Rhode Island

July 7, 2011

Voter ID Surprise

Could be I'm too cynical, but I can't help but wonder about the catch to just-passed voter-ID legislation in RI.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:41 AM

June 22, 2011

Looking for the Cuts

The media's proclaiming legislative cuts to public spending, but what exactly they're cutting is another question.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:26 AM

June 18, 2011

Another Rabbit Hat Budget

The government of Rhode Island looks likely to continue the state's slow budgetary doom rather than upset any powerful constituencies.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:15 AM

June 15, 2011

A Glimpse Behind the Union Curtain

Ed Achorn continues to chip away at the Stephen Iannazzi story.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:28 AM

June 9, 2011

More Commentary on Stephen Iannazzi

A handful of additional elected representatives have responded to my inquiry about labor nepotism in the State House.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:31 AM

Both Sides of the Labor Mouth

RI labor leaders are now blaming elected officials for irresponsibly giving in to union demands over the years.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:29 AM

June 3, 2011

Nobody on the People's Side

With the combined influence of the General Assembly and Governor Chafee, Rhode Islanders should be very afraid.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

May 31, 2011

First Responses to DiPalma Inquiry

Town Councilors opinions have begun to trickle in regarding RI Sen. DiPalma's support for union-related nepotism in the State House.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:47 AM

May 27, 2011

Body of Proof That Tax Increases Aren't the Way to Go

It looks like RI Gov. Chafee's talk of increasing revenue, rather than decreasing spending, may already be having the effect of easing the way for economic producers to leave the state.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:28 AM

May 26, 2011

Endorsements and Blame

Marc Comtois called in to Matt Allen, last night, to talk about misdirected endorsements and pension-problem nonblame.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:15 AM

May 25, 2011

A Comedy of Endorsement

Looking back at the Projo's endorsement of Congressman David Cicilline (D, RI) yields more than just a laugh.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:17 AM

May 24, 2011

Behind the Unemployment Headline

Rhode Island's unemployment rate is falling, but it's mainly because people are giving up.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

A Debt You Can Leave Behind

Rhode Islanders can leave behind their government's pension and retirement-benefit debt simply by leaving.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:28 AM

May 12, 2011

Little State, Big Problem

Chew on this: Rhode Island's unfunded pension liability is 100 times that of New York state.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:23 AM

May 11, 2011

Four New Faces... Same Old Media

Reviewing some new legislators, the Projo shows its same old bias and misses the real story.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:26 AM

May 10, 2011

Still Underpreparing for Pensions

An adjustment to actuarial assumptions is about to rock Rhode Island's governments, but it doesn't look dramatic enough.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:30 AM

May 6, 2011

Sleepy Public Construction Methods

Tim White catches a sleepy DOT employee, and I wonder whether he's just mimicking the work pace of public construction projects.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

May 5, 2011

The 25-Year-Old Keeping the Senate Together

RI's Senate majority leader is going to bat for one of his highly paid employees; we'll see if he cools the heat or stokes the flames.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

May 4, 2011

Comparative Budgets

A tax increase being touted as major "pain sharing" in Providence would actually be pretty low by Tiverton standards.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:19 PM

May 3, 2011

The Advantaged Class at the Town Level, Too

More tales of young public-sector retirees who go on to second careers on the public dime.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:28 AM

April 30, 2011

Where Rhode Island's Tax Dollars Go

A 48-year-old weight lifter on a $45,600 tax-free disability pension from the Providence fire department. Now, that's public service.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:28 AM

April 28, 2011

A Rhode Island Story

Ed Achorn has (almost literally) found a poster child for Rhode Island political corruption.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 27, 2011

The Young and Unemployed

Rhode Island has to change its priorities or it has no future, as departing, young, educated adults illustrate.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:32 AM

April 26, 2011

An Illustration of RI's Advantaged Class in Cranston

It appears that the job of police chief in Cranston, RI, is mainly a catapult for a higher pension.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:15 AM

April 25, 2011

Vlog #11: A Speechification Coach for the Governor

Governor Chafee's speaking style reminds me of something from my childhood...

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:03 AM

April 21, 2011

Chafee Wants to Bite Charities and the American Flag

The governor's list of items to tax at 1% gives the impression that it was meant to scare and then be removed to provide cover for the rest of his tax increase.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 15, 2011

Local Governments Founded in Deception

It turns out that actually paying for their pension promises might be a fatal wound to local governments.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:07 AM

April 14, 2011

The Consistent(ly bad) Governor

RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee's much declared desire to engage in open discussion is a fraud.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

The Two Languages of Rhode Island

Anchor Rising's Monique Chartier and WPRO's Matt Allen discussed the bizarre disconnect between Governor Chafee and Rhode Island's private sector.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 13, 2011

Bewildered Leaders and a Bewitched Population

Voters could force a change in RI corruption... but they won't.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:29 AM

April 6, 2011

The Crapola of Simple Math

RI Moderate Party candidate for governor, Ken Block, denies responsibility for the election of RI's fatal chief executive. I say "pshaw."

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:38 AM

April 5, 2011

Finding a Way to Build the Tax Wall

Government leaders would prefer to tighten their noose around online retailers, rather than find ways to make it easier for store-front companies to compete.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Block Edges Toward the Border

The spoiler candidate in RI's last gubernatorial election doesn't like the government he helped to elect.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:10 AM

April 4, 2011

Pensions from the Top

RI's system of awarding pensions is built to encourage corruption.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:00 PM

March 31, 2011

Politics on Voter-ID

Watching the legislative process can be a matter of "trace the political games."

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 30, 2011

Where's the Money Supposed to Come From?

Tiverton's added a per-bag fee to the existing trash-collection tax bill. Where's the money supposed to come from?

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 AM

March 29, 2011

The Sign of Leadership

"Held for further study" would be an apt description of Rhode Island in general.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 AM

March 22, 2011

At Least It's Being Considered

Legislation limiting labor has no chance, in RI, but at least it's on the table.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 21, 2011

Watching the Wheels Go Fruitlessly Around

Is there any hope for Rhode Island's economy?

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:18 AM

March 18, 2011

Covering Criticism of the Governor

PolitiFact finds RI Gov. Linc Chafee to be keeping promises that he looks to me to have broken.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Everybody's Representative?

Local Rep. John Edwards (D, Portsmouth, Tiverton) gives reason to wonder whether his representation extends far beyond the Democrat Town Committee.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:13 AM

March 17, 2011

The Governor's Faith That You Don't Matter

Gov. Chafee apparently didn't attempt to predict the effect that his tax policies would have on the behaviors that he proposes to tax.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 16, 2011

A Lesson for the Town's Educators (and Parents)

If Little Compton parents don't want Tiverton High School's offerings, why should Tiverton parents?

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

March 15, 2011

The Tax List

RI Gov. Chafee wants to tax some curious things.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 14, 2011

The Biggest Tax Increase... and on Whom?

Governor Chafee has found a way to make a tax increase on the working and lower-middle classes seem like a tax reduction.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:15 AM

March 10, 2011

Deficit Hawk... Not So Much

Is RI Governor Lincoln Chafee a deficit hawk? Not really.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 9, 2011

Re: Budget Thoughts

We're having an intraconservative debate about RI Gov. Chafee's budget.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Searching for Justice in Rhode Island

A just system would not lead innocent victims feeling as if street justice is the only route for the murderer of a child.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

March 7, 2011

Playing the System for Profit

A former part-time legislator gets a high-paying job in a friendly administration, and voila! A lucrative pension for the rest of his life.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

A Fantasy Compromise

Can Rhode Island transition from compulsory union membership to a mere right-to-work regime?

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

The Line of Awareness Crossed Too Late?

