Guest editorial: The political blame game isn’t solving anything

By on January 27, 2011

Below is a guest editorial from Kaneland News Bureau Editor Sarah Arnold and the members of the Krier Editorial Board, all students of Kaneland High School.

Stop pointing fingers and start thinking of solutions. A shout-out to all government officials, company heads and the general American public: although it may be entertaining, is playing the blame game really solving anything?

This past year in politics has been filled with turmoil—whether it was oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, top secret government documents disclosed onto the web or the never-ending education budget battle here in Illinois. Headlines like these not only exposed the front pages for their newsworthiness and impact on our society, but it seemed like half of the time, they were simply written proposals on who is to blame for what happened.

The Gulf of Mexico oil leak is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The actual explosion, which in-turn caused the leak, occurred on April 20, 2010. In the weeks that followed, a frenzy of news stories and allegations were released following the developments of the disaster. Obviously, BP was in the limelight for the incident, considering it was their oil rig. But as soon as May 1, more specific accusations were issued. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said that maybe the explosion was an act of “eco-terrorism.” Sarah Palin used Twitter to imply that environmentalists are to blame for the spill. Executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton appeared at congressional hearings and blamed each other. Even Obama joined the game, saying “Let me be clear: BP is responsible for this leak, and BP will be paying the bill.”

Now, don’t get us wrong—we’re not trying to say no one deserves the blame. Because in reality, someone had to do something wrong for the leak to happen in the first place—but if all those government officials and celebrities spent as much time thinking of ways to fix the leak as they did trying to figure out whose fault it was, we’d be further along to cleaner oceans.

In another arena, the exact same predicament is happening in Illinois—in fact, at Kaneland. But instead of an overload of oil, we have a shortage of money in our education system.

Last year, we went through a round of budget cuts that outraged many parents and students alike. The estimated general funds deficit in Illinois was $11.6 billion in 2010, with K-12 education one of the areas in need of greatest help. At Kaneland, projected expenditures were reduced by $4.3 million. The budget cuts Kaneland proposed listed things to be removed such as middle school sports, over 15 high school clubs, the fifth grade music program, the elementary outdoor education program and all of the after-school activity buses. Undoubtedly, no one was happy. But, somehow, the general consensus appeared to be that the Kaneland Board of Education was to blame—that, or all the administrators in the District offices, just because they were the ones who had to make the propositions.

It’s not only Kaneland suffering massive cuts. It’s actually the majority of public high schools in the state of Illinois, and so it’s basically impossible that our Board or administrators are responsible. What they were responsible for was proposing a plan—a plan which made them take the heat; a plan they only had to propose in the first place because Illinois has no money.

Whether it was a lack of knowledge about the budget deficit or just ignorance, fingers were pointed and many infuriated parents and community members showed up at Kaneland board meetings to argue the cuts, stating their children would suffer from them.

Well, that’s pretty much inevitable.

The anger is understandable, but the blame isn’t. Not very many of these concerned people showed up at the board meetings with alternate ideas to the budget cuts—they were mostly critical remarks and comments. (To those people who did pitch ideas—you deserve more credit than you were given, even if the idea didn’t go over well.) If no one had anything better to offer, well, it’s simple—they shouldn’t censure the original offer in the first place, or the people who came up with it.

There truly is no quick fix to this problem, so the budget cuts and proposals will probably continue for a while. Illinois is currently in the process of trying to raise taxes on everything from income to property, and even that won’t close the gap. That’s why people need to not only start coming up with ideas, but also learning how to compromise. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats, who’s right or who’s wrong. It’s about our education, our public services: our future.

The Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois has recently developed a budget forecasting tool. If the government doesn’t enforce any long-term changes soon, their model projects a deficit of $29 billion by 2030—a pretty bleak future. At Kaneland, the projected budget deficit for just next year is $1 million. Determinations about what to cut are still being made; the initial cost-reduction plan will be presented on Feb. 14.

If that’s not a wakeup call, well then we really don’t know what is.

Blaming is human nature, whether we like it or not. But it’s also something that can, and should be, cut back on. No one likes budget cuts. No one likes our taxes being raised. No one likes compromising.

But placing blame isn’t going to change an outcome: compromising and coming up with practical solutions will. (Cough, Springfield, cough.)