Local Commentaries

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

Rich Egger

This past January, Sarah Haynes and I took 9 intrepid WIU students to India for a study abroad course. We spent two weeks living and working at Navdanya, an organic farm that is the headquarters for Vandana Shiva’s national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources through the promotion of organic farming and fair trade.

If there’s anyone as unpopular as the NFL’s replacement referees this fall, it’s Congress.

After all, “action” such as Senate Republicans on Sept. 19 killing the veterans jobs bill –endorsed by the American Legion (and co-written by four GOP Senators who followed orders and voted against it!) – may be one reason, tied to the GOP’s strategy to stall or stop government, apparently hatched in a 2009 meeting.

Some 9 out of 10 Americans disapprove of Congress, according to a new Gallup poll. Before 2007, the disapproval rating topped 80 percent only twice.

One of the most recent groups of U.S. workers to see their jobs outsourced is in Illinois, and they have Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital to blame.

Freeport’s Sensata Technologies – majority-owned by Bain Capital, the private equity firm once headed by Romney – is another example of how venture capital and globalization function for regular Americans.

Illinois’ economy has been affected by the drought and other negatives, plus improved retail sales and home sales, but its overall Rural Mainstreet Index remains below neutral, according to the new assessment of Creighton University’s monthly poll of area business executives.

The state’s Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) fell in August, says the project out of Creighton’s marketing and public relations department at its Omaha campus. It’s the third consecutive month Illinois’ RMI was below growth neutral.

Rich Egger

My cousin Steve died earlier this month. He is the first of the cousins to pass, and although we haven’t seen each other in a really long time, he taught me a valuable lesson as he came to terms with a future we all face. His older brother Keim and I see each other more often, the last time being just a week or so before Steve died. 

This week is the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, and as two new fund-raising CDs get played more and more, it’s increasingly obvious that the 1% have more in common with Saudi potentates than regular Americans. … In some ways, that’s not new.

Big banks, corporations and Wall Street are making record profits, but workers, small businesses and Main Street are suffering. Will voters blame President Obama or the real culprits?

After decades of deregulating and tax-cutting for the wealthiest corporations and the rich (so these ‘job creators” will help the economy, supposedly), results show that the theory of “trickle-down” economics – which claimed that benefits gained by the affluent eventually will drip down to the rest of us – has failed.

Rich Egger

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the University Theme at WIU. By bringing internationally renowned speakers to campus, the University Theme offers students, faculty and community members the opportunity to enjoy candid and personal interactions with world leaders. Discussions that begin with the lectures often continue days and weeks later in residence halls, coffee shops and classrooms.

Most Illinoisans seem torn between anger about state pensioners supposedly getting rich off taxpayers, and concern about state-worker neighbors caught between incompetent lawmakers and greedy credit agencies in cahoots with big banks. The real debate should be one timid types in Springfield (or Washington) avoid: What do citizens want government to do and how will it be funded?

Education doesn’t tell students what to think but how to think. However, too many textbooks and legislators seem to see education as indoctrination, a troubling trend, especially as the nation celebrates Labor Day.

Generally, some textbooks ignore or marginalize labor. Specifically, some lawmakers in states including Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas oppose instruction in critical thinking and impose fanciful notions as fact – if it pleases their extremist base.

All summer, the press has occasionally covered the “LIBOR Scandal,” but many stories have been a lot of “inside-baseball”-style financial confusion. Actually, the situation affects working people much more than has been noted.

There’s more than one drought choking the country. On Capitol Hill, there’s a drought of ideas – and compassion – about farmers, rural America and the needy.

As tempting as it is to blame a U.S. President for insufficient job growth – whether Barack Obama or George W. Bush – jobs come from employers, not politicians. Sure, White House leadership is important, ideas from the executive branch should spur government action to help businesses hire, and a president sets an administration’s tone. But presidents can’t exclusively take the blame – or the credit – for jobs.

As preparations are finalized for the Democratic and GOP National Conventions, some labor unions and their progressive allies have decided to host a rallying event of their own in Philadelphia to “refocus the national political debate on economic opportunity and middle class rights.”

That’s news to too many Americans.

A “Workers Stand for America” rally is scheduled to occur next Saturday, August 11, when working people from all walks of life, union and non-union alike, will come together to have their voices heard during the election campaign.

Illinois’ legislature last session failed to pass a law addressing fracking (hydraulic fracturing), and the result may be less that the state dodged a bullet and more that Illinoisans got a blindfold before the order to fire.

The House’s last-day attempt to impose a two-year moratorium and a tax on fracking scuttled SB3280, which in May sought to create fracking regulations where none exist (the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts it from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other federal environmental regulations). The state Senate unanimously approved the measure in April.

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