The commentariate class of RI is uniting in concern about the state of the state. About time.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:27 AM

March 4, 2011

An Audit of Popularity

Everybody, right down to the media and electorate, is responsible for covering David Cicilline, and they'll do it again, when the time comes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

The Union Rhetoric and Financial Reality

Teacher union rhetoric reminds one of the gulf that separates their lives from those of the general public.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:23 AM

March 3, 2011

The Shape of the Governor's Solutions

RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee is a representative for those who've like a lack of real solutions to the state's problems.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

March 1, 2011

Proving the Unprovable in SLAPP Response

A judge has determined that TCC David Nelson must prove the unprovable.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:20 AM

February 22, 2011

Free Care and Process

'Round and 'round the free healthcare of RI legislators goes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

February 19, 2011

When the Numbers No Longer Add Up

State and local governments can no longer afford to pay such large portions of their taxes out to employees who no longer work for them.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:12 PM

February 5, 2011

The Health of the Legislature

A field of legislators who can afford to forgo official benefits is not necessarily desirable.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:00 PM

February 3, 2011

How a Bill Gets a Hearing

Andrew Morse explained to Matt Allen how legislators can make sure their bills actually get a committee discussion.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:02 AM

February 1, 2011

What Should Be and What Will

One would think that economic signs would turn public official around, but they won't.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

January 30, 2011

Two Post Facto Responses on Felner's Behalf

Objections to tax migration data aren't as incisive as they may appear on a round table.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:51 PM

January 27, 2011

One Anecdote of Many

It cannot be denied that some folks' anecdotal evidence shows taxpayer flight.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

January 22, 2011

Remembering the Well Put Phrase

In the short-term, RI's problem comes down to getting the wrong people to do the right thing.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:00 PM

January 21, 2011

Some Hot Air in the Green Economy

At least in Portsmouth, "green technology" is another way to shift money from the private economy to government.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

The Knowledge Economy Does Not Offset a Bad Economy

Rhode Island does OK in terms of the "knowledge economy" or the "new economy," but it's a relatively dark spot in Southern New England, and it relies too heavily on confiscated dollars.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:23 AM

January 20, 2011

So What's the Answer?

Today, I wrap up my analysis of taxpayer and population trends in Rhode Island.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:08 AM

January 19, 2011

Up and Out, or Just Out?

And now the question of who, specifically, is leaving Rhode Island.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:33 AM

January 18, 2011

Giving Away the Store, or Maintaining a Base?

Today, I look at state taxes paid and taxpayer migration.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:41 AM

January 17, 2011

Trends of the Decade

The first of a series of posts examining taxpayer migration trends in RI is up.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:36 AM

January 16, 2011

Stuck in the Comic Book

People who move to Rhode Island from elsewhere seem to agree that Rhode Islanders have a habit of getting in their own way.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:03 AM

January 15, 2011

Power to the Leadership

RI Rep. Peter Palumbo (D, Cranston) inexplicably wants to give House leaders more power over their fellow legislators.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

January 14, 2011

What's Hiding Behind Chafee's Divisive Rhetoric?

Gov. Chafee's sustained attack on talk radio makes me wonder what he's trying to distract us from.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:42 AM

January 13, 2011

Party Games in "Non-Partisan" Tiverton

Tiverton's lone Republican representative in the State House has been having trouble getting invited to meetings of the town government.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

January 12, 2011

Rhode Island, by Example

The coming collapse of Rhode Island further illustrates the need to start local.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

January 11, 2011

A Governor for Bringing Everybody Together... Unless You Listen to Talk Radio

Rhode Island's governor has locked out an entire form of information media either because he's scared or because he's ideological closed.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:20 PM

Sadly, the Propagandist Can't Be Ignored

Local news media continue to mistake a local union hack for a legitimate disputant in public debate... and risk their credibility.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:44 AM

January 10, 2011

State Reps in Town

I'm liveblogging tonight's Tiverton Town Council, beginning with an appearance by three of our four state representation.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:41 PM

January 6, 2011

Fear of the Unknown (But Suspected)

I fear that Governor Lincoln Chafee has had no panic about the authority now vested in him.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

January 5, 2011

Deflate the Bubble — There's Only One Way

It would be healthy for the municipal bond market to shrink.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

January 4, 2011

Letting the Scam's Legislative Architect Run the Budget

A key player in the RI tax "reform" that made tax code worse is moving on to control of the state's budget.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

January 1, 2011

From Blogger to Power Broker (Of Sorts)

RI Future blog founder Matt Jerzyk is now a full-fledged member of the Providence political machine.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:22 PM

We've Already Maxed Out the Beauty Quotient

Yes, having an attractive state is important, but Rhode Island's already cashed in its advantages.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:54 AM

December 30, 2010

Dealing with the Second Primary

Runoff elections would be a healthy introduction to Rhode Island politics.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

December 29, 2010

Common Sense Locked Out

State representatives are already talking about legislative action on immigration to counter gubernatorial action, but prospects are surely dim.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

December 28, 2010

Trainor's Had That First Bitter Taste

One can't fault Michael Trainor's reconsideration of his assumed elevation to spokesman for Gov. Linc Chafee. It's going to be a tough job.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Can Rhode Island Be the Exception to Foolish Consistency?

Rhode Island's problem isn't that its people don't like education and white-collar jobs; it's that they tolerate high taxes and regulation.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:35 AM

December 27, 2010

A Due Respect for Political Patronage Job Holders

In RI, magistrates are not judges, but political patronage job holders. They're also locking up kids for minor disrespect.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:18 AM

December 22, 2010

Watching the Slow-Motion Crash of the Regionalization Train

The warning signs along the path toward centralization are many.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Call in the Gov

The teachers' union in Central Falls has asked for Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's help. One expects them to get it.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:58 AM

December 21, 2010

Setting Up the Failure

Chronic absences of teachers are suggestive of a union plot to undermine reform.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

December 20, 2010

A Snicker from "the Differences"

When Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee says he wishes to "set aside differences," just whom does he mean?

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Two Senators and a Rep (with Correction)

I've corrected some misreporting of something that state Rep. Jay Edwards (D, Tiverton) said and provided video of his (and others') appearance before the Tiverton School Committee.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Toward Fighting the Usual, Expected Interpretation

Affordable housing advocates, in RI, are making the usual arguments based on their unexplored research, and Anchor Rising isn't currently in a position to counter them.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:46 AM

December 17, 2010

Down Again

Rhode Island's unemployment is up, which might be good if signs didn't indicate a potential for a double-dip recession.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:23 AM

December 16, 2010

Gathering in the Salon

Folks with right-of-center beliefs needn't apply for time with RI Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee, but the powerful will find his home open for social gatherings.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

December 14, 2010

Whose Taxes Will Change How

Rhode Islanders are about to see the amount that they actually take home in their paychecks change, and if you're economically productive, it's probably going to decrease.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Defining the Terms of Economic Development

Everybody supports economic development; whether they support the changes that would improve the economic condition of the town or region is another matter.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:31 AM

December 13, 2010

The Not-So-Approachable Governor

Not yet in office, Rhode Island Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee has already heard from all of the supporters of immigration law enforcement that he cares to entertain.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

December 9, 2010

Doreen Debuts as Representative Costa

Newly elected state representative Doreen Costa addressed the RI Tea Party last night.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:31 AM

December 8, 2010

Update on the General Assembly's Staff Budget

Much of the Rhode Island General Assembly's increased staff budget can apparently be explained by a required redistricting expense.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

December 7, 2010

Keep an Eye on This, Rhode Island

Reliance on debt to pay for essentials (because the money's been spent on other things) is catching up with Rhode Island.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

December 6, 2010

An Indication of the View from the Top

RI House Speaker Gordon Fox (D, RI) appears to have taken the latest election as a giant green light.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

December 3, 2010

When Marketing Isn't a High Priority

Rhode Island doesn't spend as much public money marketing itself as a tourist destination as it should; those who would use that money well should argue that their cause is a better investment than others to which our tax dollars go.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

November 30, 2010

Getting to Budget Cuts

When it's time to make noises about cutting government budgets, bureaucrats threaten the worst and attempt to scam the public in other ways.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Can the Opposition Machine Work?

