In his commencement address at Virginia Military Institute Wednesday, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned graduates of a "growing crisis of ethics and integrity" in America: "If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom."

In his speech at Rice University last Saturday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed an "epidemic of dishonesty" spreading across the nation: "There is now more tolerance for dishonesty in politics than I have seen in my lifetime."

On May 1, our president reportedly surpassed the 3,000th falsehood of his term in office thus far, fewer than 470 days in at a rate of 6.5 lies per day — though he's picked up the pace over the last couple months — according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker squad.

As Bloomberg put it, "How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie to politicians who cannot tell the truth?" We've fallen a long way in almost 230 years.

Evidently Illinois' governor would not be outdone. Last week Bruce Rauner told something of a whopper at an event in Chicago regarding the status of the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, according to reporting in Springfield's State Journal-Register.

"We tried to get another ... car manufacturer to take over the plant" following the Japanese automaker's departure in 2016, Rauner said. "No one would come in. No one would even take the plant if we gave it to them, because our regulations are so hostile to business and our taxes are so high."

Just one catch, of course: In fact the central Illinois plant was purchased by Rivian Automotive, an electric car manufacturer, early last year. The Rauner administration touted that when it happened. Rivian potentially could receive nearly $50 million in state tax credits, thanks to a deal negotiated by Rauner's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Rauner visited the place a few months later.

To be sure, vehicles aren't rolling off the Rivian assembly line yet. The company employs a fraction of the workers Mitsubishi did in its heyday here. Nonetheless, the governor's information was clearly wrong. It wasn't the first time. He continues to dance around it. When the facts don't fit the narrative — Illinois is broken, only I can fix it, in this case — you make something up.

And why not? If the past few years have proven anything, it's that politicians aren't punished when they fib and fabricate. Their approval ratings may even inch up. The truth has become beside the point, not just for them but for those who seem eager to be misled, almost thrilled when they are.

Bloomberg gave voice to that phenomenon: "The only thing more dangerous than dishonest politicians who have no respect for the law is a chorus of enablers who defend their every lie."

We don't know if the American public has a threshold here, if there comes a point when the last lie becomes one too many. The incumbent Rauner had an uncommonly close call in last March's Republican primary from a virtual unknown statewide who exploited what many conservatives perceived as his dishonesty in signing House Bill 40, which expanded public funding for abortions. Afterward Rauner said, "To those around the state of Illinois who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear. I have heard you." Judging from this last performance, we wonder: Has he? We'll see what November brings.

Once upon a time in this country, honesty was a virtue, and character destiny. This stops when voters stop rewarding it. Meantime, what are we teaching our children?