Lame duck doesn’t have to be lame

November 11, 2014 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

headshot of claudiaIt’s been just a week since the midterm elections, where in Ohio a little over 3 million voters – 40 percent of those eligible – cast ballots. The vitriolic attack ads have been replaced by holiday ads and when we answer the phone showing an “unknown number” it’s now likely to be a charity calling for an end-of-year appeal (and that’s a topic for another blog post) rather than a robo-call urging us to vote for – or against – a politician.

And, whether you think that the country is on the right track or going down the tubes after the election, it’s over until 2016. Our thoughts now turn to finishing out the rest of the year, as the Halloween candy sits in the sale bin, replaced by candy canes, green and red M&Ms and foil-wrapped chocolate coins on store shelves.

ducks on crutches walking to White HouseWith the election over, political pundits now fill air time talking about the lame duck period and whether any significant policy can be made. The term lame duck refers to elected officials continuing in office during the period after an election and before the inauguration of the successor, whether an individual or a body like the Ohio General Assembly or U.S. Congress. And, as I listened in to the post-election commentary discussions I wondered: why is it a lame duck, rather than a sinking duck, and why a duck at all?

I turned to the Internet, having forgotten – if I ever learned – the origin of the term in my political science classes in under- and post-graduate work. Turns out the phrase originated in the 18th century and was used to refer to investors in the British stock market who were unable to pay their debts, so couldn’t keep up with the flock.

The term was first used in U.S. politics in 1863, and since then has been depicted in countless political articles, commentary and cartoons,  including this one showing Democrats – on crutches – leaving congress and heading to President Wilson’s White House for help in finding their next jobs.

democrat party donkey and gop party elephantApplying the term to legislators is unfortunate, because both the Ohio General Assembly and the U.S. Congress have important work to do during their limited days in session this month and next. I hope the Ohio Senate uses its scheduled days to take up HB 408, which passed the Ohio House back in the spring. It would encourage people to make charitable contributions to community foundations that address critical local problems, from pre-school access to college scholarships, from job training to safety net services and so much more. We are grateful for the 84 House members who voted for the bill and for our Senate sponsors of the companion bill, Senators Schaffer, Peterson, Hite and Beagle.

capitol building in DCI also hope that the U.S. Senate will pass the America Gives More Act, another bill dedicated to encouraging charitable giving. The bill, which the House passed in July, includes a provision that would make the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent. This provision, which allows individuals to give retirement assets directly to qualified charities without tax consequences, expired at the end of last year. The bill has yet to get a hearing in the Senate, and thousands of taxpayers are waiting to see if they can use those assets this year to support their favorite charities – including community foundations but also universities, museums, YWCAs and countless other organizations and causes. And, since both Ohio’s senators will remain in office next year, I hope they will “lead the flock” of their lame duck colleagues to get the bill onto the Senate floor and passed.

claudia signature

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

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Entry filed under: Miscellaneous, Public Policy. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Celebrating 100 years of community philanthropy Because of philanthropy. . .

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