.S. Route 136 (US-136) and/or Illinois Route 1 (IL-1) could be realigned from their current routing in Danville to the new beltline, or, more likely, to a more feasible reconstruction of Bowman Avenue that would involve the construction of overpasses over railroads along the route. If IL-1 is rerouted to Bowman Avenue, it’s not clear how such an alignment of IL-1 would connect to the current IL-1 alignments leading to places like Rossville and Hoopeston to the north and Westville and Georgetown to the south. Another, even less likely, possibility is that part of the proposed beltline connecting to, and north of, Interstate 74 would be built to Interstate Highway standards and become part of an eastern extension of Interstate 72 running from its intersection with Interstate 57 in Champaign, Illinois to Toledo, Ohio via Lafayette, Indiana and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Danville doesn’t really have a high enough population nowadays to support another suburban-type development like what already exists along North Vermilion Street in the northern part of the city or along Lynch Road near the Indiana border. As a result, I don’t think there would be a ton of traffic along the proposed Danville beltline, meaning there probably will not be a lot of economic development opportunity. The proposed Danville beltline could end up being a road to nowhere.

I hope that any new federal infrastructure legislation goes primarily towards rebuilding existing bridges that are crumbling and/or obsolete, not gaudy new highway developments or, even worse, private infrastructure like oil pipelines.

Obama’s free trade policies, not race, were the primary reason why Trump won

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Opinions and punditry expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.


While a core component of President-elect Donald Trump’s unorthodox style of politics is openly spouting all forms of bigotry and appealing to bigots in many different ways, another major component, and the component that got Trump elected, of Trump’s style of politics is his unabashed opposition to free trade policies.

Bigotry did not get Trump elected to the White House. As someone who is an election judge in Vermilion County, Illinois, it is not my responsibility to judge voters based on which candidates they vote for, but it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of my fellow election judges, to ensure that voters are able to vote for the candidates of their choice. In this year’s general election, I was one of five election judges who worked the polls in Danville Township Precinct 4 in Vermilion County, Illinois (although I live in a different part of my home county), and here are a couple of interesting results from the precinct where I worked (source here):

 

PRESIDENT / VICE PRESIDENT
Total Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0 %
Vote For 1
Times Counted 272/447 60.9 %
Total Votes 271
Times Over Voted 0
Number Of Under Votes 1
CLINTON/KAINE DEM 67 24.72%
TRUMP/PENCE REP 189 69.74%
JOHNSON/WELD LIB 8 2.95%
STEIN/BARAKA GRN 4 1.48%
Write-in Votes 3 1.11%

 

COMPTROLLER
Total Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0 %
Vote For 1
Times Counted 272/447 60.9 %
Total Votes 261
Times Over Voted 1
Number Of Under Votes 10
SUSANA MENDOZA DEM 82 31.42%
LESLIE MUNGER REP 155 59.39%
CLAIRE BALL LIB 17 6.51%
TIM CURTIN GRN 7 2.68%

 

The first result I posted is the presidential/vice-presidential general election vote in the precinct in which I was an election judge, the second result is the Illinois state comptroller special election vote. Results do not include any late-arriving absentee ballots that have not yet been counted, which, if there are any received between now and November 22, will be counted no later than November 22. In the precinct where I was an election judge, here’s the difference between the comptroller vote and the presidential/vice presidential vote by party (mathematical formula used is D = cp, in which c is the comptroller vote total for a political party’s nominee and p is the POTUS/VP vote; positive number means party received more votes for comptroller than POTUS/VP):

 

DEMOCRATIC +15
REPUBLICAN -34
LIBERTARIAN +9
GREEN +3

 

The differential figures are my own calculations that are based on the vote totals.

In the precinct where I worked as an election judge, Hillary Clinton got 15 fewer votes against Donald Trump than Susana Mendoza did against Leslie Munger, even though Trump is notorious for his anti-Hispanic bigotry and Mendoza is Hispanic. Had Hillary Clinton received 15 more votes per precinct across the entire country, Clinton would have won Michigan (media has not projected a winner as of this writing), Wisconsin (won by Trump), and Pennsylvania (won by Trump), which, not counting any other electoral college unit (state, Nebraska or Maine congressional district, or federal district) would have resulted in Clinton winning 274 electoral votes, which would have been enough to win the presidency.

Although trying to compare the political power of the largely technocratic state office of Comptroller of Illinois to the highly political federal office of President of the United States is like trying to compare a train to a sports car, Mendoza ran a far better campaign for the office she sought than Hillary did for the office she sought. While Hillary completely ignored large segments of the electorate that she had to win the support of (including Wisconsin, a swing state in recent presidential elections), Mendoza ran a television ad in heavily-Republican areas of Illinois that educated voters about the role of the Illinois Comptroller’s office without insulting voters in any way:

Neither Mendoza nor Munger had to take a position on issues like President Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal because they were running for a largely technocratic office responsible for controlling Illinois state tax dollars, but Clinton and Trump, who were running for the highest and most political office in the country, did. Trump railed against the TPP, and that’s how he won enough electoral votes to win the presidency. While Trump indisputably won the presidential election, don’t tell me that Trump won because of his bigotry, because I just cited an example to prove that’s not true.

I’m not suggesting that Susana Mendoza should run for president in 2020 by any imagination, but this year’s presidential election was decided by less than 15 votes per precinct. Remember, every vote counts.