Chicago Tribune: The Catch-22 Facing The Land Of Lincoln

Chicago Tribune

It didn't take our new Illinois comptroller long to jump on the blame bandwagon, parroting other Democrats accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of running the state into perdition.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza must have gotten some prodding from her fellow Chicagoan, House Speaker Michael Madigan, to lash out at Republican Rauner and what she called the "financial meltdown" occurring in Illinois. We're the only state in the union without a budget, which isn't a meltdown. It's fiscal gamesmanship.

There's obviously no love lost between the governor and the comptroller. In November, Mendoza beat Rauner's handpicked comptroller candidate, Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire. Munger wasn't unemployed for long, recently being named to the post of deputy governor by Rauner at a salary of $138,000. That's the way of the world in Springfield.

Mendoza now joins Speaker Madigan; Madigan's daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and Democratic lawmakers across the state in a strong attack against Rauner as the countdown begins to next year's gubernatorial election. Filing for statewide offices and legislative posts begins in December.

If what's been happening in the last month is any indication, the 2018 elections are going to be elevated to platinum status in the name-calling department in a state known for rough-and-tumble campaigns. Rauner has shown he is not afraid to spend millions of dollars of his own cash on his campaign or those of his legislative allies. Democrats are hoping for a millionaire candidate of their own to counter Rauner's largesse.

Right now, though, Mendoza looks to be the point person for Democrats' accusations of Rauner failing to wheel and deal with lawmakers to get a budget approved. They are akin to Republicans in the U.S. Senate who failed to give President Obama's choice for Supreme Court justice a hearing last year.

They waited and got to see their own High Court candidate nominated. Illinois Democrats are biding their time, laying the groundwork for next year. They expect Rauner to cry uncle and cave to a hefty tax increase without pension reform, spending limits and property tax help for homeowners.

Illinois has done it the Democrats' way year after year after year. Under Democratic governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn. Under legislatures, of which Comptroller Mendoza was a member, headed by Democrats.

Mendoza, who last week labeled Rauner "the biggest bully in the state," served in the Illinois House from 2001 to 2011 while she also was an employee of the city of Chicago. Before she was elected comptroller, she was Chicago city clerk.

One doesn't move up the ladder in Chicago politics without having a mentor. One of hers was Michael Madigan, who she praised eloquently on numerous occasions. No wonder Rauner is talking about a conspiracy among Democrats ganging up on him.

His condition reminds me of protagonist Capt. Yossarian in author Joseph Heller's World War II classic "Catch-22." The Army Air Corps pilot who didn't want to fly anymore noted dryly: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."

Like Yossarian, the state is caught in Heller's paradox. Rauner won't sign off on a budget without his reforms; Democrats want their budget but without the governor's reforms. We're stuck in the middle of this impasse dance.

As Heller also pointed out in Catch-22, "Insanity is contagious." So is jumping on a bandwagon.