Rhode Island's center-right opposition "coalition" remains divided.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:16 AM

November 29, 2010

A Right-Reform Fly on the Wall

Another reason to support Anchor Rising: We have a habit of being there to record and report on events inconvenient to the establishment.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

November 26, 2010

East Providence as Emblem of Rhode Island

Projo columnist Ed Achorn is discouraged by the power of special interests; I think the the good-government side can compete with fewer resources... but it needs something.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:11 AM

November 24, 2010

Golden Geese, Living and Dead

People rightly bristle at the suggestion that Providence's nonprofits should be taxed in some way; would that they applied the same principles to the rest of the Rhode Island economy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:45 AM

November 20, 2010

The Question Is: Privacy for Whom?

Rhode Island allows government officials more privacy than the average state. Like our vaunted quality of life, it depends on who you are and who you know.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:55 PM

November 18, 2010

Foretelling the Future in Cranston

Steven Frias explains the method by which union dominance originated in Cranston. The parallels are frightening.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:43 AM

November 17, 2010

What Chafee Means by "Harmful"

RI Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee is wrong to suggest that property taxes are always more economically damaging than sales taxes, but I suspect he's making the intellectual leap from "regressive" to "harmful."

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:07 AM

November 16, 2010

The Mandate to Be Divisive

Governor-to-be Linc Chafee won the office with the smallest majority ever, in the state, and his base has a narrow and destructive list of goals.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

Balance Is Unexpected for a Reason

Something's telling me that there's more to Rhode Island's surprise surplus than meets the eye. Oh, to have the time to investigate!

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

November 15, 2010

A Sign of Things to Come

RI's Dept. of Transportation is hitting local businesses with a hefty fee for on-highway signage. It's an indication of what all Rhode Islanders should expect for their own lives in coming months and years.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:02 AM

November 13, 2010

Mo' Money by Default

Automatic raises for elected offices are defensible, but Rhode Island's General Assembly should have held them off, this time around.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:30 PM

An Administration in Review

As he closes out his time as governor and we look back at his record, I think we'll find that we're going to miss Don Carcieri.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:49 PM

November 12, 2010

A Voice on the Other Side of the Wall

A commenter who has moved out of state has written in to urge others to follow. I think he's off base in a couple of respects.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

November 11, 2010

A Town Story Being Missed at the State Level

It's odd that my local taxpayer group's achieving a majority on the Town Council has not been picked up as news statewide.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

From Receiver to Totalitarian

The state's ability to appoint municipal receiver/dictators is taking on new, dark implications, even as a more worrying governor takes office to appoint them.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:56 AM

November 10, 2010

The Transition to Reinvigorated Decline

Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee isn't being shy about letting Rhode Islanders know what they're in for.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:40 AM

November 8, 2010

With the Journal's Hot Air in His Sails

Headlines notwithstanding, Republican Congressional Candidate John Loughlin came much closer to winning his district 1 race in Rhode Island than he should have, given disadvantages, and he should stay in the game for the next cycle.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

November 6, 2010

A Sense of Doom in Rhode Island

Doubt not that Rhode Island's new governor and the leaders of the legislature are going to work together very well, indeed — much better than is good for the health of the state.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:20 AM

November 4, 2010

Don't Leave; Fight

I'm actually not discouraged by the election results.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

A Journal of the Downfall

Andrew Morse and Matt Allen agree that Rhode Island is in for a world of hurt.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:55 AM

November 3, 2010

Some Mustard for Ian's Baloney

Rhode Island's electoral outcomes were not evidence that Republicans should be "moderate".

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:06 PM

November 2, 2010

To Be Reenfranchised

A write-in candidate for Rhode Island's lieutenant governor race offers the opportunity for Republicans to vote for an actual Republican.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:13 AM

October 29, 2010

Shoving Back

President Obama received big bucks for his visit to Rhode Island, and the national media received a big controversy, but ordinary Rhode Islanders received the shaft.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

October 27, 2010

Bob Goes to the Statehouse

I'm leaning toward the independent-times-two candidate for RI lieutenant governor, Bob Venturini.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

October 26, 2010

King on Pensions

Consolidating Rhode Island's pension system will only consolidate municipal unions' incentive to manipulate the General Assembly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:51 PM

October 22, 2010

A Multipurpose Attorney General

It seems as if the allocated roles for public officers are becoming more and more difficult to distinguish.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

October 20, 2010

A Swiss Cheese of Ethics

In Rhode Island, it apparently isn't considered political corruption to use public office to procure jobs for people who contribute politically to one's family members.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:19 AM

October 19, 2010

A Governor for Dictatorial Times

As mayor of Warwick, Lincoln Chafee usurped the authority of the town's school committee to resolve a teacher union dispute. What will he consider his authority to include as governor?

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Towns Serving at the State's Pleasure

The Central Falls, RI, takeover by the state has cleared its first judicial hurdle. RI municipalities, it seems, are little more than bureaucratic subdivisions of the state.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:14 AM

October 18, 2010

Not Moderate; Far Left

"Moderate" means "far left", at least in Rhode Island gubernatorial politics.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Red Flags in the Wind

Local towns' move to enter the wind farm business is just a means of seeking profit for government operations, with taxpayers fronting the money and shouldering the risk.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:03 AM

October 15, 2010

In Favor of a Split Government

Let's not forget that one-party rule is a definite risk, to say the least.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Welcome to Rhode Island, Now What Are You Doing Here?

Rhode Island likes to stick it to its residence. That's why a six-month extension to pay taxes isn't actually a six-month extension, and no notice was given to clarify.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:17 AM

October 14, 2010

The Shadow on the Ballot

Some aspects of local political campaigns strike me as odd.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:14 PM

The Book and the Campaigns

I called in for Anchor Rising's spot on Matt Allen, last night, to talk about Proud to Be Right and the election season so far.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:06 AM

October 13, 2010

Lardaro on the Downswing

URI Economist Len Lardaro has been prominent among economists noting the upswing in the local economy. Now he's warning of doom and gloom.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 PM

October 11, 2010

The Give Me Mine Vote

The public-sector-at-any-cost vote appears to represent about one-fifth of the electorate, and Lincoln Chafee is their man for governor.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

October 6, 2010

Another Indication of Rhode Island's Rut

Even intra-Democrat politics aren't exciting in Rhode Island, this year.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:41 PM

Nancy Driggs Sums Up a Campaign's Rationale

Sometimes, local politicians can best enunciate the reason for running for public office at all. Republican RI House of Representatives candidate Nancy Driggs did just that at a fundraiser on Saturday.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:58 AM

October 5, 2010

Whom the Candidates Represent

Just to be clear: Lincoln Chafee is the RI gubernatorial candidate of the public sector unions.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

October 2, 2010

The Standard Weighting in RI

It appears that Democrats running for U.S. Congress get about a 50% preference in polls no matter what. Let's hope that the undecideds can be inspired to decide well.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Amy Rice, on the Attack

In that old entertainment of campaign season, we get to watch as entrenched incumbents leverage regulations meant to ensure clean government as barriers to entry for those who would challenge their rule.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

September 30, 2010

The Unthrilling Election

Why does there seem to be little excitement surrounding this year's election cycle in Rhode Island? Matt Allen and I discuss.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:58 AM

September 25, 2010

The Signage War

It may not mean anything, but Republicans are clearly the enthusiasm leaders in the East Bay yard sign area.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:16 PM

