Illinois Descending: Life imitating art

Much of the 2006 race for governor in Illinois is surreal. We’d hoped things would never get this bad. As of now the general election looks more like a Democrat Party primary. The best arguments from each candidate is that the other is more corrupt.

The typical Dem primary involves candidates trying to out-bid the other in an attempt to buy votes with tax dollars. Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka both seem happy to promise billions in new spending. So far it seems Topinka is winning in the race to the left. She wants a Chicago casino and if she doesn’t get it she’s said that the only other option is a tax increase. She’s also promising to increase the number of people on the state payroll. Blagojevich is proud to run on his high spending four-year record.

A strange circumstance such as this would seem to present ideas to fiction writers — but good fiction has to be believable. This isn’t. It’s just sad.

Speaking of fiction, the brand new novel from James Lee Burke includes two sections about gambling that are timely for Illinois. His story, Pegasus Descending, is set in Louisiana, which by the way is one of the few states that is still more corrupt than Illinois (at least in one ranking).

We particularly like the reference to “educational funding.”

The illegal gambling industry of the past is nothing in comparison to its legalized descendant… From Shreveport on the northwestern tip of the state to Lake Charles in the south the casinos and racetracks soak up all the Texas trade they can get their hands on. New Orleans takes the trade from everywhere, including old people the casinos bus into town from retirement homes in Mississippi…

…In fact everyone is delighted with the new era of gaming in Louisiana. Except, of course, the uneducated, and the compulsive who lose their life savings and the owners of bars and restaurants who have to shut down their businesses because they can’t compete with the give-away prices.

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The legalization of gambling throughout most of the United States was a dream come true for vestiges of the old syndicate. The money they used to make from the numbers racket — money they always had trouble laundering — was nothing compared to the income from the casinos, tracks, and lotteries they now operated with the blessing of federal and state licensing agencies.

In fact, not only had the government presented them with a gift that was beyond the mob’s wildest imaginings they had been able to attach educational funding to gambling bills all over the country which turned school teachers into their most loyal supporters. Was this a great country or not?