Area voters driven by thoughts of federal spending, fiscal security

2012-10-07T06:00:00Z 2012-10-20T16:42:16Z Area voters driven by thoughts of federal spending, fiscal securityBy Julie Gerke |
October 07, 2012 6:00 am  • 

John Ohler was 9 when his parents arrived at Ellis Island with six kids and $50 from the Lutheran church. They moved to Danvers, learned English and, five years later, officially became Americans.

Everyone had some sort of job. John had learned the bakery business back in Austria, where his weekly salary of bread loaves and 75 cents went straight to the family purse.

“It’s tough to get the grandkids to understand that you can’t get an allowance for doing nothing,” says Ohler, now 71 and living in Bloomington. They “don’t have that privilege to know how to earn your way.”

Politicians need to fix problems in Social Security and Medicare, he says, but instead add layers of laws to the pile that already exists. “What needs to be done is (so) their future can be protected,” he says. “That’s what our government needs to look forward to. … If they don’t, there will be nothing there.”

“Again, it’s tough love, but that’s just the way it goes.”

What people care about this election season is the focus of a month-long series by Lee Enterprises reporters, who spent recent months talking to Central Illinois residents about what they want the presidential candidates to address. Lingering worries about the economy, for instance, are tied by a common thread to concerns about the country’s future.

Ohler spent six years in the Army, then 42 years at Maytag while also working in remodeling and construction. He and Jeanne, married 50 years, have two daughters and three granddaughters.

They still have the envelopes used to save money from John’s paycheck, making sure they had enough each month to pay for rent, a car, fuel, insurance. They’re on fixed incomes now, and worry about health care costs and their grandchildren’s futures.

“The government is playing around with health care all the time,” he says. “Leave it alone. … We have to get to the bottom of the fraud and the misuse of all the funds.”

Unnecessary regulations and agencies just add more work. Politicians need to get to the root of the problems, maintain a balanced budget, and live within the same rules they impose on the rest of us: “We expect no different (from our country) than what we have to do ourselves,” he says.

‘It’s really scary’

Jessica Sutton wants to be a role model, maybe as a day care director or children’s church director, for kids who don’t know the gift of a strong family structure.

She’s a senior at Lincoln Christian University and, at 21, is looking forward to voting in her first presidential election. Her family has lived in Lincoln since 2009, moving through North Carolina, Indiana and Joliet as her father, a college professor, changed jobs.

Her friends talk less about politics and more about the inability to find a full-time job after graduation.

“It is scary,” she says, sitting in the chapel lobby between classes. “There are all these things you want to do … but what happens if I don’t find a job? What do I have to do? Do I have to have two or three jobs? It’s really scary. There’s no time to think about what you want. It’s about what you need.”

That contradiction has focused her attention on the presidential candidates. She listens to both sides, to what has and hasn’t been done, and to what is said — or not said.

“It should be about what they will do to help others,” says Sutton. “I’d like them to just listen and pay attention to the future.

“They need to invest more in the people and how to help more of us,” she adds, worrying about student loans, personal loans and children who take two or three helpings of a school lunch because it’s the only meal they’ll get all day.

“I’m hoping whatever they decide to do, I’m hoping they think about the people who put them there,” she says. “This isn’t my parents’ problem anymore, it’s mine.

“People don’t have that sense of hope they used to have.”

Profit and loss

When you drive for a living, explains George Rehker, you have a lot of time to think.

He’s owned Bloomington-based Drivers 4 Dealers for 10 years, and has about 20 part-time drivers who move vehicles back and forth for dealerships and auction houses, and pick up repossessed cars and trucks.

The Cash for Clunkers program from a few years back is an example of a government idea gone wrong, he says: Perfectly usable cars were junked, dealers were left without saleable used cars, and “incentive” money sometimes went toward a new car the buyer couldn’t afford.

“Look at the post office, Amtrak and, more locally, the secretary of state’s office,” says Rehker, 58. “The government is not capable of building a business. They have no idea about profit and loss. … There’s more government employees than ever before and they’re not doing their job.”

Too many regulations drag down the economy, not only affecting industry, but prices, production, manufacturing and retail activity. “We need smaller government and more responsible government,” he says, not convinced the economy is actually recovering.

“There are long lines at the blood bank,” he notes. “It’s still an effort around here to go out and get work.”

