Illinois’ dispirited bicentennial celebration ends

Illinois bicentennial flag on bottom

By John Ruberry

As I’ve mentioned here a few times, 2018 is Illinois’ bicentennial year, a fact that not only has escaped most Americans but even, I suspect, most people living in Illinois.

Last Monday the official Illinois bicentennial party was held in Chicago at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. That was not the original plan. The first choice was Chicago’s United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls and the Blackhawks, but weak ticket sales forced the change in venue, creating what Illinois 200’s executive director, Stuart Layne, called “a more intimate event.”

That comment reminds me of when Ian Faith, the manager of the rockumentary band Spinal Tap was asked if the group playing smaller halls on their latest tour was indicative of their decline in popularity. He replied, “I just think that the their appeal is becoming more selective.”

I was in Tennessee on December 3, Bicentennial Day in Illinois, a state Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I are considering for our retirement. Tennessee has no state income tax and it has the one of the lowest public worker pension debt liabilities among the 50 states.

The last time Illinois had an official statehood commemoration was in 1968, its sesquicentennial year.

What has happened since ’68?

  • Illinois has gone from having 26 electoral votes to 20. After the 2020 census Illinois will by all estimates lose another, possibly even two.
  • Four Illinois governors, Democrats Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and Rod Blagojevich, as well as Republican George Ryan, have been sentenced to federal prison. “Blago” is still an inmate.
  • Illinois general obligation bond ratings are just one level above junk status.
  • While it may not have the nation’s worst public worker pension debt, Illinois is so close to the bottom it doesn’t really matter.
  • Illinois’ debt-per-taxpayer is nearly $51,000, third worst in the nation.
  • In 1969 Illinois began collecting personal income taxes.
  • Illinoisans are burdened by the nation’s highest property tax rate.
  • On the local level, the unfunded pension obligations of Chicago are the worst among America’s largest cities.
  • Since 1973, over thirty Chicago aldermen of been convicted of crimes. The week before Illinois’ 200th birthday the FBI raided the offices of the city’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke, who has been a member of the City Council since 1969. Term limits, anyone?
  • Illinois Top 200 voters elected Abraham Lincoln as the greatest leader in state history. In 2005 the state-owned Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opened. It owes $9 million on a loan used to purchase Honest Abe artifacts from a private collector. The centerpiece of those items was a stovepipe hat that Lincoln may not have ever owned. The ALPLM is requesting a state bailout, has started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised a pittance, and it sold a dress once worn, we think, by Marilyn Monroe, to pay down that debt. Marilyn Monroe? Abe Lincoln? I don’t get it either.
  • Ten years ago today Rod Blagojevich was arrested at his Chicago home. That day the US Attorney for Northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, lamented that Blago’s conduct “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

John Ruberry, a fifth generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.