Bob Evans

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. 

Here's Why We Don't Have Gun Control

Oct 23, 2017

Maybe we need stricter gun control laws; maybe we don't. But the reason we do not have such laws is not because the corrupt gun lobby bribes legislators for their votes. The reason we do not have stricter gun control laws is a particular feature of democratic politics.

Economists and political scientists term this feature of the legislative process, "the special-interest effect." Gun control is a special-interest issue.

Lessons From The Hurricanes

Sep 18, 2017

These destructive hurricanes have taught us, no -- reminded us -- of two fundamental characteristics of life in America.

Government Is Not A Family Business

Aug 14, 2017

Maybe government can be run like a business, but the conclusion emerges that it cannot be run like a family business.

Entrepreneurs like D‎onald Trump run a family business, employing who they want, deciding what they want. They can appear to operate in a kind of vacuum.

Corporate CEOs operate in a context of wider accountability. They answer initially to a board of directors -- and ultimately to shareholders. In contrast to entrepreneurs, CEOs confront more rigid procedures and wider demands for accountability.

We Have Met The Enemy ...

Jul 10, 2017

Hyperpartisanship is an awkward, unpleasant term for an awkward, unpleasant affliction infecting our political system. We are riven by deep and bitter disputes that prevent us from addressing pressing problems.

In both Washington and Springfield, straight party voting is routine. Legislation is rammed through solely with the votes‎ of the majority party, which means that the other party's only interest is to regain power and reverse what was done to them. Compromise is disdained as cowardice and apostasy.

What Is The Lure Of Term Limits?

Jun 5, 2017

Like the proverbial "bad penny," term limits have cropped up in the Illinois budget debate. Despite no evidence of benefit and some evidence of harm, term limits are proposed. Why?

The lure of term limits is seductive. We could end corruption and restore accountability. But states that have adopted term limits have not enjoyed better government. Why should they?

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The partisan divide in Springfield seems wider than ever as Illinoisans brace for the start of another fiscal year without a budget. Lawmakers adjourned Wednesday without a spending plan. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens asked Rockford University Economics and Political Science Professor Bob Evans how we ended up here again.

What's Right For Rockford?

May 1, 2017

Should Rockfordians swap their mayoral form of government for the city manager form?

It depends … It depends on who we are.

If Rockford has a relatively homogeneous population, then perhaps it fits the city manager model. City managers are trained technical and managerial experts. They fit well a city with no major ethnic or socioeconomic divisions.

Why The Health Care Bill Failed

Apr 3, 2017

Instead of the merits of the health care bill that just failed, focus instead on how it failed. The failure reveals a serious affliction that has infected our politics. One word diagnoses the affliction -- hyperpartisanship.

Of course we saw the chronic, corrosive hyperpartisanship between Republicans and Democrats. But more on that later. Surprisingly, on this bill there was crippling hyperpartisanship tearing apart the Republican House majority. On one side was the more moderate "Tuesday Group." On the other was the very conservative "Freedom Caucus."

Examine a map of the Midwest. Color in all the states with a lower unemployment rate than Illinois. Color in all the states with greater job growth, more business expansion, a brighter budget picture, a more stable public pension situation, fewer social services in jeopardy.

What will the map look like? Other Midwestern states will emerge in brighter colors, while Illinois will stand alone, shaded in darker tones of danger and despair. Virtually every economic and social indicator registers more favorably than in Illinois.

The Best Investment For Jobs

Feb 6, 2017

Perhaps it was‎ unreasonable to expect reason and logic to prevail before the election, but now we must insist on making sense.

The loss of manufacturing jobs that hollowed out the working class is not primarily the result of globalization and trade. Manufacturing jobs have indeed been lost, and they will not come back because they cannot come back.

They Should Have Seen This Coming

Jan 9, 2017

According to the old saying, "What goes around, comes around."

Too bad that Harry Reid and the rash, impulsive Senate Democrats of 2013 never learned that lesson. Rejecting persuasion and comity, they rejected the filibuster for all Presidential appointments but the Supreme Court.

Because of Democratic selfish shortsightedness, the bare 52-seat Republican Senate majority can now confirm every Trump ‎nominee so reviled by the now hapless and helpless 48 Democrats.

