By John Ruberry
Garrison Keillor used to regularly begin his News From Lake Wobegon segment on the Prairie Home Companion with “It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.”
Because it was always quiet there.
And in regards to my continuing Tales from the Illinois Exodus series at Da Tech Guy, I should open each entry with, “It was a bad week in Illinois.”
But this past week was pretty wretched even on abysmal Prairie State standards.
A few days ago the US Census Bureau released population data for July, 2017 through July, 2018. The results are devastating for the only state I’ve called home.
Illinois has 102 counties–86 of them lost population during that time. Sure, many of them are rural and the people drain from rural areas is a long-term trend nationwide.
What about Illinois’ metropolitan areas?
For the first time in history all ten Illinois metro areas lost population. One of them, Danville, saw the fourth largest population percentage decline of the nearly 400 Census-designated metropolitan statistical areas. Cook County, where I live, sometimes referred to Crook County (more on that later), was tops in people loss in sheer numbers nationally.
When the decade began Illinois was the fifth-most populous state. A few years ago Pennsylvania passed us up.
Apologists for the status quo in ILL-inois often point to counties with large state universities as buckers of the overall trend. And do you know what? None of those sixteen counties that gained just a smattering of residents included ones that are home to those big state colleges. Illinois, America’s sixth-largest state, has more units of government than any other. Gee, I wonder why people are leaving? Government has always been a growth industry here. But Sangamon County, where Springfield, the state capital sits, is also suffering from negative population growth.
Here and there, a few downstate counties saw some growth, along with some at the edge of the Chicago metro area. Although what are called the collar counties–those that border Cook–are experiencing an overall net population loss.
This is a devastating diagnosis for Illinois.
Nationally 55 percent of America’s counties saw growth. Just 16 percent of Illinois’ counties did.
Who is leaving the Land of Lincoln? According to the Illinois Policy Institute, it’s the younger and the better educated. That means of course, the money makers.
Two years ago Illinois hiked its personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. Illinois’ new Democratic governor, JB Pritzker, ran on the promise to switch Illinois from a flat tax income tax state to one with graduated rates, which will eliminate the argument used by the apologists that compared to other states, Illinois’ income tax rate is a little lower than most. Laughingly, proponents of the new tax rates, which will require a constitutional amendment for them to be enacted, are claiming that most Illinoisans will enjoy a tax cut because the rate most people pay, will decline from 4.95 percent to–wait for it–4.90 percent. Oh, don’t worry, if the new tax scheme is put in place that rate will go up. I know how Illinois is misruled. And of course 4.90 percent is still a lot more than 3.75.
Nine states, including two with soaring growth, Florida and Texas, have no state income tax at all.
Illinois’ tax hikes are in fact a public pension rescue plan. Illinois’ pension plans are among the worst funded of the fifty states.
As I’ve mentioned a few times here, Illinois has lost population for five straight years.
It’s been a given for most of this decade that after the 2020 congressional reapportionment that Illinois will lose a seat in the House of Representatives. Now it’s apparent that Illinois will shed two.
When I was born Otto Kerner was governor of Illinois. He was the first of four of our governors who served time in federal prison. Rod Blagojevich is still an inmate.
Oh, I almost forgot. The fallout from the dropping of the charges against hate crime hoaxter Jussie Smollett by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx continues. Last week two top staffers, her chief ethics officer and the director of her office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, resigned. Foxx’s top spokesperson is gone too, it’s unclear whether she was fired or if she quit.
Smollett has proven that he is above the law, at least in Crook County.
Which brings me to a story one of my brothers told me about my late father. While considering whether to accept an out of state job offer, my dad said, “Leave Illinois, this state is too corrupt for you.”
Why didn’t he give me that advice?
Cook County government is headed by a president, the current officeholder is Toni Preckwinkle. In her last contested general election Taxwinkle trounced her Republican opponent, Roger Keats. Shortly afterwards Keats moved to Texas and in his farewell letter he declared, “I am sick and tired of subsidizing crooks.”
So am I. And so are the people leaving.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.