September 22, 2010

Caprio's New Target

With the primaries over, General Treasurer Frank Caprio appears to be moving from previous associations toward the unions.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:13 PM

September 21, 2010

But Don't Tar Everybody, Especially When Independence Is the Message

Amidst controversy about a particular (and generally inconsequential) public office, it's worth remembering that the laudable message of the Clean Slate initiative is independence.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

September 20, 2010

Doing Well in the General Assembly

Right in the midst of the continuing decline of the state, Speaker of the RI House Gordon Fox has the audacity to declare that "people are doing well." Worse still, his spin finds support in PR by the Republican governor.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:06 AM

September 19, 2010

Half-Truth-O-Meter

If the Providence Journal's Truth-O-Meter is going to gauge context and speculation when it comes to offshore wind farms, it ought to do so thoroughly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:00 PM

September 17, 2010

Rogers' Reason, and Giving Voters More Reasons to Distrust Unknown Republicans

Unbelievably, the RIGOP has chosen, during a year in which an angry electorate wants honesty and common sense above all, to manipulate primary voters in the lieutenant governor race.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:07 PM

September 16, 2010

Peculiar Primary

Monique Chartier took Wednesday's slot on the Matt Allen show to discuss the state's primary results.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:08 AM

September 14, 2010

So That Nobody Hasn't Been Warned

Travis Rowley's pamphlet, The Rhode Island Republican, offers a reminder of what we face at the ballot box, this year.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:13 AM

September 13, 2010

The Cooperative Temper

It's odd to see a candidate who argues that he'll work with his political opposition if elected to office devolve to sniping meanness over intellectual questions in the primaries.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

September 3, 2010

Still on the Hook

Ted Nesi continues to argue that "conduit debt" isn't a frightening beast, and I continue to disagree.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:28 PM

September 2, 2010

On the Hook, One Way or Another

Whether somebody else is promising to pay back the loan or not, Rhode Islanders are "on the hook" for all of the debt undertaken by their government.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Small Cuts Credited, Huge Windfall Ignored

Rhode Island politicians are taking credit for an apparent $17 million surplus, while not mentioning hundreds of millions in federal gifts.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 31, 2010

Even Unto the Primaries

A movement is afoot to install some fresh faces in the General Assembly. Of course, that's difficult to do when candidates have already been the subject of investigative reports and local controversy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

One Workforce for the Price of Two

Thanks to retirement rules, Providence is providing more than two healthcare benefits for every actual full-time position it currently funds. Say it with me, this is not sustainable.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 30, 2010

How Central Falls's Property Tax Rate Nearly Doubled Year Over Year

Property values went down in Central Falls, RI, and the government is increasing its overall take, saddling homeowners with a near doubling of their tax rate.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

August 25, 2010

Sometimes "Investment" Is Just an Expense

Sometimes it's just spending money.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

"Rhode Island is a winner!"

Rhode Island has made the second cut for Race to the Top funds. I'm not excited.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:25 AM

August 23, 2010

Deepwater, in Summary

The Deepwater Wind project remains a bad deal. Wonder whom Rhode Islanders will blame when the economy continues its sour state for decades to come...

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 22, 2010

A Show of Pension Reform

Whenever actual numbers are applied to public-sector pension deals, it makes one reel at the unreasonableness of it.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:15 PM

August 20, 2010

The People of Central Falls Should Fire Their Receiver

One of the poorest communities in Rhode Island is now facing a truly massive tax increase at the hands of a very well paid dictator, because the state of Rhode Island believes its bond rating trumps democracy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:23 AM

August 19, 2010

A Question on Pensions

How many disabled police pensioners is too many? I don't know.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

August 18, 2010

Candidates Have to Know Better

Wherein I swing at a candidates soft ball.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:58 PM

Appointees with Post-Facto Billing

A state-appointed receiver for the city of Central Falls has the power to completely restructure town government, voters' wishes irrelevant, yet he has no choice but to pay a previous appointee whatever he decides to bill for his services?

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:00 AM

August 17, 2010

A Clean Slate for Rhode Island

Changing the people in the General Assembly is step number 1 for Rhode Island.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 16, 2010

Injustice Seen Across the Political Board

When the ACLU teams up with right-leaning taxpayer groups, public officials in Tiverton should reconsider not only their defamation lawsuit against a private citizen, but also whether they should remain in office.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:47 AM

August 12, 2010

A Slash with a Fake Sword

It's disheartening to see RI's General Assembly get away with a scheme to increase taxes while getting credit for cutting them.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Putting Rhode Island in Deep Water

The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved the controversial offshore wind energy contract, and I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:52 AM

August 7, 2010

Under Sgouros's Tapestry

Not unusually, Tom Sgouros's thinking points to a fundamental difference in political philosophy. I believe government should adjust to the clear desires of the people it represents; he believes it should manipulate those people to maintain its services and internal benefits.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 4, 2010

A Pat on the Back for the Undeserving

Some folks think Rhode Island's rulers were productive, this political year. That may be true, but not in a good way.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:01 AM

August 3, 2010

When the Pack Shifts to the Back

Sad to say, but it's actually an excellent observation that the entire country's staggering economy gives Rhode Island an opportunity to pull out of the back of the pack.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:27 AM

August 1, 2010

"Independent" Candidate, Inside Players

An interesting aspect of Rhode Island's gubernatorial race is that the "independent" candidate, Linc Chafee, is the best hope of the society-strangling inside special interests.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:24 PM

July 31, 2010

A Post Facto Rival

Come on, now. Why would Rhode Island care that it can get wind energy at half the price that its hand-picked supplier is seeking?

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:00 PM

July 27, 2010

A Troubling Power Grab from the State

The state's constitutionally questionable step of taking over the government of Central Falls points to the evil of debt.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

July 26, 2010

Those with Time to Wait

Living near money has its advantages.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:33 AM

July 23, 2010

The Government They Prefer

A charity event has been effectively muffled in Tiverton, RI, not by tax-hawk right-wingers (like me), but by those who operate the local high-taxing, business-killing fiefdom. That shouldn't be a surprise.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

July 22, 2010

Slow Improvement, or Spinning Wheels?

Can small changes in electoral laws save the state? I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

July 21, 2010

We Didn't Agree to That

Public pension debt is a cold, hard reason that people are beginning to feel that they owe nothing to their supposed representatives or the promises that they've made.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:31 AM

July 20, 2010

The Ground on Which We Stand

A visit to the Battle of Rhode Island monument in Portsmouth, leaves me pondering the overlap of modern life and local history.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:26 AM

July 19, 2010

Should We Even Try to Take Politicians Seriously?

