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National Editorials & Columns

Reeder: Illinois digging in its heel when it comes to leg

SPRINGFIELD – First those Texans took our jobs.

Then they took our money.

Now they want our leg.

Well, to be precise, General Santa Anna’s leg. But a group of Illinois soldiers stole it fair and square – back in 1845.

During the U.S. war with Mexico, Santa Anna skedaddled from the battle on a donkey and left his prosthetic leg behind in a carriage along with a bag of gold and a freshly cooked chicken.

A group of Illinois soldiers ate the chicken, gave the Army the gold and kept the leg.

One of the soldiers traveled about Illinois charging 10 cents for a peek at the appendage.

Ah, those were the days, when entrepreneurship reigned supreme in the Prairie State.

But today, we are hobbled by high taxes, crippled by debt and staggered with high unemployment.

Texas, on the other hand, has pulled itself up by the bootstrap.

The Lone Star State has no income tax. Its unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. And the state is running a surplus.

And they have accomplished much of this at the expense of Illinois.

Between 1995 and 2010, $2 billion in personal income shifted from the Land of Lincoln to the Lone Star State, according to “How Money Walks” by Travis Brown.

In fact, National Review noted earlier this year that a greater percentage of people were moving out of Illinois than any other state but Rhode Island.

By contrast, Texas’ population grew 5.2 percent between 2010 and 2013 – a higher percentage than anywhere but tiny North Dakota and Washington, D.C.

But, cheer up, folks. We’ve still got the leg.

And Texas wants it. 

The leg is on display at the Illinois State Military Museum.

Back in April, folks at the San Jacinto Historical Museum in Texas started a White House petition drive to have the leg returned to Texas.

But Illinois is digging in its heel and not letting go.

After all, this isn’t the first time some foreign power has sought our leg.

Back during World War II, Democrats wanted to give the leg to Mexico as a gesture of good will, but Republicans gave that idea the boot, saying their opponents “didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Santa Anna isn’t particularly liked on either side of the border. Texans view him as the villain who led the slaughter at the Alamo. Mexicans view him as the leader who lost much of their country’s territory to the United States.

Despite this antipathy, he hasn’t been relegated to a historical footnote.

Throughout his time in Mexican politics, Santa Anna managed to overthrow the Mexican government, be exiled from his country and lead Mexico into a fiscal crisis 11 times.

And you thought Rod Blagojevich was bad.

But Santa Anna was worse – and I’m not pulling your leg.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a  journalist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

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