His suggestion: “Open up the Keystone pipeline. It’d be a shot in the arm to the economy.” He supports an increase in offshore drilling for the same reason.

“I want a leader who’s been there, who went through what I went through,” Rehker says. “Lying to your family when you’re not sure you can meet bills and making excuses why you can’t make a ballgame or a wedding.

“I want someone with a sharp pencil.”

‘Can’t replace the drain’

A year ago, Becky VanDeventer opened the Clothes Horse, a consignment shop in downtown LeRoy.

Sometimes, during the hot summer that affected almost every business, four customers constituted a good day.

VanDeventer, 56, moved to rural LeRoy in 1991, selling phone book ads for eight years before opening the now-defunct Silly Goose gift shop.

“I was as guilty as anyone” of going out of town to work and shopping in LeRoy only for groceries, she says. “I understand fully. I don’t understand what the answers are yet, yet I feel so strongly we can’t have empty buildings downtown.”

VanDeventer rents the first floor of a 1901-era building; three large rooms are filled with quality, name-brand clothes and accessories that sell well below their original retail prices.

“I see it every week, vacationers who stop for gas and drive up to see what’s in town. They always say, ‘I wish I could open (something).’ … Everybody has a dream. What I want to say is, ‘Here are the names and numbers’ of people with available buildings. This is the right place.”

She’s seen other businesses come and go, sometimes moving to a larger town. “When these (shops) opened, there was a lot more money to be spent,” she says. “Politicians probably underestimate, all the way up to the federal level, just how important local shoppers are. It’s not all big box stores.”

Government needs to do “whatever it takes” to get or keep income in the hands of consumers to shore up the eroding middle class. It’s not a party-related problem, she says, because it has spanned the terms of both.

“Whatever can be done to bring the income back and keep it in their hands will help everything — schools, property tax levels, everything supported by it. Whatever is left, they still have available to spend. That’s all we’re trying to do, is add one more layer (of spending) to this town.”

Fact Check

13th Congressional District (David Gill, D-Bloomington vs. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville)

Q: Gill claimed in an Oct. 3 letter made public that his campaign hasn’t put out negative ads. Has it?

A: True, but misleading.

While Friends of David Gill has not issued attack ads, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spends on his behalf, has aired ads criticizing Davis.

Election calendar

-- Training session for poll-watchers; 9 a.m. Oct. 13, Normal Public Library, or 7 p.m. Oct. 25, Government Center, Bloomington; sponsor: McLean County League of Women Voters; Election Day is Nov. 6; apply at

-- Get Out the Vote; 4:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 14, DoubleTree by Hilton, Bloomington; speakers: Congressman Aaron Schock, 13th District candidate Rodney Davis; other candidates available for questions; pizza, cash bar; sponsor: McLean County Republican Women.

-- Forum on ballot referendums; 6:30-8:45 p.m. Oct. 15, Normal Public Library community room; 6:30-7:15 p.m., electrical aggregation; 7:15-8 p.m., constitutional amendment on pension reform; 8-8:45 p.m., elimination of county recorder’s office; sponsor: McLean County League of Women Voters.

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(23) Comments

  1. ct
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    ct - October 10, 2012 3:38 am

    maybe a little google would help you...
    the strait was an issue for a week
    the oil embargo on Iran has cause some price volatility but OPEC has mostly closed the gap

    the US doesn't rely directly on imports from Iran, but oil as a global commodity is priced based on global supply and demand. the same canadian oil coming down the same pipe to southern IL will change price based on factors influencing world oil prices.
  2. ct
    Report Abuse
    ct - October 10, 2012 3:34 am
    Your judgement that someone is 'working the system' is just that. Just because you think a family is not worthy, and another one is, doesn't make it so.

    These are income based programs, so even if everything they say is a lie, their income still qualifies them, which means they are dirt dirt poor. It is not some kind of lottery win to get food stamps or medicaid coverage.

    The costs of SSI and Food Stamps are practically nothing in comparison to other programs and still help poor people by default; what is so wrong with not seeing another american dwell in utter poverty?

    If you believe there is fraud, report it. If you don't like the standards, complain to your representatives.
  3. newsak
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    newsak - October 09, 2012 9:02 am
    Stop the warmongering. That will save plenty of money.
  4. ChubbyAlaskaGriz
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    ChubbyAlaskaGriz - October 08, 2012 12:36 pm
    If ya can't vote FOR somebody next month, for God's sake at least vote AGAINST someone!

