Eyes wide open

Eyes wide open

At least no one can say Illinois residents are naive.

You can't sneak the sun past a rooster, and Illinois' political class can't hide the stench of government corruption from the people.

That's the common-sense conclusion of a public opinion poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

The survey, which was conducted from Feb. 12-25 and involved 1,001 registered voters, reveals that 88.7 percent of the public believes that corruption is either somewhat common or very common in state government, and 62 percent of Illinoisans suspect that their local city or county governments are somewhat or very corrupt.

In Chicago, which is a political sewer unto itself, the results are even more overwhelming. The survey revealed that 85 percent of Windy City residents believe that Chicago and Cook County are either somewhat or very corrupt. The poll has a plus or minus margin for error of 3.5 percentage points.

David Yepsen, the institute's director, described those numbers as a "sad" commentary on the state's political climate that undermines people's enthusiasm about participating in civic affairs or even voting.

"It's unhealthy for a society to have such little confidence in the integrity of government. It makes Illinois an unattractive place to live," he said.

Without quibbling too much with Yepsen's conclusions, what's really unhealthy is to have a political class so relentlessly corrupt that people would be foolish to place any trust in it. It's astounding that 15 percent of Chicago residents don't believe their municipal government is corrupt. What rock are they living under?

It's long been the case that corruption is a fact of life at all levels of government in Illinois, most particularly in state government. And that was before Illinois enjoyed the prestige of having two former governors simultaneously serving prison sentences.

The news media routinely report on all manner of shady behavior, so much so that almost no one is shocked.

Illinois certainly doesn't have a monopoly on self-serving politicians seeking to feather their own nests at public expense. But our political culture has to be among the worst, if not the worst, in the country.

Unfortunately, it shows no sign of changing. Illinois' political class is, collectively, corrupt. The people know it's corrupt. The political class knows that the people know it's corrupt. Nobody's fooling anybody.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion