Greising: Believe It or Not, Billionaires Make Illinois Politics Better

Illinois is a case study in why plenty of good can come with the big bucks from billionaires.

Founder and CEO at Citadel LLC Kenneth C. Griffin participate in a discussion at the New York Times 2013 DealBook Conference in New York at the New York Times Building on November 12, 2013 in New York City. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The New York Times)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

Billionaire to billionaire, Neil Bluhm told Sam Zell how it feels: The super wealthy are often the targets of opprobrium these days, and they don’t like it.

“You know, I’m embarrassed if somebody says I’m a billionaire,” Bluhm told Zell at a conference in Chicago. “It’s like I’m a criminal.”

Bluhm may be overstating it, but not by a lot. In politics today, there’s often a default assumption that people with nine zeros to their names are somehow the source of our political, fiscal or social ills. Progressives in Congress have encouraged the notion that billionaires cause harm and new taxes should eat into their fortunes.

Illinois has gotten a taste of the power billionaires can exert on a state’s politics.

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