    HOPE for CHANGE- 2012!
  5. MRK
    Report Abuse
    MRK - October 08, 2012 10:37 am
    I find it interesting that the college student is the one who seems to be thinking the most profoundly about this election. The others seem to be wrapped up in their own pipe dream of how things should work according to them - when their ideas are somewhat impractical or ineffectual. The college student is just like - hey am I going to be able to get a job at all, why aren't they addressing how they're going to help anyone?

    I question why Mr. Rehker was even included in this article too, just seems like partisan rhetoric and vitriole. Cash for Clunkers goal was to improve fuel economy/emissions in the country, not for car dealers or profit. Keystone pipeline - oh man, beat that dead horse. More oil will not cure everything in this country.
  6. MRK
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    MRK - October 08, 2012 10:27 am
    Too many people in this country do not understand this basic fact, and this misunderstanding/ignorance is exactly what one candidate it running his campaign on. Just because you can run a corporation like a pro, reaping massive profits through any means, does not mean you can run the federal government like that. I shudder to think of what would happen if someone DID run the federal government like a business, because if we think things are bad now - just wait.
  7. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - October 08, 2012 9:51 am
    So you know more than the federal government and the owners of the major oil companies? The threat of Iran blocking oil shipments globally using the straits of Hormuz has been responsible for spiking gasoline prices worldwide for over two years. Oh but according to you the U.S. does not rely on any oil from countries where all of this trouble is going on. Go back to Google and do a little more research.
  8. catlbyer16
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    catlbyer16 - October 08, 2012 6:45 am
    Most of the bloggers here want to address oil as it impacts the price of fuel for transportation.
    Sometimes we must look farther than our past. Alternative fuels will lead the way to replacing fossil fuels for gas and diesel. I still would suggest people look at Brazil as a way to other fuel types.
    People are suspicious of change, but it is coming. There are already several types of ethanol fuels and Bio-diesel fuels. And before ct takes her old worn out stand about corn being used for ethanol, stated in this very newspaper a few weeks ago, "If corn was no longer used for ethanol, the price of corn at the country elevator would drop 30 cents a bushel". I do happen to have an interest in some land in OK. that has oil and gas on it. I just think there is a better way to get around being at the mercy of big companies that couldn't care a good rats behind, about you and me.
  9. BC
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    BC - October 08, 2012 5:46 am
    In some areas people can sell their blood, I assume he is referring to that. In this area there are some places that buy plasma which is a blood product. It is taken the same as a blood donation.

    The biggest complaint I have against Social Security is the lax way SSI is handled. It has become the new welfare. I personally know cases where it has been awarded just because they can get it. The child in question did not have special needs requiring extra funding. It is also pretty much life time once approved. This is not a race situation for this family is white. Other families I am aware of started the process when the child was a new born and by their own admission actually didn't have a limiting problem, the other 2 qualified so claim the third. Counting mom the family receives at least $2,400 a month for 4, qualifies for medicaid and as I understand LINK based on individual incomes not family. How this is done is a mystery when other families with a legitimate need are refused based on parental income and the child is a huge financial drain. That system needs to be fixed. Monitoring is the answer not tossing the program across the board, because a few know how to "work" the system.
  10. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - October 07, 2012 9:24 pm
    ct, to earn a military pension, you need to put in at least 20 years. He was in for six, so he only gets VA benefits IF he incurred a service-related injury.
  11. ct
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    ct - October 07, 2012 9:03 pm
    and i love Mr Ohler talking about cuts to govt programs like Social Security and Medicare but doesn't mention the unfunded government programs he relies on, his Military pension and VA health care.

    Members of each program paid in and expect far more benefits out....
  12. ct
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    ct - October 07, 2012 8:42 pm
    I was more replying to the one above you.

    We really need to require every American to attend an Oil 101 one hour class so they can pull their head out.
    If we just stick an oil well every 50 feet, gas will be a nickel is the tiny thought bubble in half the Fox News viewers heads.

