Bob Evans

Perspective: Election Eve

Nov 2, 2020

Tomorrow we will conclude the most consequential election in many decades. It is in fact so consequential that many partisans on both sides cannot imagine life if the other side wins. That, we shall see, is part of the problem.

But there are actually two outcomes that are even more consequential than who wins tomorrow.


Even though we face an impending election it is easier to recount what Congress has not done than what it has done. It has not renewed a single pandemic relief bill that it allowed to expire. Instead, members went home for August.

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Two emergency economic relief measures are expiring, even while the emergency itself still threatens to overwhelm us.

One measure offered enhanced unemployment compensation benefits. The other subsidized employers to retain employees. Both measures mitigated the effects of a collapsing economy.

Perspective: Forewarned Is Forearmed

Jul 20, 2020
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"Forewarned is forearmed." State government budgets will suffer severe strain, on both the revenue and expenditure sides of the ledger. A crisis looms.

First, revenue. State governments rely heavily on income and sales taxes. Crushing unemployment and "lockdowns" have crippled both. Unprecedented levels of unemployment combined with unprecedented declines in consumer spending will impose unprecedented contraction of government revenues.

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The current crisis concerning policing is so multifaceted that it threatens to overwhelm and immobilize us. What are the root causes? In what order do we address them?

But this is no time for collective handwringing or causal inertia, no time for doing nothing until we can do everything.

A small piece of our problem is the legal concept of "qualified immunity." We can address it now. It is a start. Let us begin.

Perspective: The Election That Looms

May 11, 2020
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Spoiler alert! No solutions are offered in what follows. Only problems are identified.

A national election looms. Elections require candidates, campaigns, and votes. All are now threatened by grave problems. What are these problems?

First, candidates. Primaries remain; remember Wisconsin? Conventions remain; they nominee candidates and construct platforms. Yes cynics, platforms do matter. Mainly Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominations matter. How do we perform these essential democratic functions virtually? Is there an alternative?

Perspective: Be The Nation Worth This Struggle

Apr 6, 2020
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It is always important to use words precisely, but never more than now. One hears terms such as social distance, self-isolation, just plain isolation, communication, and loneliness. It is imperative to use such terms precisely.

Yes, we must maintain social distance for now. Some of us must self-quarantine. But still there must be communication. Public officials must communicate with us. Businesses must communicate. Absolutely, we must continue to communicate with each other.

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A vital key to Democratic Party success requires genuine and painful introspection. The party alienated a core constituency that must be welcomed back home.

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International events this year will be shaped by nationalism; policies will pursue primarily narrow self interest.

Nationalism substitutes protectionism for globalization and free trade. It explains both Brexit and Boris Johnson. It rejects Obama's multilateralism for Trump's "America First." It drove the global shift from pro to anti immigration policies. It explains at least some of the assertive, even aggressive, foreign policies that have caused such seismic shocks.

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Apparently, any family that survived Thanksgiving intact should be thankful indeed. Media warnings abounded that impeachment disputes threatened family tranquility. One newspaper even urged that political debate be banned except in certain specially equipped "tranquility rooms." Now, ominously, we are careening toward another family holiday with the same grave danger looming. What is going on here? 


Perspective: Veteran's Day

Nov 11, 2019
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Today is Veterans Day, one of two national holidays devoted to honoring our armed services. On Memorial Day, we remember those who gave what Lincoln termed "the last full measure of devotion." Today we pause as a nation to say, "Thank you for your service." 


Perspective: Hyperpartisanship Is Killing Us

Oct 7, 2019
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We have warned previously of the danger of hyperpartisanship. The parties are widely and bitterly divided, resembling enraged partisans standing on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon mindlessly hurling imprecations at each other. Now conditions have deteriorated even further.

Perspective: What Is 'Work' In America Today?

Sep 2, 2019
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Today is Labor Day. As we pause from work, we should pause to examine the troubling conditions of work in America today. 

Perspective: Involvement, Not Isolation

Jul 29, 2019
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Politicians fixate on domestic issues, and thus do us a disservice. Urgent as these issues are, we also face urgent international problems. In order to preserve domestic tranquility, we must meet these challenges.

Perspective: Memorial Day

May 20, 2019

Memorial Day approaches, an almost unique holiday for us. We do not celebrate with joy; rather, we honor fallen soldiers with wistful sadness in our hearts. Part of that sadness stems from the fact that so many of us know, or knew, some of those we honor.

We honor those brave men and women who gave what Lincoln termed "the last full measure of devotion." We honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country -- or rather, for us. Given what they did‎, mere words seem inadequate.

Perspective: Policy Makers, Not Provocateurs

Apr 15, 2019

Hyperpartisanship, thy name is immigration.

Republicans stress security and citizenship. They charge Democrats with endangering the culture in a callous attempt to harvest votes.

Democrats stress diversity and offer a haven for refugees. They charge Republicans with cultural closedmindedness. Republicans are crabbed nationalists at best, racists at worst.

