09/17/2013 01:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Much Chicago Food Can Chicago Corruption Buy?


Dick Simpson is a long-time professor of political science at University of Illinois-Chicago. He also is a former alderman, whose career included significant contributions standing up to City Hall and against corruption in the city.

In recent years, he and some colleagues have estimated the cost of corruption in Chicago at roughly $500 million a year.  (See this report, "Leading the Pack").

What will $500 million buy you, in terms of orders of some great Chicago foods?  Roughly speaking, based on recent prices, hope you enjoy this lifetime of eating:

Chicago Cut Steakhouse – Strip Steak, 10 million

Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish – Chicago Classic, 25 million

Ronny’s Steakhouse – Bucket of Rib Tips, 25 million

Twin Anchors – Half Slab of Ribs, 30 million

Harold’s Chicken Shack – 8 Piece Bucket, 40 million

DMK Burger Bar – Patty Melt, 55 million

Uncle John’s BBQ – Hot Links, 63 million

Wrigley Field – Cup of Old Style, 65 million

Star of Siam – Pad Thai, 70 million

Three Happiness – Sweet and Sour Pork, 70 million

Nuevo Leon – Chilaquiles, 80 million

Greek Islands – Flaming Saganaki, 85 million

Viceroy of India – Mattar Paneer, 90 million

Billy Goat -- Double Cheeseburger, 110 million

Hot Doug’s – Chicago Style Hot Dog, 250 million

In other words, $500 million will get you 85 million orders of flaming saganaki at Greek Islands.  That’s a lot of OPAs!  Hope the city of Chicago doesn’t end up like the cheese in this video.  (Looks like the OPA tradition may have been born at The Parthenon, a neighbor of Greek Islands).

Down the road, more seriously, maybe we should convince the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois to annually estimate the cost of corruption along the lines of the methods of Simpson and his colleagues, and include those costs in the annual income statements or footnotes.

For more on Illinois' budgeting and financial policy, visit Truth in Accounting. To make your own charts based on state financial figures, visit State Data Lab.