Here’s a telling indicator of just how bad Illinois’ financial situation is: the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries have kicked Illinois out of the games because the state legislature has been unable to agree on a balanced budget.
You read that right. The Land of Lincoln is such a financial basket case that even the big lotteries won’t have anything to do with the state. Apparently the lotteries have been talking about pulling the plug on Illinois for years, and they’ve finally decided to do it.
It’s a significant step on the lotteries’ part, because Illinois reported $99.4 million in Mega Millions sales and $208 million in Powerball sales within the 2016 budget year. And the loss of the lotteries will be an issue for Illinois from a budget standpoint, too, because 40 percent of the sales revenue goes to fund public schools — and how is the cash-strapped state going to make up the difference?
A spokesman for the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the games, said the group “is focused on protecting the integrity of its games and the experience of its players.”
What does that mean, exactly? It’s kind of weird for the lotteries, which make their money solely by selling tickets to credulous rubes who don’t know or don’t care that the odds of winning are astronomical, to be talking about the “integrity” of their games. Are they saying they’re afraid that Illinois, in its desperate search for cash, might try to tinker with the games to jury-rig the results, or seize the proceeds if the winner happens to live in Illinois, or decline to hand over the sales revenues?
It’s not entirely clear, but we do know this: You know you’re really in deep doo-doo when gamblers think you’re too tainted to deal with. Even the gamblers aren’t willing to gamble on dealing with Illinois.
Yesterday members of the Republican congressional baseball team met early in the morning for a practice session in advance of an upcoming game against a team of Democrats. The annual game, which gets played in the stadium where the Nationals play and typically produces lots of money for charity, is one of the handful of remaining vestiges of civility and across-the-aisle cooperation that can still be found in our increasingly polarized national politics.
But the world being what it is these days, even an early-morning baseball practice is no longer safe. A heavily armed gunman, who has been identified as James Hodgkinson, showed up and began firing — apparently with the intention of killing Republicans. He shot Congressman Steve Scalise, who remains in critical condition, and others as well before engaging in a firefight with authorities and sustaining fatal injuries. In view of the fact that the gunman got off dozens of rounds, and the players practicing on the field were described as “sitting ducks,” it’s almost miraculous that more people weren’t killed or seriously injured. Those who were present say that the heroism and prompt actions of police saved many lives.
The shooter is described as a Bernie Sanders supporter who hated Republicans — but in reality you could just call him a nut, based on what he’s written and posted to social media. Senator Sanders immediately disavowed what the shooter did, because of course Sanders’ political positions don’t call for his supporters to engage in murderous violence. And yet there are people out there on the fringes, at both ends of the political spectrum, who can’t simply content themselves with political opposition and have to take the next step, and the next, first into more vitriolic speech and imagery and ultimately into some kind of twisted mindset where going to a baseball practice and shooting whoever is out of the field seems like the right thing to do.
There have always been nuts out there. What’s discouraging about the modern world is that there seem to be more of them ready to act out their disturbed impulses, heedless of who might get hurt. And now we’ve reached the point where even a simple baseball practice isn’t safe.
The baseball game is going to be played, by the way. That’s a good thing, I think, but it’s the only good thing about this whole ugly episode. And you inevitably wonder: how many more nuts are lurking out there, thinking the answer to what troubles them is a lot of indiscriminate killing?