Mob Rule: Family secrets and Springfield budgets

Dan Proft Aug. 4, 2007, 2:00am

There are two community theater-quality dramas approaching their respective denouements.

In Chicago, the Golden Age of the Chicago Outfit is coming to a close with the federal prosecution of Frank Calabrese Sr., Joey Lombardo and their associates in the much ballyhooed Family Secrets Trial.

In Springfield, the constitutionally-authorized thieving class is busily trying to beat Orwellian pieties into ploughshares.

As the final acts unfold, it strikes me that the mobsters are allegorical representations of the politicians.

Let's consider.

The Outfit bosses use colorful nicknames like Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo. The political bosses also use colorful nicknames like State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon.

The Outfit uses euphemistic code language to misdirect meaning. They call their extortion rackets "street tax" as a way to make the activity sound legit, like what government does. In politicianspeak, confiscatory taxes are termed "contributions." I guess "forcibly taking dollars that are not yours" is not a hip enough catch phrase for the gangster set and not value-neutral enough for the pols.

The mother's milk for the power structures of both is gambling. For the Outfit, it is numbers rackets and the casino skim. For the politicians, it is, well, numbers rackets and the casino skim.

In fact, as the Outfit's influence has waned, the politicians have attempted to increase their market share in the gaming sector.

Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to separate seniors from their social security checks with keno and Senate President Emil Jones would shoehorn a casino riverboat into the Buckingham Fountain if he had his way.

Once you look past the cliches, the fancy suits and the innovative hair styles, the Outfit bosses and the politicians are in the same business: wealth extraction from producers.

Libertarians say that democracy is three wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch.

With the Outfit wolves, federal prosecutors eventually step in to stop the slaughter. With politicians, it's up to us sheep.

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