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.

Superficial reforms are failing, I reckon.

U.S. employers in March hired at the slowest rate since last June, adding just 88,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls, with steep job cuts in retail and government sectors, including 12,000 at the U.S. Postal Service, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly report released April 5.

Economists had forecast the month’s gain to be about 190,000.


A year ago this week, I’d already partially tore an Achilles tendon playing softball, but this spring has been so wintry my back still aches from shoveling wet snow off the driveway and sidewalk.

So, I’m still coping with the delayed change of seasons by retreating to springs of my youth:

Do 21st century kids still have wonderful crap marketed to them when the weather warms?


Days after April Fools Day, we still look over our shoulders, and one political prank breathing down our necks is the “new” GOP.

President Obama’s 5-million vote victory over Republican Mitt Romney showed the country’s shifting demographics – more voters who are younger, better educated, more likely to be women, and more diverse in religion and race. That supposedly signaled to some GOP leaders that they should be less extremist and more open to the actual makeup of the nation.

A couple of weeks ago a couple of harbingers of Spring came and went, and each acknowledges how we depend on sunshine.

One was Daylight Savings Time, letting us think about spring and more sunlight, and the other was “Sunshine Week,” a time to promote and praise transparency in government: open government.

Effective representative government depends on transparency through open meetings, open records and public notices. If any of those three is absent, government collapses into secrecy and darkness.

Rich Egger

As a history professor, I often look for ways in which the past can inform the present.  One belief that led me to my profession is that history imparts crucial lessons that can help us make sense of events unfolding in the here-and-now.

Most Illinois House members recently backed a measure to limit the salary on which public employees’ retirement benefits could be based. One of a few proposals to address the state’s $96 billion pension shortfall, it was seen as a test vote as lawmakers grapple with some way to make good on years of the legislature failing to make its payments.

Labor income “has been declining as a share of total income earned in the United States for the past three decades,” according to a new analysis on income inequality from an unlikely supporter of economic justice: the Federal Reserve, which adds, “The capital share, by stark contrast, has been increasing.

Even if lawmakers may not always realize the consequences for rural areas if Emergency Medical Services troubles aren’t addressed, operations fold, and rural residents have to rely on help from bigger cities, State Rep. Don Moffitt appreciates how everyday people get it.

Work Remains for the Feminist Revolution

Mar 4, 2013
Rich Egger

“The Feminine Mystique,” by Betty Friedan, was published 50 years ago last month.

Rich Egger

(Editor’s note: due to a technical glitch with this week’s recording, we are presenting an encore presentation of an earlier commentary by Bill Knight)

The recent release of a government report regarding the numbers and percentages of U.S. employees belonging to unions or working where unions represent them made headlines but most newscasts or stories lacked context. It’s an occasion for a statistical “status report.”

The percentage of the U.S. labor force belonging to unions fell 0.5% from 2011 to 2012, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The drop went from 11.8% to 11.3% – from 14.8 million to 14.4 million Americans.

Guns, Words, and Ideas

Feb 18, 2013
Rich Egger

We are engaged in a debate over guns and gun control. Some of the voices that we can hear, are telling us that the government wants to take away all of their guns, while others tell us that they need their guns to protect their families from the eventuality of a government that has gone mad, and wants to take away their freedom. These voices are passionate about their guns and maintaining the right to own and to use them.

On this Valentine’s Day – still celebrated in some churches as a Feast day – it might be instructive, or reflective, to tie romantic love to brotherly love. In public affairs, that’s difficult.

Ninety-two years ago this week, the author of “The Feminine Mystique” and cofounder of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan, was born in Peoria. Decades later, working women are more financially vital than ever to families, but they continue to struggle at inferior wages, and single moms are especially hard hit, according to two recent studies.

U.S. households increasingly depend on wives’ income – at the highest level of reliance in years, according to research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

When the movie “Promised Land” came out this month, one was tempted to repeat the tagline from 1972’s horror flick “The Last House on the Left”: “It’s only a movie... It’s only a movie...”

But … it’s worse. People on both sides of the fracking debate cringe at “Promised Land,” the Matt Damon drama about fracking advocates trying to get a depressed rural area to sign over drilling rights. Fracking supporters say the film’s unfair; fracking opponents say it doesn’t go far enough.