    To some degree it is understandable do to the high regulation in most commodity products in this country, and the fact that we produce most those products like say milk or beef or electricity. Oil doesn't work the same....
  13. ct
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    ct - October 07, 2012 8:27 pm
    Government is not suppose to run like a business, otherwise it would be just another business.
    Government provides public services meeting the essential communal needs of the public.
  14. ct
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    ct - October 07, 2012 8:25 pm
    This article is why i have so little hope for the future....

    Loves the truck driver who thinks he is Einstein because he has lots of time to think while driving.
    Einstein would probably tell him there is a reason he's paid to drive a truck for a living and not to think....
  15. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - October 07, 2012 5:53 pm
    And P.S. Joe, I don't live on the government's dime. I work hard to earn my standard of living.
  16. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - October 07, 2012 5:52 pm
    First of all, I'm male, not female.
    While you may think my comments are rude, that is the typical response from conservatives: "don't like it here, go back to your home country." Mr. Ohler's comments make me believe he is a conservative. And while I understand his point, I think it's unfair he blames his granddaughters when they ask for money. Did he raise them? Or their mother?
    No, I'm not a part-time college instructor, but I know the worth of a college degree. This issue has been debated on blog pages like this many times.
    Congress answers to the people, thus my stockholder analogy. Congress was inundated with phone calls not to cut back USPS delivery or shut down offices. They did what taxpayers told them to do, so don't blame Congress. I'll stand by my original point.
    My point with the SOS office is pretty easy. Complaining to a newspaper reporter won't accomplish any changes; I'll bet Mr. Rehker has never written a letter or email to Springfield.
    My point on banking regulations is you can't have it both ways. You can't work to relax banking regulations thus allowing looser credit regulations (people borrowing more than they can afford) and then beat up the government for "over-regulation." Pick a side.
    I'm an ARC blood donor.... and I'm still lost on that comment....
  17. joe smoe
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    joe smoe - October 07, 2012 5:06 pm
    Thoughts a Millions sure has a lot of thoughts, certainly lives up to her name. Too bad she lacks reading comprehension...where to begin:

    1. You're comments are rude. Obviously, you have not ever been in a position to have to earn your way. I don't recall reading in this article Mr. Ohler complaining that American is a terrible place to live.

    2. All Mr. Ohler was saying, according to the article, is that one doesn't get something for nothing. Yes, an allowance helps with money management, but you don't get money for doing nothing (unless you live on the government's dime, which by the tone of your comments very well may apply to you).

    3. You must be a part time college instructor.

    4 Amtrak and USPS are actually good examples. The only thing wrong with both entitites has to do with the governments ultimate control over what they can do or cannot do. The free market says that Saturday delivery is not sustainable, yet Congress will not let them stop Saturday delivery (just chose an illustration since you brought it up).

    5. Yeah, the SOS office has gotten better over the years...not sure what your point is.

    6. Better banking regulations? What flavor of Kool-aid is your favorite?

    7. Lines at the Blood bank? I'll give you that one.
  18. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - October 07, 2012 3:04 pm
    Let's see, where to begin.....
    1. Mr. Ohler can move back to Austria if he thinks its so bad here.
    2. Mr. Ohler could teach his children that chores are something you do for the family, not for money. (Did he not teach his own children very well?) An allowance should teach children how to manage money.
    3. Yes, Ms. Sutton, you may have to work 2-3 jobs upon college graduation. But it will depend on your major. Remember that unemployment for college graduates is less than half of the overall unemployment rate. Those with degrees in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, business, and others are not having trouble finding jobs.
    4. Mr. Rehker, government isn't designed to "work like a business." Your examples you cited - Amtrak and the USPS - are poor examples. Neither one is fully funded by government. They ARE trying to run like your business. But look what happened over the summer: the USPS wanted to eliminate one day of delivery and shut down small offices. The taxpayers (the stockholders) were up in arms! So it will have to crash and burn before it gets fixed.
    5. Mr. Rehker, I'm sure you go into the Secretary of State's office more times than I do in a year, but as a consumer going in 2-3 time a year, I've always been pleased with my service. How many letters have you written to Jesse White to complain about the service?
    6. Mr. Rehker, you stated “incentive money sometimes went toward a new car the buyer couldn’t afford." That's correct. People often buy things they can't afford. But in the case of car purchasing, better banking regulations might have prevented that issue in this case. But you want to decrease regulations.