What Does The Future Hold?

Dec 12, 2016

Among the fundamental questions left unanswered by the election is the nature and future of our political parties.

First, the Republicans. Fissures were widening, but Trump applied a jack hammer to these fault lines by attacking the corporate‎, internationalist, free-trade wing of the party as an arrogant elite to be banished. His personal behavior has alienated many social and religious conservatives. The effort has obviously been interrupted to expand the party's appeal to women and minorities.

Whither Our Political Parties?

Nov 14, 2016

Among the fundamental questions left unanswered by the election is the nature and future of our political parties.

First, the Republicans. Fissures were widening, but Trump applied a jack hammer to these fault lines by attacking the corporate‎, internationalist, free-trade wing of the party as an arrogant elite to be banished.

His personal behavior has alienated many social and religious conservatives. The effort has obviously been interrupted to expand the party's appeal to women and minorities.

Early Voting Raises Some Issues

Oct 17, 2016

Election day approaches.

No, wait. Election days are already here. ‎We are right in the middle of early voting.

In 2012, about a third of the total vote was cast early. Next door in Iowa it was 44%. More early voting is predicted this year. It's convenient, so what's the big deal? Well, it is a big deal, and getting bigger.

Early voting poses both procedural and substantive issues.

Who's Wrong On Trade Issue?

Sep 19, 2016

Trump denounces Clinton as wrong. Clinton denounces Trump as wrong. Unfortunately for us, both are wrong on a vital issue: trade.

Now candor requires the admission that free trade produces dislocation and hardship for some of our fellow citizens. As one economist said, "Everybody gets a discount, but you lose your job." A compassionate ‎people must invest in dislocated fellow workers so that either their jobs are not threatened in the first place, or they can transition to other jobs smoothly.

We Have Nothing To Fear But ...

Aug 29, 2016

Forget Donald Trump. Focus on our fellow citizens, his supporters.

They tend to be white, older, working class, socially and culturally conservative.

They think that economic change has sucked manufacturing jobs out of their communities, shipping them overseas. So they reject globalization and trade deals as sham, benefiting only the bloated‎ profit margins of giant conglomerates.

Poetic License On National Unity

Aug 8, 2016

The poet Yeats warns that, "Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Anarchy is loosed upon the world."

As evidence, consider the following ominous ‎developments:

The 2016 Presidential platforms for both parties are more extreme than in decades. The Presidential campaign already has descended to the level of mudwrestling.

Party-line voting in both houses of Congress is greater than in recent memory. The Senate can pass no measure without at least a 60-vote supermajority to forestall a minority partisan filibuster.

Brexit Holds Lessons For America

Jul 18, 2016

Brexit, of course, is significant for Americans economically. 

But we should focus with a clear and cold eye on its political and cultural meaning, because the political and cultural forces driving Brexit are at work here. We ignored them for too long, and they are already changing our lives.

Here, as in Britain, there is a widening fault line between those who favor globalization, free trade, immigration, and environmentalism, and those who perceive a mortal threat from these forces. 

This Reform Needs Compromise

Jun 27, 2016

Distracted as we are by partisanship, we must not miss a genuine opportunity ‎for compromise and progress in criminal justice policy.

Criminal justice policy -- like many public policies -- seems to be susceptible to the swing of the pendulum. Decades ago we cracked down on crime, adopting "three strikes and you're out" mandatory sentencing, lengthier sentences, more reliance on solitary confinement. More juveniles were tried as adults and subject for some crimes to life imprisonment.

Memories Of Tough Times Get In The Way

Jun 6, 2016

Economists expected a brighter picture by now. ‎According to our theories, the indicators pointed to more growth because consumers should be spending more. Why aren't they?

Consumer spending constitutes 70% of all spending so, if we don't spend, the economy cannot grow. One of the mistakes social scientists make is not to consult other social scientists. So let us consult psychology.

Which Democracy Do You Want?

May 16, 2016

Unresponsive elites. Playing politics with the Supreme Court. Back room deals. The system is rigged! What is happening here?

Well, what may be happening is a political revolution -- a revolution discarding representative democracy in favor of direct, plebiscitary democracy.