Faith in Progress

Faith in Progress

Al Sharp, Executive Director of PCG, shares his perspective on key issues of the day.

When it comes to caring for the environment and "going green," some people might say it's just the new "trendy cause" or "luxury issue" for people who want to do a little good. So why would PCG — an organization that focuses, for the most part, on issues pertaining to poor people and impoverished communities — take on environmental issues with such fervor?

When the term "hostage" is used, it is very often in connection with acts
of terrorism or kidnapping. This is not something that most of us are ever
likely to experience.

But for those living on the economic edge in Illinois this is exactly what
is happening as the state endures a budget crisis that could extend through
the general election in November 2010.

"Sometimes
after the legislature has adjourned, I am so frustrated and angry that for
at least two weeks I can't even stand to walk down the street and look at
the Capitol."

How do we come to terms with a Governor's veto just last week of what seemed
like the best chance of political reform in the history of our state; a new
state budget that is shredding our social safety net in Illinois; a national
health care debate, that as characterized in this space two weeks ago, has
turned "ugly, very ugly"?

Virtually everyone agrees that the health care system in this country is broken. Health care costs have risen 4 times faster than wages in recent years. About 47 million people in the U.S. do not have health insurance. The underinsured comprise an even larger number. Health care costs are the biggest driver of the federal deficit.

Two weeks ago, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, with little fanfare, passed an ordinance decriminalizing low levels (10 grams or less) of marijuana possession in the non-incorporated areas of the County.

It was not surprising last Sunday when members of the church where I worship came to me and said, with pain in their voices, "What can we do about the state budget?"

HB 7 was drafted only after Illinois became a national joke in the wake of former Governor Blagojevich's arrest. Reformers have long sought to reduce the corrosive impact of money in politics by limiting the amount that individuals and groups can contribute to political candidates.

There is symbolic truth in the fact that 5,000 people protesting pending human services budget cuts in Springfield led to the closing of the state capitol building last Tuesday.

Late Sunday night, May
31st, the Illinois General Assembly accomplished something it is not always
able to achieve. It met its scheduled date for adjournment.

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