Sunday, January 13, 2008

Senior Citizens and the Chicago Transit Crisis

As all Chicago citizens are probably aware, there's a big public transit funding crisis in Illinois. Several "doomsday" proposals involving draconian route eliminations and employee layoffs have been announced, only to be postposed by band-aid temporary bailouts. The legislative fights have involved talk of tax increases, gambling expansion, and other politically sensitive matters.

I am not at all political, but I have found this struggle interesting--and in general, depressing. The latest episode features much-maligned Governor Rod Blagojevich's new plan to attach free rides for seniors 65 and over to a legislative plan that includes a sales tax hike. That's his way of "sweetening the pot," I guess.

As an arguer against senior stereotypes and a believer in self-reliance, I object. While I admit to using a half-fare senior transit card from time to time just because I can, I object to the idea, to quote from Eric Zorn's January 13 Chicago Tribune column, that "those over 65 tend to live in Dickensian poverty." Actually, as Zorn points out, "Other identifiable groups need free rides more than seniors do: Students. People eligible for food stamps. The disabled. [Some] single mothers."

I guess my main objection is to the "What's in it for me?" idea that seems to be a guiding force, not only in Illinois, but across the country. To me, the answer to our many problems is not more government programs, but more reflection and more independence. Help those who need help, but skip the entitlement programs for those of us who don't need them. I, for one, won't vote for Governor B on the strength of such a proposal, which may further delay a funding settlement and is likely to raise transit fares for all except seniors.

Respect us seniors, but recognize that we are individuals. Some need help. Fine. But realize that we are not all poor, or demented, or out of touch with economic reality. We recognize political manipulation when we see it.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

To read Eric Zorn's article, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-change_senior_bd13jan13,1,7215016.column?ctrack=4&cset=true

1 comment:

Paul @ ET said...

Good point. I agree that free rides should be based on financial status and not on age. People in poverty or less well off can definitely gain the most from free transit rides. Simple idea but politicians don't seem to understand.