Chicago-bashing just cheap theatrics

Chicago-bashing just cheap theatrics

Like dogs howling at the moon, downstate legislators are railing against Chicago.

When a state is an as much trouble as Illinois, it's way past time for its elected officials to start offering serious solutions to serious problems.

But that's not just boring, it's hard work. You have to think hard, act responsibly, establish priorities, make real choices and do difficult things like not approving new programs you can't pay for.

Who wants anything to do with that? Not state Reps. Adam Brown of Decatur and Bill Mitchell of Forsyth.

The two Republicans recently announced that they have a cure for what ails the Land of Lincoln — they want to decouple Illinois from Cook County/Chicago, making the Windy City the 51st state.

That, of course, would make the remaining 101 counties outside of Cook a state unto itself, and, presumably, put the new Illinois on the road to recovery.

"Downstate families are tired of Chicago dictating its views to the rest of us," said Mitchell.

There is nothing new about bashing Cook County — it's been part of the repertoire of downstate politicians for decades. Just tell the hayseeds that Cook County pols are alien bogeymen and they will eat it up. Many a re-election campaign has been waged on such thin gruel.

But let's get real. Secession ain't gonna happen. This unhappy marriage will endure because there's no way out — not now and not ever.

It is genuinely true that outside of Chicago there is a place called Illinois. It also is genuinely true that Chicago thinks of itself as a separate entity from the rest of the state. But state borders aren't changed easily, and it's foolish to act as if they might be in this case.

So what really is the point of the Brown/Mitchell campaign except to aggravate existing political tensions and regional animosities?

There are certain political realities that are inescapable in a democracy, and here's one — the majority rules.

Cook County provided enough votes for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2010 election to win the election fair and square. Before the 2012 general election, all statewide officials were from Chicago. After the 2012 election, only one statewide official, Dan Rutherford, was not from Chicago.

There is no question that power balance is lopsided — but those are the breaks.

The proposal for Illinois to secede from Chicago has generated some discussion about the relevant merit of Cook County and the rest of the state, and the resentment goes both ways.

Chicago backers portray downstate as riding on the back of Cook County economics, and that's true to a degree. Chicago generates more than 80 percent of the state's gross domestic product, according to the Civic Federation.

Why shouldn't it? Chicago is one of the world's greatest cities. It is an economic engine of incredible power.

Cook County also generates 40 percent of the state's $8.7 billion in state income tax revenue and 36 percent of the state's $6.2 billion in sales tax revenue. At the same time, it also consumes those revenues in huge quantities.

But those numbers are basically for conversation because there will be no geographic division of the rest of Illinois from Cook County. There also will be no change in the division of power in Illinois absent some dramatic shifts in state population.

Until that happens, Chicago will be the dog that not only wags the tail of Illinois but also dictates public policy in all 102 counties. Someone should explain that to Brown and Mitchell and tell them they need to figure out how to deal with it or find something else to do for a living.

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