Tuesday, December 13, 2011



One does not have to be a student of organized crime in this country to realize how the protection racket worked and doubtless continues to work. Send a few relatively green thugs from the neighborhood, known as “associates,” to a local business and have them cause some minor trouble, perhaps stealing some merchandise, breaking some furniture and fixtures, refusing to pay tabs, or scaring away customers with brutish and scary behavior. Then send a soldier to talk to the owner, disingenuously sympathizing with the man, explaining that theirs can be a rough neighborhood, commenting on the advisability of being grateful that nothing worse has befallen the hapless victim, and offering to provide a form of insuance against such further peril for a price that might even seem modest…at first. It’s been going at least since the Black Hand, so beautifully characterized by Fanucci in The Godfather, Part II, preyed on Italian immigrant communities in the big cities of our then great country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and probably longer.

With the passage by the Illinois Senate, and the sending to Governor Pat Quinn (no relation) for his signature, of designer tax breaks for CME, Sears, and UCI International, we see the latest manifestation of the same old racket conducted on what is called a much more sophisticated level by those who like to flatter politicians: Make doing business difficult at best by imposing huge regulatory and tax burdens, but offer to make at least a part of that burden go away for those businesseses that play ball. What a great way for a politician to raise campaign money and otherwise enrich himself!

This scam is often portrayed in the media as the businesses’ blackmailing the politicians with threats to leave the state. There is something to this line of reasoning, but bear in mind that those threats usually have their origins in the imposition of a new or increased tax or a regimen of new or increasingly obnoxious regulations. So perhaps a more nuanced view is that these new taxes/regulations are a signal from the politicians to those friendly quarters of the business community who have invested heavily in clout that times have been lean and the pols are hungry; therefore, it is time to begin the usual kabuki dance that exonerates the businesses that cooperate, enriches the pols, and leaves the relatively cloutless with the bill. So perhaps an at least as apt analogy as that to Fanucci would be an analogy to Buonasera, the undertaker in the the opening scene of The Godfather, Part I, who asks a favor of Don Vito Corleone and thus begins a symbiotic relationship that works out very well for both Buonasera and the Don.

One, however, does not have to get too artsy in describing what is going on in Springfield. This is the old protection racket, this time practiced not be enterprising young immigrants who lacked the morality or the decency to refrain from preying on their own people but, rather, by gangsters with law degrees who lack the morality or the decency to refrain from preying on those they are convinced they were elected to protect.

This isn’t the first time I have written on this topic (See, inter alia, my 11/6/11 piece “HEY, THIS IS A DANGEROUS NEIGHBORHOOD. WHAT YOU NEED IS A LITTLE PROTECTION, YOU KNOW, INSURANCE AGAINST BAD THINGS HAPPENING TO YOUR LITTLE STORE HERE.”) and I am quite sure it won’t be my last; this is the type of topic that deserves (needs, really) repetition so that people can see the enormity of the crimes being committed here. And, no, “crimes” is not too strong a noun in this instance.


Connor Todd said...

Professor Quinn,

Being a conservative (I refuse to use the hideous word "Republican") from down-state, this article, http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/illinois-republican-wants-chicago-area-51st-state-160924927.html, touches on a topic that I have discussed multiple times with many individuals over the past few years.

Now, I haven't been keeping up with your blog as much as I'd like recently, but I am curious as to your feelings on the topic mentioned in the article. I apologize if I've missed a post on it in the recent past.

I hope all is well and you and your family have a merry Christmas and happy new year!

The Pontificator said...

I haven’t commented yet in the Pontificator on the topic of the downstate secession (or the Cook County expulsion) movement, Connor. However, for years as I have driven through beautiful downstate Illinois, I wondered to myself why the good people of “the place called Illinois” would possibly want to subsidize the big spending habits of the masters of the snake pit that is Chicago politics. I continually read that the money flows the other way, that Chicago subsidizes downstate, but I have a hard time believing that. When I do see some credible numbers, I’d like to put something together on this issue.

Further, one of the idiotic arguments against downstate secession (By the way, in the bill cited in the article you referred to, my current home of Naperville would be part of downstate Illinois.) is that, without Chicago, Illinois would be Iowa. To which I answer: “Now you’ve convinced me! Where do I sign up?” And this from a guy who still loves Chicago!

Thanks for reminding me of this issue, Connor; it’s on the list. And, of course, thanks for reading and commenting; tell your friends.

Blessed Christmas and happy, prosperous new year to you and your family.