Democrats are poisoning Illinois and Chicago.
Maybe it's too obvious to state, but it isn't said often enough. Or barely at all.
Democrats have locked up the city and the state. They have supermajorities in both houses of the Illinois legislature. The governor is a Democrat. Democrats run two of the four major administrative branches of state government. The Chicago mayor's office, the City Counc
Blame is rightfully directed at the egos of House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for the utter failure in the legislative session ending last week to pass pension and other reforms necessary to keep the state from going under. But it's not coincidental that the current failures just happened to occur when Democrats are in charge.
And those failures almost are too many to list. Unfunded pension obligations due public employees approaching $100 billion (according to conservative estimates), overdue bills to outfits (including social service providers) that do business with the state approaching $10 billion, poor-performing Chicago schools, debt piled deep, the nation's worst state credit rating, violence in the streets, high state unemployment, the "outmigration" of people and jobs, budgets that "balance" only through thinly disguised legerdemain, a heritage of corruption and so on and so on.
Chicago and Illinois Democrats have demonstrated time and again that they are incapable of governing well.
I'm not arguing that Republicans necessarily could do a better job. Or that Republicans haven't helped create this situation. Readers of John Kass' excellent columns are well-acquainted with how the GOP abets the various acts of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance committed as part of the dark partnership with Democrats that Kass calls the "Combine." Thanks to that villainous alliance, Illinois Republicans, in and out of elective office, once knifed one of their own, U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, because he was too honest and too loyal to his constituents (i.e. he kept his promises). It's what happens in this state when you don't go along to get along. Maybe it's just chance that the state GOP's skid into irrelevance happened after that betrayal.
But now Democrats wear the collar all by themselves. That seems to be a point missed by so much of the news media. The one thing that the screw-ups and scoundrels who run Chicago and Illinois government have in common is their Democratic fidelity.
Rack it up to greed if you want — so many owe their jobs and livelihoods to the patronage system that so effectively helps the party dominate Chicago and Cook County and, hence, state elections. Rack it up to blind ideology and the financial support that the political arms of radical left-wing groups like Personal PAC Inc. and Planned Parenthood of Illinois give to Democrats who dare not deviate from their extreme social agenda. Or rack it up to the long-standing, unholy alliance between organized labor — particularly those representing public employee unions — and their bought flunkies in government.
Here, I must note some deviations from the general rule. Mayor Rahm Emanuel admirably has challenged the death grip that the Chicago Teachers Union has on the city's public schools. Emanuel was left a sinking ship of a city by former Mayor Richard Daley and a subservient City Council that, for example, burdened Chicago with the a steal-of-the-century parking meter deal that won't expire until ... 2083. I give credit to Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and the people who worked with her to negotiate a respectable pension reform package. There are Democrats independent enough (or secure enough in their jobs) who bravely resist or try hard. I'm not sure I can name them; I can only suspect they exist.
But blaming party leaders who stand atop the fetid dung heap known as Chicago and Illinois government/politics doesn't sell. They're just a part of the pyramid of corruption, greed, narrow self-interest, power lust, self-absorption and loony ideology that constitutes the state and local Democratic Party, all the way from the top to the voters at the bottom.
To paraphrase Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo and his Okefenokee Swamp people, we won't see change until Democrats — voters, pols and loyal hacks all — meet the enemy and realize that they are them.
Order my new historical novel, Madness: The War of 1812, from Amazon
To subscribe to the Barbershop, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.