Chicago Magazine has an interesting article on the sore subject of Illinois corruption. The article was written by Shane Tritsch who interviews several experts on Illinois political history. There’s no “good old days” of clean government in the Land of Lincoln. Tritsch explains a major reason for Illinois’ historical graft:
Owing to historical factors, Illinois developed a labyrinthine governmental structure that offered fertile ground in which corruption could sprout. The Illinois constitution of 1870, in effect until 1970, limited the amount of debt counties and municipalities could carry and taxes they could levy. When cities needed to fund improvements, they got around those constraints by creating new units of government with the capacity to borrow—a library district, for example, would be created to build and administer a new library. “The 1870 constitution almost forced you into multiple units of government if you were going to deliver services beyond your municipality or modernize your municipality,” says Redfield. Today the state contains almost 7,000 separate governmental fiefs—far more than any other state—ranging from counties, towns, and school and fire districts to water reclamation and mosquito abatement districts. Most have budgets to protect and authority to wield. “It’s very hard to stay on top of it all, and it creates many more opportunities for patronage,” says Cindi Canary. “It creates ways for small islands of graft and corruption to stay hidden.”
It appears that Illinois’ luck is running out. According to Forbes, Illinois is number two on the list of states Americans are fleeing behind New York:
at No. 2. Illinois is expected to lose 27,000 people this year, consistent with its average annual loss over the last five years. The losses are likely linked to the state's economy and tax structure. Job losses in manufacturing and industrial machinery are likely pushing people out of the state
The bond market has taken notice of Illinois’ debt problem. While Illinois can’t go legally bankrupt, creditors can refuse to extend credit. Illinois faces massive public pension crisis in the coming years. Unfunded liabilities will make Illinois a less desirable place to invest.
The Illinois economic situation was born in Illinois’ history of corruption. Shane Tritsch’s article is a decent history on Barack Obama’s home state. The Chicago segment of Illinois corruption is certainly unique. Below is an excellent segment from a National Geographic TV special on how Chicago was taken over by the Mob.