This is not debate. It is demonization. Partisans stand on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon, mindlessly hurling imprecations at each other. We must bridge this abyss.

Perspective: National Emergency?

Mar 11, 2019
© Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The president's national emergency declaration is of dubious legality.  As a policy, it is worse than dubious.

First, the law. Although the president is commander-in-chief, the problem of border security is primarily a law enforcement problem, not a military problem. It is to be managed through civilian processes.  Trump notes correctly that there are national emergency laws, but we must note that none has ever been used as is proposed by him. There is a justly famous Supreme Court precedent against what the president proposes. The law does not appear to be on his side.


The shutdown was never about a budget, nor was it really about a wall. The wall represents immigration. Immigration, in turn, represents a toxic panoply of issues facing us, and dividing the parties. The divisions are so wide and deep as to induce despair over reconciliation. 



A pending criminal justice bill offers Congress a rare opportunity for bipartisanship instead of the usual toxic hyperpartisanship. Importantly, passage would acknowledge that our tough-on-crime policies of the past generated unanticipated and unfortunate‎ consequences. 



Why You Should Care About The Tariff Debate

Oct 15, 2018

From the confusing debate over tariffs and‎ trade policy, four distinct, and distinctly different, conclusions emerge.

First, China may present a special case. Employing a toxic mix of currency manipulation, wholesale appropriation of intellectual property, and high tariffs, the Chinese government appears to be constructing a mercantilist wall of protection economists call "beggar thy neighbor".

Aretha: The Pioneer

Sep 10, 2018

Of course Aretha ‎Franklin deserves the title "Queen of Soul." She was the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She won numerous Grammys. She topped the charts spanning multiple generations. But these well-deserved honors understate her depth as an artist, and they fail to recognize the political and social importance of her career.

Fi‎rst, her artistry. On several occasions she performed opera to standing ovations. Opera singers generally cannot cross over to pop music, but this great artist crossed over beautifully in the opposite direction.

Gerrymandering Ourselves

Aug 6, 2018

Recently the Supreme Court reviewed without rejecting the partisan practice of redistricting -- "Gerrymandering." Critics charged the Court with ignoring a national outrage. This criticism is both dangerous and misguided. 

The Declaration That Still Binds Us

Jul 2, 2018

Independence Day approaches. We will celebrate not only our birth as a sovereign nation; we will renew also our commitment to the great social contract proclaimed in the Declaration. We define ourselves by our belief in equality, and our mutual pledge to respect the right to life, to liberty, and to pursue our own happiness.

A Unique Day Of Honor

May 28, 2018

Today is Memorial Day, an almost unique holiday for us. We do not celebrate with joy; rather, we honor fallen soldiers with wistful sadness in our hearts. Part of that sadness stems from the fact that so many of us know, or knew, some of those we honor.

We honor those brave men and women who gave what Lincoln termed "the last full measure of devotion." We honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country -- or rather, for us. Given what they did‎, mere words seem inadequate.

Why Did Home Rule Issue Fail?

Apr 16, 2018

Rockfordians recently rejected Home Rule for two distinct, yet related, reasons.

First, there was a lack of trust. A "yes" vote required a profession of faith that officials would not misuse or exceed the authority granted. That faith, evidently, did not exist.

This should not have been surprising. Almost all regional referenda failed‎. Citizens voted instead to consolidate government offices and restrain taxes. This, in turn, should not have been surprising.

Where Did Conservatives Go?

Mar 12, 2018

Americans are inundated by news stories that exhaust and exasperate us, but we should not overlook a truly significant event. While we were distracted, the Republican Party either lost or sold its soul.

In two votes, Republicans abandoned their identity as the party of limited government, balanced budgets, and reducing the debt. In short order, the party legislated a tax cut and a spending bill that may have merit but surely will balloon the deficit and the debt.

An Important Aspect Of Home Rule

Feb 5, 2018

Rockford voters face an impending referendum on home rule on March 20. The‎ city had home rule, but then repudiated it in a previous referendum in 1983. Constitution

Article VII, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution permits home rule jurisdictions to exercise "any power not prohibited by the state constitution." Non-home rule jurisdictions exercise sharply limited powers and require permission from Springfield to do other things.

Decisions Must Be Made

Jan 1, 2018

For Americans a critical -- likely irreversible -- decision looms: What should be our role internationally? Certainly not the world's policeman, but should we disengage and retreat from leadership? The question deserves debate, but the danger is that the decision will be rendered moot.

Both our diplomatic and military effectiveness are being degraded. Experts distinguish between "soft" and "hard" power. With only some exaggeration, we can say that the threat for us is no power.

In Defense Of The Two-Party System

Nov 27, 2017

 Even though this may be the most inopportune moment imaginable, the assertion must still be made. Democracy absolutely requires political parties in order to succeed. We ignore their virtues at our peril.