Editorial | Nothing magical about 100 days

Editorial | Nothing magical about 100 days

Effective governance is achieved with care and caution.

New Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker took a victory lap of sorts earlier this week, touting the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office.

Through no fault of his own, Pritzker's bragging was premature — 100 days in office isn't enough time to do much of substance. That's why Pritzker spent most of his interview time with reporters reflecting on pending issues and bragging about what he intends to do.

The "100 days" demarcation point is a journalistic cliche that stems from President Franklin Roosevelt's whirlwind executive performance during his first 100 days in office in 1933.

But the circumstances under which Roosevelt took over as the nation's chief executive were, to put it mildly, different from those of the vast majority of new chief executives of either the 50 states or the nation.

FDR faced the challenge of lifting the country out of the economic doldrums and boosting the spirits of beleaguered Americans during some of the darkest hours of the Great Depression.

He took on a major reform of the American banking system. That included closing the banks while persuading Congress to pass the Emergency Banking Act that provided for deposit insurance that stopped runs on banks. He gave the first of what would become many radio "fireside chats" and presided over the passage of 13 major laws that created, among other things, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

Packaged under the umbrella of a "New Deal" for the American people, Roosevelt laid the groundwork for his goals of "getting Americans back to work, protecting their savings and creating prosperity, providing relief for the sick and elderly, and getting industry and agriculture back on their feet."

In many respects — certainly not all — FDR's revolutionary approach, backed by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, represented a great step forward both in a policy and spiritual sense.

But one of the downsides, a minor one certainly, is the inevitable journalistic cliche it set in place — the obligatory 100-day anniversary story in which the activities of new chief executives are put under a microscope and examined.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but nothing inherently right about it either. Measuring accomplishments using a false standard serves no purpose other than to drive conversation.

The bottom line is that Pritzker has done little of distinction to this point, not that he would be candid enough to admit it. If all goes as planned and expected with his overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature, Pritzker will preside over legislative changes of great distinction — legalizing recreational use of marijuana and sports betting, raising taxes by passing a progressive income tax constitutional amendment, putting in place new, expensive social welfare programs and implementing a costly capital spending bill that will require higher gasoline taxes.

Only part of Pritzker's expensive laundry list, those proposals are undeniably consequential, even if open to debate as to their wisdom. But they require more — absent cataclysmic circumstances like those FDR faced — than quick action.

Chief executives and legislators need to act deliberately when making public policy, not rush to meet artificial deadlines.

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