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Stacking up Debt (and Bodies) in Illinois

January 21, 2012

Beyond such ethical turpitude, the county is also severely mismanaged: Chicago’s budget deficit this year is projected to be around $635 million.

Illinois is infamous for imprisoning four former governors, most recently Rod Blagojevich and his irresistibly stylish hair. But although Democrats have held a stranglehold over Chicago for 80 years, Illinois corruption has always been ecumenical. The Chicago Tribune accused the city’s last Republican mayor, “Big” Bill Thompson (1915-23 and 1927-31), of tainting the metropolis with

filth, corruption, obscenity, idiocy, and bankruptcy…moronic buffoonery, triumphant hoodlumism, unchecked graft, and a dejected citizenship.…He made Chicago a byword for the collapse of American civilization.

Much more recently, Illinois Republican Governor George Ryan (1999-2003) was convicted of racketeering and fraud and is currently incarcerated.

But not only is Illinois famously corrupt; it’s virtually bankrupt. The state has the nation’s worst credit rating.

Last year the state jacked up its income tax by a staggering 66 percent. The move was intended to help stave off an immediate shortfall of around $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. (Illinois also suffers unfunded pension liabilities to the tune of $85 billion—around $6,600 per resident.)

Despite what was described as the largest tax increase in the state’s history, furry little Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka announced on Wednesday that the state remains $8.5 billion in arrears. She added that Illinois is still paying off bills from four and a half months ago.

So while Illinois is still piling up debt, from a purely public-relations standpoint Chicago would be wise to clear out its stacks of dead human bodies from the county morgue before the G8’s highly manicured mavens come to town in May. It’s more than a matter of cosmetic unseemliness. There are also practical matters that need to be considered here. If the bomb-throwing anarchists and the roving late-spring flash mobs show up at the G8, the morgue may actually need the room.


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