    7. "There are long lines at the blood bank." Huh?
  19. BC
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    BC - October 07, 2012 10:54 am
    I agree and I should have said there currently is no shortage of oil. Shortage is not the reason gas is so high. There is a very good case to be made for breaking our dependence on all oil, not just imported oil. Of course anyone who suggests such is a liberal tree hugger. The government on one hand should not restrict private enterprise from maximum profit. There is the option used under Nixon that placed a tax on extra profits, Windfall Profits Tax which was repealed early in the Bush administration. We do to an extent regulate our infrastructure for the common good, sometimes we are too loose with regulation on the part that can turn a buck for someone. Sell where they wish but pay taxes according to profit and quit giving them government money when they make plenty to expand and grow their industry without it.
  20. ct
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    ct - October 07, 2012 10:37 am

    -we have plenty of oil for TODAY, not 10 years from now.

    -the majority of that oil is in very EXPENSIVE to access and transport areas, meaning massive price increases.

    -the majority of that oil is in environmentally sensitive areas, and can only be accessed effectively by destroying our country - google nigeria and oil to get an idea.

    -oil is a world commodity; if we drill 4 times as much, it still is priced at world prices and privately owned (all of it) locally drilled oil would go overseas to the highest bidder

    -local oil only works if the govt steals, similar to how we militarily control and influence foreign nations and their oil
  21. BC
    Report Abuse
    BC - October 07, 2012 9:45 am
    We export the product made from crude oil. There is more money to be made in that process than selling here. Google it, it is involved. The countries where unrest has been cited as a cause for rising prices do not supply us with oil. Products refined along the gulf are exported directly to booming economies in Latin American. That pipe line will take OK. oil directly to those refineries. The jobs drilling and pumping are there now they will be in the future Americans will not see any benefit from the refined product. Get your mind untangled from the liberal/conservative idiocy and go research the subject. Yes, drilling creates jobs and off shore drilling is live and well. The price of gasoline is a big factor in the slow economic rebound. There is no restrictions on where the refineries can sell their product, or ship it. It would be soooooo liberal to even suggest they supply this country first until gas prices fall to a reasonable level. If all the oil produced in our country was used to supply our people the price of gas would go down. Yes we import, we also import, refine and export the product to to maximize profits and keep our supply low and prices high. If you want to continue the political nonsense why do conservatives in the house refuse to stop taxpayer entitlements to big oil when they are already making record profits without it. I suppose that is government intervention you approve of.
  22. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - October 07, 2012 7:17 am
    If we have so much oul here Mr. Liberal why do we import so much? Why is the United States at the mercy of oil producing nations? Most importantly it is the American economy that is saddled with the expense of all of the imported oil that comes into this country. You also fail to admit the job creation that doemstic drilling brings into the economy. You liberals are only concerned about regulatiions and federal control over the producrtivity of this nation.
  23. BC
    Report Abuse
    BC - October 07, 2012 6:49 am
    Anyone who supports the Keystone pipe line hasn't looked at it. We already have plenty of oil to supply this country, if it remained here. We export oil, more drilling would mean more export. The Keystone pipeline has leg through Oklahoma that connects our domestic oil to the gulf, it will go directly there for export instead of Midwest refineries that supplies this portion of the country. Less government regulation and oil company subsidies allow and encourage that export. There has not been a filing for any new refineries for decades. No environmental group is blocking the building of refineries, no one has tried to build one. We export our resources to more lucrative markets that can now afford them because we exported our jobs first. Less government regulation, and tax breaks, open the doors to move more work away from our people not to them. The world is not as simple as it was when this fellow was 9, or even when he was raising is daughters. Government regulations didn't chase our manufacturing out of the country, or make energy prices high, lack of it did. Instead of comparing childhoods look at adult business attitudes and past record. Those should be loud an clear in this election. If you want one that was raised by common working people and has the least wealth today the choice is pretty obvious. No cuts on government spending will effect the interest owed and mounting daily on loans. Much of the deficit increase is mounting interest. Our greedy manufacturers took their product to China, built factories and exploited cheap labor. Now that product is being produced by the Chinese government and undercutting American global sales. See an example by googling Chinese earth moving equipment, bolt for bolt a Caterpillar product. That is but one example, I'm sure there are many more. Anything our companies build there is open game to be duplicated to bolster the Chinese economy and position in the world.
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