Not surprisingly, the Democrats' recent debate in the primary race for Congress District 1 leaves me thinking politicians can be trusted to do anything but tell the whole truth.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:37 PM

July 18, 2010

You Influence Me; I'll Influence You

Something just doesn't seem right about a lobbyist's sitting on a judicial nomination committee.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:02 PM

Winning the Sales-Tax-Cutting Race

Massachusetts voters look likely to have the opportunity — in the midst of the Great Recession — to cut their sales taxes in half. The usual suspects are threatening to harm the dependencies of residents, but I wonder what the effect will be on Rhode Island. Probably not good.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:51 AM

July 17, 2010

Unemployment the Same; "Unemployment" Down

Some media sources are touting an improvement in Rhode Island's unemployment rate, but if you consider the nearly 3,000 people who dropped out of the job market, the news isn't so bright.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

July 13, 2010

Donations for the Powerful

Somehow, a public-campaign-money program (meant to level the playing field) in Rhode Island tends to give hundreds of thousands more to candidates whom one would expect to be leading, anyway. Odd.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:40 PM

July 12, 2010

Small Reasons to Stay and Fight

It seems to me that right-leaning Rhode Island reformers have to begin explaining why they think the state worth saving.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:02 AM

July 9, 2010

Spending Priorities Are a Consequence of Policy Priorities

Rhode Island spends more public money on prisons than colleges. I'd present that as a symptom, not a cause.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

A Reminder of Our Status

Yup, Rhode Island's still in an economic hole. Perhaps we'll have an indication, in November, of whether Rhode Islanders are looking to change that.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:45 AM

Working with the Problem

Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Victor Moffitt seems to understand that the General Assembly is the problem, but he doesn't seem to get that the reality makes it peculiar for a reformer to intend to "work with" legislators.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:00 AM

The Inconvenient Seat of Power

More encouraging signs that reform-minded folks have correctly identified the General Assembly as key to changing Rhode Island... and are willing to run for seats therein.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:42 AM

July 8, 2010

Costa Encounters the Pitiful Enemy

Silly political disruption.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:33 PM

Blue Cross Advertisement from the Former Governor

Former Republican Governor Lincoln Almond has written a love-op-ed for health insurance mammoth Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Curious.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:00 AM

The End of the Governor's Effective Term

Manipulation of the political process to hand Deepwater Wind guaranteed revenue for an experimental offshore wind farm, and the horrible budget that probably constituted a political trade, marked the end of Governor Carcieri's time in office, as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 AM

A Measure of Sustained Suckitude

URI Economics Professor Len Lardaro touts his Current Conditions Index each month, typically with an optimistic spin. But the best one can say about the latest results is that Rhode Island is only as badly off as it was during the dark, dark year of 2009.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:00 AM

July 7, 2010

RISC Marching Forward, Too

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition has been raising big bucks for its Business Network (by Rhode Island reform standards) and has enlisted the help of Arlene Violet to orchestrate the effort of spending it (to be crass about it).

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:00 PM

A Change of Race

Moderate Party candidate for lieutenant governor, Jean Ann Guliano has switched to a General Assembly candidacy. She's not alone, and reform-minded Rhode Islanders should be encouraged.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:29 PM

July 6, 2010

A Line from the Town to the State

General Assembly Candidate Dawson Hodges agrees with me that cities and towns ought to be more directly represented in the legislature (although it seems to have been disallowed by the Supreme Court).

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:41 AM

Rhetoric for the Times, at Least

Gubernatorial Candidate Frank Caprio is attempting to rebrand the Democrats as the state's reform party. Let's just call it an exercise in cynicism.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:59 AM

June 27, 2010

The Complaint and the Campaign Path

State Senator Lou Raptakis has some good things to say about the operation of the General Assembly. Why, then, is he running for Secretary of State?

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:32 AM

June 25, 2010

"But Rhode Island Is Still Asleep"

A new phrase is haunting my thoughts whenever I read of reform efforts in other states and a national backlash against the federal government's pursuit of policies that would fit right in in Rhode Island.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:26 PM

In Defense of Realistic Taxation

"Tax the rich" is a powerful call, but it's a siren song leading Rhode Island toward the rocks.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

June 23, 2010

Let Them Drink Pina Colatas

RI Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed doesn't want to reconvene the Senate because she "really" wants to enjoy her summer. Enjoy, RI!

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Common Sense Exploded

Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of legalizing consumer fireworks, it'd be nice if lawmakers could do so with some awareness.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:46 AM

June 22, 2010

Not Working, Not Helping?

Rhode Island's economy trails the nation, and its volunteer rate trails the nation. I'd suggest that those are both effects of something more basic.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

June 21, 2010

Rhode Island... Something Other than a Democracy

Capers Jones offers a compelling argument that Rhode Island isn't really a democracy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Rhode Island Corruption, a Tale of Two Stop & Shops

It's how things work in Rhode Island. If you don't get your way, hire powerful politicians to act on your behalf in their private careers.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:28 AM

June 17, 2010

A Sham of a Hot-Air Government

Rhode Island's General Assembly and governor have essentially approved an expensive off-shore wind energy project, but they've kept the Public Utilities Commission in the mix as a constricted rubber stamp. Hopefully, this won't set a precedent for all projects moving forward.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Putting a Stop to Citizen Action

Andrew Morse put his investigation of RI's new receivership law in plain terms of its implication for Rhode Islanders on last night's Matt Allen show.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:01 AM

June 16, 2010

Losing Faith in Our Government

At the state and municipal levels, democracy is dead in Rhode Island, and too few of us care.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:31 AM

June 15, 2010

Tax Changes as Blatant Gimmick

Once again, the General Assembly's income tax "revamp" should be considered in terms of "vampire."

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

June 14, 2010

The Mysterious Activities of Our Betters

Statements made on the floor of the RI General Assembly suggest that government in our state is less a matter of objective and fair process than of subjective imposition of aristocratic and special interest will.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

June 12, 2010

A Familiar Face Running for Office

One more conservative activist is running for Rhode Island's General Assembly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

Strange Agreement on Income Tax Changes

I remain suspicious of changes to Rhode Island's income tax code. Whether I'm unduly cynical or appropriately skeptical will be determined by outcomes, I suppose.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:00 AM

June 11, 2010

A Formula, but It's Just Numbers

The Rhode Island General Assembly has passed a state funding formula for education. On the whole, that's a positive development, but I'm not sure how much of the problem it actually fixes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:11 AM

June 8, 2010

Spend to Punish

Boycotting Providence to punish the city council for condemning Arizona over its immigration law is probably not strategically sound.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

June 7, 2010

Should We Be Willingly Fooled by the Tax Overhaul?

I'm not convinced that the General Assembly's supposedly revolutionary "tax overhaul" won't make things worse.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

June 5, 2010

Every Which Way They Can Stick It to You Slyly

The RI General Assembly has striven to give the impression that it's not raising taxes, but it's made it easier for towns to increase car taxes — including the ability to increase the assessed value of motor vehicles.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:01 AM

June 4, 2010

A Revolutionary Tax Twitch

We've been hearing much about the General Assembly's proposed tax code revisions, but as one might expect, the effects would be minimal in our competition with other states.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:06 AM

June 3, 2010

Always Money for the Trifles

It may or may not be indication of corruption, but something is certainly wrong when a state has money for sidewalks but not for bridges.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

E-Verify and the General Assembly

Marc Comtois took Anchor Rising's call in to Matt Allen, this week, to discuss E-Verify and the General Assembly dictatorship.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:43 AM

June 2, 2010

When Management Acknowledges Its Own Cards

Rhode Island is so far gone that it's almost shocking when a school committee actually succeeds in proving that job security is a precious reward in negotiations.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:57 AM

June 1, 2010

While Your Eye Is on the Tax Cutting Hand

Something just doesn't add up with the RI General Assembly's tax-overhaul plan.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:49 AM

May 29, 2010

Another Wishful Rhode Island Thinking Budget

The RI General Assembly budgets like drug-addicted gamblers.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:16 AM

May 23, 2010

Rhode Island's Love of the Bottom

Rhode Island's gutter-dwelling is going to be a long-term state of affairs, and so will be the fix.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:00 PM

May 21, 2010

Ushering in Further Decline with Cutsie Tax Changes

Somehow, I fear that the current legislators in Rhode Island's General Assembly are just the gang to make our situation worse by trying to improve our tax policy.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:20 AM

May 20, 2010

Campaign Fire Money

Monique Chartier, on the Matt Allen Show for Anchor Rising, raised the topic of legal settlement money from a Rhode Island tragedy to prevent the political advancement of the current attorney general.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:58 AM

May 18, 2010

Greener Taxation Grass Across the Border

Comparing forms and rates of taxation across the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border might suggest one underlying cause of Rhode Island's poor economic condition.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:43 AM

