Chicago is a great town. My kid brother was born there, my sister and her husband used to live in Hyde Park.
But there's a downside to Chicago. The city's corruption is legendary, from back when health inspections at the meat packing plants was a question only of money, and where prohibition broke an already weakened tolerance for corruption.
Why does corruption survive in this day and age, where easily available documentation of public spending and payrolls can find the most obvious corruptions, such as hiring of political supporters - rather than competent people - and the like?
Corruption is tolerated when fundamental services are guaranteed: if you want to stay elected in Chicago, all you need to do is ensure that the garbage is always picked up, that the streets are in pretty good shape and, above all, that the streets are plowed in the winter.
Miss that and you'll be voted out.
The problem is that the system is so entrenched - and so completely dominated by the Democratic Party that it must be embarrassing even to them - and owns so many of the politically active that you basically need not only elect the non-corrupt, but also be able to do mass firings to get rid of the political cronies that would otherwise cripple any sort of new broom.
In other words, in Chicago, corruption pays: it pays for the middle class so that they receive the services they feel entitled to; it pays for the poor in the community largesse that they expect; it pays for the political class in terms of jobs and income where they are free to run their political careers.
It's inefficient, of course, and there are real-world problems: of the companies who fail to get contracts because they don't have the political connections; of the workers who can't get work because they won't join a corrupt union; of the income lost to higher taxes to pay for inefficiencies and waste; of the lost opportunities for improvements; of the social losses due to incompetent teachers and a truly rotten school system.
But what's to do?
Well, for Barack Obama, it's more of the same: the man who is selling himself as the great hope, the agent for change...
...is the guy who has actively stopped reforms in the City of Chicago. All in the name of protecting the Democratic Machine in that city.
Take a look here: this isn't speculation, but rather facts.
1) Obama got himself elected by disqualifying his opponents on the ballot on technicalities, not because he was the best candidate for the yearning masses, as he likes to tell it.
2) He took the side of the party machine when reformers did try to get rid of at least the worst offenders in a bipartisan attempt to reduce corruption in Cook County: he endorsed the son of the worst offender as a "good, progressive Democrat" when in fact he was more of the same.
Mr. Obama has never stood up against Chicago's corruption problem because his donors and allies are Chicago's corruption problem.
Mr. Obama is not the reformer he now claims to be. The real man is the one they know in Chicago -- the one who won his first election by depriving voters of a choice.
Why is this even a contest?Obama is part of the problem, not the solution.