The ten largest blunders in Illinois this century:

1. Gambling has been wholeheartedly endorsed as a way to fund government rather than establishing a fair tax. This is a terrible mistake. Gambling is a much more hideous form of taxation. Having to pay taxes robs you of your money, which you can get over. Gambling can rob you of your dignity and worth as a human being, which is a much more serious price to pay. The only persons to win in a gambling establishment are the owners. Gambling will become one of the next century's worst nightmares.

2. The Illinois legislature has raised every kind of piddly little tax it could possibly find, while steadfastly claiming they are not raising our taxes. Real estate taxes are soaring, causing considerable suffering, particularly among the elderly. The legislature does not have the guts or vision to raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 3.5 percent, which would give the state a considerable surplus of money to fund work on infrastructure, education, and help for people in need, particularly with health insurance. This is the only sensible and responsible course of action for the state legislature to take, which is of course why they won't.

3. Illinois has allowed the infrastructure in the state to seriously deteriorate. This has been due to a serious inability to confront the problem and have the political nerve to solve it. Much of the problem can be attributed to a run of Republican governors who use the slogan ''No new taxes,'' by which they mean we will not raise the state income tax, which would be the fairest to everyone. Now Gov. George Ryan has his ''Save Illinois'' program, complete with pork barrel deals to everyone who has ever contributed to his campaign fund. Half of what he is spending is not what we need. It is a colossal blunder.

4. Building a prison in every hopeless town in Illinois is a cruel joke pawned off as progress. This is Illinois' fastest growing industry, which is a sad commentary on our times and state of affairs. It would be nice if, sometime in the next millennium, we would begin to address the many problems that contribute to people ending up in some of the nicest minority camps in the world.

5. The Clinton Nuclear Power Plant stands out as one of the biggest blunders to have ever occurred within our borders. Illinois Power managed to hire a firm who had never built a nuclear power plant, and went on to prove why they never should have. Costs escalated out of control but the stock-holders were told not to worry. There was a source of income to cover the overruns. Us. They recently sold this blunder to another company. I'm waiting patiently for my check.

6. The reinstatement of the death penalty in Illinois occurred some 22 years ago. Since that time we have reportedly executed 12 persons on death row and released 12 persons found to be innocent. Quite a distinguished record. Our judicial system is plagued by bias, incompetence, unprofessionalism, and states attorneys who are more interested in reelection than justice. We blunder along continuing to believe that meeting violence with violence will somehow make the world a better place in which to live. It will not. Our public officials do little to fix the system, believing the public doesn't mind seeing innocent people placed on death row as long as we get some of the bad ones in the process, at least occasionally. I'm not so sure that they're not right. In some ways we're very pathetic.

7. Illinois continues to blunder along with patronage jobs and lack of campaign finance reform. The boys and girls in Springfield don't want to ruin a good thing. Between passing out jobs and holding out their hands for handouts, most of their campaign funds are fat and most of their friends are working at do-little-but-get-paid-a-lot jobs. Illinois ranks 42nd among the states concerning disclosure of financial information. It ranks close to first in handing out jobs according to party affiliation. Ask most of the personnel out at the prison how this works.

8. The 1968 Democratic National Convention has to rank among one of the biggest blunders to ever occur in Illinois. It became the defining point of the sixties. Frustration with the Vietnam war and blundering politicians spilled over onto the streets of Chicago. For the Democratic Party, Chicago doomed the candidacy of Hubert Humphrey. On the positive side, it did fan the flames of political reform. In the aftermath, the trial of the Chicago 7, accused of inciting a riot, became the laughing stock of the entire nation. It forever cast suspicion on the judiciary in Illinois, if not the entire country. The recent riots in Seattle are but a reminder of what can happen when the top gets too heavy.

9. Prohibition, and how it played itself out in Chicago and elsewhere in the state, was one of the biggest blunders ever, although not exclusive to Illinois. It should act as a constant reminder that morality cannot be legislated. Alas, we have learned very little from it. Today's Al Capones are the drug czars of the world. When something is in demand, someone, somewhere, will produce it and sell it, whatever the risks and costs, or however damaging it might be to people or the environment. I believe we call this capitalism.

10. Illinois ranks number one in the nation in money spent on tourism, at $40.1 million in fiscal year 1997-98. This represented a 14 percent increase over the previous year. I wouldn't be surprised if they count every person who lands at Chicago O'Hare Airport, for however brief a stay, as a tourist. This helps inflate the success factor, which in and of itself is a huge blunder. Still, it all looks good on paper. I'm guessing if we spent nothing on tourism, we'd get about the same results. I do understand there is one heck of a tourism building in Galesburg that mimics a rain forest. Perhaps this is a new trend in attracting people to an otherwise dull state.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 21, 1999

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