May 17, 2010

Greece Is the Way

Rhode Island — statewide and on a municipal basis — is looking alot like Greece.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:33 AM

May 16, 2010

Central Falls: Tomorrow's News Today

We'll get the details tomorrow, but there's apparently an agreement in the final stages to bring the current teachers of Central Falls High School back into the fold.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:36 PM

May 14, 2010

More from the Gang of Possible Governors

It looks like the candidates for RI governor are differentiating themselves. Well, at least the Republicans are differentiating themselves from everybody else.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:27 PM

May 12, 2010

The West Warwick Investment Dance Continues

An investment firm in the center of controversy in West Warwick has offered to return the money.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:13 AM

A Peculiar Sense of Community

The Providence Journal has published an essay that I penned after Tiverton's financial town meeting, take one, which questions what a "sense of community" entails.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:06 AM

May 10, 2010

Eventually, We'll Have to Stop Hoping That Time Hasn't Run Out

I think it might be time for Rhode Islanders to stop talking about how to prevent the state's collapse and begin to consider what to do when it happens.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:11 AM

Punch Drunk from Local Politics

A strange notion of "community" was evident at the first assembly of this year's Tiverton Financial Town Meeting.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:07 AM

Get Those Taxes in Early, or the Refund May Be Late

A delay in tax returns by the State of Rhode Island proves that there are cracks in the system. We're no longer in a position to deal with unexpected catastrophes without deterioration of basic government activities.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:05 AM

The Frog March Parade Moves to Municipalities

Arrests of town councilors in North Providence remind us all that Rhode Island's governance is corrupt from top to bottom.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:02 AM

Move Left for Lefties, Right for Righties

Judging from a Providence Journal report, RI's candidates for governor adjusted leftward for a left-wing audience.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:00 AM

What Reamortization Means to a Future Business Owner

Andrew Morse gave an excellent conceptualization of what reamortizing RI's pension debt would mean, financially.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:58 AM

May 5, 2010

Rhode Island's Beef with Business

Helping small businesses has been all the buzz in Rhode Island, recently, but it it largely misses the point that the operation of government itself is the problem. Faster permitting is nice, but not the real problem.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:13 AM

May 3, 2010

Changing the Rules for "The Next Big Thing"

It ought to set off red flags when the government begins changing its own rules to ease the path toward a favored industry, even when that industry is as politically popular as wind power.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

May 2, 2010

The Far-Left Moderate

I'm not sure how "moderate" Moderate Party Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Block really is.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:52 AM

May 1, 2010

Association Ain't Nothing

An Attorney General who is not only friends with an apparently corrupt mayor, but also dates one of that mayor's top staffers, should not remain a viable candidate for governor of the state. End of story.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:52 PM

April 30, 2010

Different Towns, Different Compassion for Taxpayers' Plight

In Middletown, Town Council some members are suggesting a 0% budget increase, given the economic plight of residents, in Tiverton, we're having to fight to keep the tax increase at 4.39%, as opposed to officials' preferred 9%. Tells you something about the leadership of each town.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 28, 2010

Just Run

The Rhode Island GOP is hosting some sessions to help candidates navigate their undertaking. Right-leaning reformers should see the party as a facilitating ally, not a cult that they must resist joining.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 26, 2010

Labor Peace, Town or State

Once again: If Rhode Islanders can't get labor unions under control in their own backyards, they won't be able to do it at the state level.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 25, 2010

Familiar Names, Familiar Practices

Rhode Island investment advisers with links to powerful people in the State House? Not exactly surprising.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:37 AM

April 24, 2010

A Little Consideration During Budget Season

Budget watchers of Rhode Island should keep in mind the fact that school districts should still be expecting federal "stimulus" dollars for this coming budget year.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:11 PM

April 23, 2010

Attempting to Control the Media for Campaigns

What to make of a gubernatorial candidate who insists that his appearance on a talk show in his role as General Treasurer include no other guests except other candidates for governor?

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:17 PM

Bishop Tobin Won't Let Catholicism Just Be a Brand

Bishop Thomas Tobin made the right move insisting that Catholic organizations must stand for the principles of the Catholic faith.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Re: The Biggest Faction in the General Assembly

Apparently, 55% of Rhode Island legislators are drawing, or will draw, the public pensions on which they vote. I suggest that the guiding principle of reform ought to be making it easier to fill the role of legislator.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:25 PM

April 22, 2010

The Housing Crisis Is an Employment Crisis

Foreclosures are up, year-over-year, in Rhode Island and nationally. The key to stopping the slide is allowing the economy to create jobs.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 18, 2010

History Unexplored and Quality of Life

Much is made of Rhode Island's "quality of life." But all the interesting day trips in the world add no quality to a life of scraping by.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:32 PM

April 17, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance with Charlene Lima

What is one to make of jarring statements of alignment with the RI Tea Party from legislators who've been centrally part of the problem?

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:10 PM

April 15, 2010

Favor Factory Skullduggery

Apparently not intimidated by the role that government backing played in the housing boom and collapse, the RI General Assembly looks likely to create such a dynamic for business loans in the state. As Republican Rep. Bob Watson suggests, the General Assembly is looking to become a "favor factory."

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

Magic Numbers and Pension Politics

The State of Rhode Island has long been pretending that expecting an 8.25% return on pension investments was reasonable, and RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione is right to note that there should be consequences when politicians are detrimentally wrong.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 14, 2010

Shoveling, but Down or Out?

Somehow, I just can't get myself interested in the RI General Assembly's supplemental budget. It's a question of whether it was "not enough" or "completely wrong."

The Little Policy Details That Say So Much

Somehow, cost of living adjustments in Rhode Island's public-sector pensions seem an emblem of the state's problems.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

A Sign That Our Government Has Become Distracted

Shouldn't government preserve its basic functions, first of all? In reality, infrastructure seems such an easy thing to squeeze.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:40 AM

April 12, 2010

Laffey's Surprise Consistency

So, Steve Laffey has said, once again, that he's not running for office. Funny how that can be surprising every time he restates it.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

April 9, 2010

Another Unlikely Budget Provision

In addition to some general considerations, I've noticed that the RI General Assembly's supplemental budget might possibly include a provision that actually allows cities and towns to reduce their payments for education in a given budget cycle. I'm skeptical that it'll actually become law.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:23 PM

Hope After the Flood

A political cartoon by Jim Bush says it all for many Rhode Islanders' post-deluge hopes.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:32 AM

April 8, 2010

The Mindboggling Contortions of Nanny Staters

The Big Government types in Rhode Island are meticulous about avoiding the phrase "tax increase, but it's what they're looking for, and it would only make matters worse.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:12 AM

April 7, 2010

Washing Out the Apathy

With Ed Achorn, I wonder whether the Great Flood of Rhode Island will provide an adequate example for residents of the state of the potential for devastation when government focuses for too long on the wrong things.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

August 16, 2006

Belief as Extreme Belief

A couple of weeks ago, I caught some of Chris Porter's routine on Last Comic Standing, and although I'm aware of the danger inherent in taking comedians too seriously, I thought his comments concerning religion to be illustrative of a common (and commonly lazy) approach thereto.

Porter stated that he left the Catholic Church when he realized that fewer people were receiving Communion in the species of wine during flu season. "You gotta believe!" he declared, citing as real believers religious fanatics who dance around with poisonous snakes on their shoulders. "If I had the flu, I'd be glomming that s***."

The point that seems to have been lost on the comedian — to the extent that he wasn't ignoring it for comedy's sake — is that Catholics don't believe that the Blood of Christ is a panacea for physical ills, a sort of magic potion. We also don't deny (as far as I know)* that germs can be passed along with the cup. On the other hand, we do believe that Christ is fully present in either form of the Eucharist.

