So Chicago isn't quite the birthplace of hope and change after all, is it?
Instead, Chicago is the corruption capital of America, and Illinois is the third most-corrupt state, according to a new academic study on the science of sleaze.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to political corruption, we're numero uno," Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-author of the report, told me Wednesday. "It's not something we should be proud of. But this is the corruption capital."
The symptoms are obvious to those with eyes to see. Voter registration in the city is at a record low. Chicago voters have had their brains beaten in by a succession of tyrants and they're beyond numb. And many, sick of the corruption and its cost, have left. They leave the city, they leave the state.
The political bosses make sure the voter turnout stays low in primaries. When they need higher turnouts, the cry sounds over race or gender and the tribes respond as they've been trained to respond over the generations. It's always about control.
The bell rings. The dog smells the meat powder and begins to salivate. Soon, you don't even need the powder. I've always figured that Pavlov's dog was born somewhere on Archer Avenue.
Simpson has not only studied corruption for years; he's also a former Chicago alderman, one of the good-government progressives once ridiculed by the Democratic machine.
The report, "Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption," is full of depressing figures. And its co-authors clearly understand the effect of corruption on voters.
This, from the report:
What has come to be called "The Chicago Way" or "The Illinois Way" of public corruption has undermined the ... voters' sense of political efficacy. Why apply for a city or state job if you know only patronage employees or politician's relatives will be hired anyway? Why report corrupt officials, if you know they won't be punished and they may turn the powers of the government on you? Voters may laugh at times at the antics of public officials, but in the end, they feel powerless, lose their faith in government and vote less often because they believe the "fix is in."
Taxpayers have known in their bones that Illinois was fixed since before Al Capone bounced Chicago's mayor on his knee and gave him candy, but now there are numbers to prove it.
"The data from the Department of Justice confirm what your readers know since you've been writing about it for years," Simpson said. "That Chicago is corrupt. That Illinois is corrupt. That corruption permeates public life."
But he hasn't given up. He's offered a series of recommendations to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's task force on ethics and reform. Among these are giving the city inspector general access to all city documents, including those held in secret by mayoral lawyers; banning all gifts to elected officials; and improving the city's ethics training.
"The ethics training in Chicago is a joke," Simpson said.
According to the report, there have been 1,531 convictions of public officials on corruption charges in the Chicago area since 1976.
Simpson used criminal convictions as his standard for corruption. That's just one way to measure it, though. Things can be corrupt and not necessarily be illegal. But they can still smell.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the boss of the state's Democratic Party, runs the Legislature. He not only shapes tax policy, but he also has a private law practice reducing taxes for wealthy downtown real estate interests.
And the people have come to understand that the safest thing to do is kiss the hand of the Lord of Madiganistan and hope he smiles upon them. They buy into it. And it wafts over the state.
Meanwhile, dozens of Chicago aldermen, judges and state legislators, plus four governors, have gone to prison, but not one mayor. Isn't that statistically improbable?
"Not one mayor has been convicted or indicted, not even Big Bill Thompson, and he was in Al Capone's pocket," said Simpson.
Is there an Anti-Corruption Fairy who sprinkles magic dust all over the fifth floor of City Hall?
"I really have no answer for it," Simpson said. "(Former) Mayor (Richard) Daley's top people were convicted of corruption, including Robert Sorich, his patronage chief, but that's as far as it got."
Last year, Daley stepped down and Mayor Rahm Emanuel slid in, with Daley's brother Billy filling Emanuel's spot as White House chief of staff. And that's how we roll in the land where hope and change was born.
Emanuel was elected to Congress about a decade ago with the help of an illegal City Hall patronage army built by Sorich, on the orders of some higher, mystical power. The army was directed by corrupt Water Department boss Donny Tomczak.
These days, it is considered extremely impolite for journalists to mention Tomczak, now that the Rahmfather is promising to lead us to an ethical future.
"Do we have a problem? I'm going to look at the report," said the mayor. "I don't need a report to prod me into acting."
I've got a feeling the Rahmfather will act quickly.
And while I'm glad we have a report, we also have noses, and that aroma we smell along the Chicago Way isn't exactly flowers.
It's definitely organic. But flowers? No way.