The Rockford Files

Free Fallin'

Rockford, Illinois,  has lived through more than its share of economic downturns.  The most notable, of course, was during the Reagan Recession, when one in four Rockfordians were unemployed.  The city climbed up out of that trough, only to lose a number of its oldest and largest manufacturers through the frenzied rounds of mergers and acquisitions that marked the Reagan Recovery.

Rockford plodded along a bit unsteadily throughout most of the 1990’s, buffeted somewhat by NAFTA but battered more by the Rockford school-desegregation lawsuit, which placed the city’s public schools under federal control from 1989 until 2002 and raised local property taxes to the highest in the nation for several years running.  But just as we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of judicial tyranny, President Clinton signed into law the repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking regulations, changing the shape of the economic landscape in ways that Rockford and other manufacturing centers felt immediately, but which the rest of the country had to wait almost a decade to experience.  Investment flowed out of factories and equipment and into the newly legitimized financial instruments that inflated the bubble that finally burst in 2007-08.

Many of the columns from the first few years of The Rockford Files, which made its debut in the January 2001 issue, documented the effects of that last downturn, which saw...

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