In ways much more subtle than this, it seems to me that much of the modern hang-up with religion has to do with a lack of clarity about what it means to "really believe." The tendency is to imagine some claim that is observably impossible, or just improbable, and to insist that true believers would declare the observation false. When the person taking the religious side of the discussion points out that his religion doesn't, actually, ask him to make any such declaration, because his system of belief seeks to incorporate observable reality, the response often implies a lack of credulity. How convenient that the believer would claim to believe only that which cannot be easily disproven!

The questions that our culture so often skips are of the "and still" variety: Can Catholics believe that they can get the flu by sharing a Communal cup and still believe that the Eucharist will heal them? Can non-Catholics not believe in the actual presence of the Lord in Holy Communion and still have faith in Christ? Can non-Christians not believe in the divinity of Jesus and still believe in God? As if playing a theological version of that old board game, Chutes and Ladders, the modern atheist or agnostic finds an easy slide from disbelief that God tells us what make of car to buy through the actions of snakes to disbelief that God exists at all.

* On the other hand, I recall seeing a TV news report in which the health expert stated that wiping the cup with a blessed cloth wouldn't prevent the transmittal of germs, and I wondered whether he had read any studies to back that up. I'm willing to believe that he's correct, but shouldn't a man of science have data?

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:47 PM | Comments (3)

November 4, 2004

Chafee's Lost One Way or Another

I don't know whether it'll be a comfort to Kathryn Lopez, but I don't think Republicans will have to put up with Lincoln Chafee as a Senator in their party for the entirety of Bush's term. One possible occurrence would be if Chafee put his "symbolic protest" over his constituents' interest in preserving at least the one lone representative whom they have in the majority party:

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he would consider switching parties if President Bush is re-elected.

"I'm not ruling it out," Chafee told The Providence Journal.

Chafee, known for moderate views that often run counter to the Bush administration, also said he cast a write-in vote for Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in Tuesday's election. He said it was a "symbolic protest."

There are folks who'll suggest that, whatever Chafee is, he's a breath of fresh air in that he allows himself be guided by principle rather than politics. I'm not sure that's the case; Chafee's probably increasingly suspicious that he can't hold his seat through the next election as a Republican, whether the ax falls in the primaries or the general election. A party switch, which isn't obviously to the Democrats' benefit politicswise, may be the only way for him to save his job.

And as I've long been saying, a Chafee with a D. after his name would allow me to fulfill my moral obligation to vote against him in '06 while still enabling me voting Republican.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:42 AM | Comments (4)

October 30, 2004

On the Local Ballot

Marc Comtois has posted thoughtful explanations of his intended votes. Firstly, I have to say that I'm glad to be in a different district. Marc's choice for U.S. Congress is incumbent Democrat Jim Langevin or Republican challenger Chuck Barton. In a state that no national Republican strategist counts on for numbers, I simply couldn't pull the lever for Barton, and here's why:

On social issues, Barton differs from most conservative Republicans.

"I am very moderately pro-choice," he said. "My belief is that (abortion) is a very difficult, personal issue that the government should stay out of." And Barton, an Episcopalian, said that he would "probably" not vote for Bush's proposed constitutional amendment that marriage be exclusively between a man and a woman. "I'm not going to fall in line with all national Republican stances," he said.

In contrast, Langevin is on the National Advisory Board of Democrats for Life. In the state government, Rs are needed just to derive any benefit from the friction of a two-party system — not so at the federal level.

Marc also goes through the spending bills on the ballot, and I have to admit that he's done his homework better than I have. Still, I consider my vote little more than a protest gesture, and moreover, I think if we're going to get Rhode Island government under control, people are going to have to learn that we can't allow our representatives to spend on everything but the basics and then go back to the till crying about how essential the basics are. To be honest, it strikes me as a con.

We need money for roads? Put up toll booths so people can see their income draining. Let people truly face the prospect of having to go forty miles out of their way because there's no money left to fix a bridge. Funding requests on my ballot get NOs down the line. Rhode Island is so deep in the blue that there will be plenty of opportunities to vote for infrastructure investments before we've managed to bring some parity (and sanity) to the statehouse.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:28 PM

October 29, 2004

The State of a New Blog

Much pondering has finally piled up behind my inertial walls, and I've decided to go ahead and start a group blog for Rhode Island conservatives (actually, anybody who agrees that Rhode Island is too partisan and/or has to begin toning down its liberalism). The blog is currently in production, and I've already got one other writer signed on.

The plan is to offer broadly relevant commentary, but from a Rhode Island perspective. Each blogger will be able to choose his or her own content (within reason), but for my part, the local emphasis may give me a context in which to scratch my multimedia itch and to explore arts and tradition in my neck of the woods. (Not to worry, though — Dust in the Light shouldn't suffer in its own, unique mission.) Once things start rolling, I'll make some effort to promote it, and hopefully it'll eventually manage to provide not only a social/political benefit for Rhode Island, but also a financial/professional benefit for the writers.

The first order of business is to name the thing, and for this, I'm open to suggestions. As one (not very strict) guide, I plan to use the State Seal, which is the word "hope" over an anchor and some wave-like squiggles, as a focal point of the design. Currently on the table: Out of the Blue, Alternative Hope, RI Alternative, AltRI, Hope's Anchor, Anchoring Hope, Anchoring RI. Anything catch your eye or spark a different idea?

Finally, any Rhode Islanders who are interested in writing for the blog should feel free email me (use the link in the left-hand column). I'll want some samples; if you've already got a blog, send along a link. A brief description of your views, location, and occupation would be helpful, too.

ADDENDUM:
Well, wouldn't you know it. There's already a blog called Out of the Blue — and it's based in Rhode Island! (The blog is actually a rediscovery; I think I've even interacted with its writer over on Michael Williams's blog. But it must have slipped my mind.) Guess I'll scratch that title off the list.

Oh well. But congrats to Larry for his recent marriage, though!

ADDENDUM II:
I find myself partial to "Raising Hope," which seems appropriate on many levels.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:45 AM | Comments (6)

September 21, 2004

A Landslide Heralding Change

For anybody interested, I thought I'd note that the important Cranston, Rhode Island, mayoral primary that I mentioned the other day ended with an even better result than I'd hoped:

Now, there were some problems at the polling places, but the margin of victory, 75% Laffey to 25% Reilly, is just too big for Laffey's victory to be totally attributable to polling place gaffes and fraud. I certainly hope that the people of Rhode Island made a statement this primary season.

For Rhode Island, it isn't unduly optimistic to suggest that better times are coming.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:59 PM

September 14, 2004

Cranstonites, Go Vote!

Anybody who's taken an empathetic interest in American history will hear something familiar in William Tooher's recent letter to the Providence Journal:

Last December, I registered two used Vespa motor scooters and paid a total of $469 in sales tax [to the state of Rhode Island]. Six months later I traded in the bikes for one larger one, for an out-of-pocket expense of $684. When I went to turn in one plate and transfer the other to the new bike, I was taxed on the full cost of the new bike -- which was $5,100, so I paid an additional $357 in sales tax. No credit for the two trade-ins!

Then, a scant two weeks later, I traded the new Vespa for a larger but less expensive bike. I traded even and figured there would be no sales tax. Oh, silly me. I was charged another $325 in sales tax for a trade that had cost me nothing out of pocket. Bottom line: I paid a total of $1,151 in sales tax for a bike that didn't cost me a dime!

Perhaps it's merely an ideological echo in my head, but in Tooher's anecdote, I hear a whisper from the early days of the American Revolution. It's one of those stories that, if not allowed to slip out of the public's awareness, results in demands for change when there are too many to ignore.

