Illinois is in a big mess but on Friday, March 6th, in a small cosmopolitan city in this state, the beer shall be flowing freely. It is time again for the yearly police headache of Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. At the prestigious University of Illinois campus in Champaign, the young scholars will be putting away their books and blowing off some steam after another cold winter here.
As usual for Illinois, there is much sighing and wringing of hands. Worries about safety are prevalent, and a thin line is walked by the local constabulary between letting the kids have some fun and keeping them from going overboard.
Much sighing and wringing of hands has been underway for years now in Illinois about something else: the deplorable financial situation. The previous Governor, Pat Quinn, used to always be saying, “Oh dear, oh dear. Whatever shall we do? We really need to do something.”
Syndicated columnist George Will, who is originally from Champaign but skedaddled out of here a long time ago, gave some Illinois budget facts in a recent column. He gives the unfunded pension liabilities as about $111 billion. “Currently, public pensions consume nearly 25 percent of general state revenues. The state owes vendors $6.4 billion in unpaid bills, and more than 1 million people have left Illinois for less dysfunctional states in the last 15 years,” groans George Will. 
Meanwhile, the federal government is sending $5 billion not to Illinois, but to Ukraine! How does this make sense?
The new Illinois Governor, Bruce Rauner, may or may not be just talk. Maybe Rauner will be like Governor Quinn and just pace the floor wringing his hands. But maybe Rauner is not just talk, in which case we will be having austerity measures in Illinois.
“Austerity measures” is like what they’ve been having in Greece for years. Drastic spending cuts helped bring about 25 percent unemployment in the Land of Socrates, which eventually brought in a new socialist government, which in turn wound up being just talk. The Syriza Party in Greece seemed on the verge of debt default and exit from the European Union, but those were just campaign promises and things are proceeding about as usual.
Maybe austerity measures will be coming soon to Illinois, so why shouldn’t the young scholars start boozing? The economy has been pathetic for years now in this state, since at least the crash of 2008. And now that austerity measures are to be added to the mix, why not just start guzzling? (Some may be feeling this way, anyway.) And besides it’s been another unusually cold winter here, if you count the sub-zero temperatures of November 2014, and that means more pent-up frustrations seeking release.
The pent-up frustrations are seeking release not just in this small cosmopolitan city but throughout Illinois. For now, cold weather has been keeping a lid on things but that will change soon enough. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel lost his chance to be shoe-horned in again like he was in 2011 when a challenger emerged in the person of one Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. In the 2015 February 24th election, because Emanuel failed to win the more than 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff, he now faces Garcia head-to-head in an April 7th election.  So already in Illinois, things are not proceeding according to the best laid plans of mice and men.
But why should you care, right? You may not live in Illinois. Why you should care is that the Illinois situation preludes the politics of 2016. Illinois is a test case between two visions: (1) austerity measures; and (2) friendly fascism. The friendly fascists still clamp down, but they do it with a smiley face. 2015 in Illinois is prelude to the pre-annointed 2016 “choice” between Jeb “Austerity” Bush and Hillary “Smiley” Clinton. Illinois now is like Spain in 1936, which became a testing ground for World War II. When you think of Illinois these days, think of “Guernica.” That is a famous painting by Pablo Picasso memorializing how Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, was bombed on April 26, 1937 by the fascists. This was the austerity measures taken to an extreme of obvious murder. The mood in Illinois determines how the austerity measures can be sold in 2016: either “Get Tough” Jeb or “Tender Heart” Hillary.
——- Sources ——-
 “Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is out to emancipate the Land of Lincoln”, by George F. Will. February 25, 2015. http://tinyurl.com/pryh646
 “Chicago mayor forced into runoff election”, by Kristina Betinis. World Socialist Web Site, February 26, 2015. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/02/26/chic-f26.html