Part of the problem, in Rhode Island, has been the difficulty of change. Nobody's quite sure who to blame for the problems. And when the public's gaze begins to focus, it blurs once again with stories about why the recipients of all that undeserved revenue need it, or at least why it's reasonable to give it to them. Even reasonable gifts add up.

As it happens, today provides an opportunity to begin resolving the matter without recourse to coups. As Edward Achorn describes the sides and the stakes:

Recognizing that they could not readily beat him in a general election, given his popularity, [public unions] are trying to steal today's Republican primary [in Cranston], by running a puppet named Garry Reilly against Mr. Laffey. ...

Some of that money and organizational power has bought glossy fliers and busy phone banks that attack Mayor Laffey for having hiked taxes. That seems remarkably hypocritical, given that taxes had to be hiked to stem Cranston's financial meltdown -- brought on by giveaways negotiated by Mr. Laffey's more "cooperative" predecessors!

On the other side, informed taxpayers fear the worst. I know of some who are planning to move out of Cranston if Mr. Laffey is erased.

But the aggressiveness of this attempt to crush one politician, and scare others into slavish compliance, suggests that the state's public-employee unions are themselves deeply fearful. They know the stakes are high: If the citizens of Rhode Island begin to wake up and realize why they are paying such high taxes, the special interests' easy entrée into the taxpayers' wallets may be a thing of the past. And their iron grip on Ocean State politics could be broken.

If you live in Cranston: Go Vote! Polls close at 9:00 p.m.

ADDENDUM:
For some background (including video) see here.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:28 PM

September 5, 2004

Analysis in Two Dimensions

Because it seems typical of a certain mindset, a letter to the Providence Journal from Walter Bosse of Cumberland, Rhode Island, demands response:

We need to create jobs for the unemployed, but no more than that. The nationwide marketing plan discussed by Governor Carcieri for Quonset would create many more jobs than we have unemployed. The top jobs for new companies are filled by people who already work for the company and would be moved in. The remaining jobs might be filled by the unemployed. Where would the people come from to fill jobs above what are available here? They would have to move here, also.

Without guessing at Mr. Bosse's general political approach, one can say that his suggestion echoes the socialist's conceit that these things can be micromanaged. They can't be; moreover, in a state of stasis, problems are more difficult to handle, and economic mobility ceases to exist.

Let's think this through. Suppose Rhode Island companies need more workers than there are available in the state: what do they have to do? Well, they either have to lure workers away from other companies, or they have to attract workers from elsewhere, entailing either a move or a commute. In all cases, they have to make themselves more attractive to potential employees; pay and benefits increase across the board.

As for housing and population density, the value of housing will increase. In an environment primed for growth, that will require companies to make further efforts to attract and keep employees. Increased tax receipts from both companies and the wealthier citizenry can be directed toward improvement of public land and rethinking of convoluted transportation systems. And if the two sides of the issue come together such that companies can't afford the rate that the market demands they pay for workers, perhaps industries that pay less will have to move elsewhere or find ways to be more efficient.

I've simplified the picture, of course; it's probably beyond human ability to fully comprehend. But just as it is exponentially more difficult to move a car without allowing its own forward motion, so with the economy. Without a doubt, the various forces at play will require adept steering (i.e., management), but in a way that is probably related to the socialist's conceit, asking fellow citizens to accept the squalid stagnation of the status quo to maintain a preferred density is the liberal's selfishness.

If it happens that Rhode Island begins to change in character, then the "country feel" will become a premium for which citizens who can will have to pay, in some form, or to look elsewhere to find. And should they decide to do the latter, they'll get a much better price for their land, perhaps enabling an upgrade in lifestyle when they move somewhere that fewer people wish to be.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:21 PM

August 25, 2004

Housable Income

Earlier this month (ages ago, in blog time), Charles Hill brought up the issue of "affordable housing." I've held on to the URL for so long because housing is a major issue in Rhode Island. As every informed citizen of the state knows, we are heading for an affordable housing crisis ("!"). As valid as the applicable numbers and conclusions may be, Charles's first commenter, the Proprietor, raises one of those unspoken angles that issues tend to have under their skirts:

The main thing to realize is that this has *nothing* to do with providing affordable housing. It is a way to bust zoning in exclusive communities so there is a more fertile field for developers to build housing.

Although I shudder to suggest it, in response to the New Jersian commenter, it may be that Rhode Island's system is a bit more corrupt. According to various conversations that I've had, affordable housing rules have been leveraged in attempts to bust the zoning rules even in some of the poorer, most "affordable" towns in the state. It has become a pervasive part of the culture, here, that people must grab all that they can, and that the government is an appropriate method through which to do so... on the sly and with altruistic-sounding rhetoric for cover.

Whatever the political struggles for finding the land, however, it's undeniable that Rhode Island has a problem. And Charles may point the way toward a solution:

At my income level, I couldn't possibly hope to live in a place like Lincolnshire. In a society with some measure of rationality, I would be urged to do one of the following: either improve that income, or go live somewhere I can afford. The town can't legally keep me out — probably wouldn't dream of keeping me out — but there's no justification for forcing a property owner in that town to sell to me, or to rent to me, at a price far below what he wants and can get.

There are two words in the phrase "affordable housing," and thus two sides of the equation. If, for example, Rhode Island could match the average annual wages of its neighbors, Connecticut and Massachusetts (PDF), the affordable housing crisis would disappear overnight. Prices that are exorbitant to the poor are reasonable to the less poor.

This represents a complex subject matter, to be sure. Holding population and available housing steady while everybody's income rose, for example, would surely cause housing costs to rise accordingly. Furthermore, any solution aimed at raising income levels would require a degree of subtlety and a long view often lacking in our government. One typically short-sighted solution is to increase the minimum wage, and Rhode Island's top-five minimum wage (31% greater than the federal minimum wage that most states follow) hasn't managed to increase our average income even above the country's mean line.

It probably isn't a stretch to suggest that the minimum wage is one factor among many keeping businesses out of our state and constraining the types of jobs that are created. Another Providence Journal piece about affordable housing reports:

Of the 20 occupations projected to add the most jobs between 2000 and 2010, only four -- registered nurses, computer support specialists, secondary school teachers and elementary school teachers -- pay enough for a median wage earner to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the state average rent.

A quick look at the list of the fifty fastest-growing occupations in the state reveals that almost all of them are location-specific. In other words, they increase only inasmuch as there is enough money in Rhode Island to make it worth doing more business here. In such cases, a region is the source of revenue, but not necessarily the destination, and with the exception of tourism and higher education, the money in Rhode Island increasingly tends either to circulate within the limited local market or to flow out of state. Emblematically, the two fastest-growing occupations are registered nurses and retail salespeople.

The latter — retail — tells a particularly worrying story when it is considered that the list of declining industries is almost entirely made up of varying forms of manufacturing. Companies are willing to sell in Rhode Island, but not to build here. Returning to the minimum wage, it's one thing to pay 2,481 retail clerks $6.75 an hour when the only other option is to let the state's retail market go untapped. It's another thing to place any other point of the company's operational chain in a state that demands low-level positions to pay $1.6 more per hour than in most states across the nation. Hiring 2,481 workers at that level in Rhode Island (assuming 40-hours and paid vacations) would cost the company an additional $8,256,768 per year.

As I said, this problem has only complex solutions, but it poses questions that people in all states must ask themselves. What are our priorities? Where do we have to compromise our desire to give everybody everything so that we don't make it impossible for more than a minority to get anything? Rhode Island, for one, can no longer afford its distrust of the free market and disbelief in the power and importance of individual responsibility. It certainly can no longer afford to let the recipients of public funds insulate themselves from financial realities as everybody else experiences them.

Here's where the various issues begin to come together. In Rhode Island:

  • The average annual private-sector wage in 2002 was $33,240, or $2,770 per month.
  • An "affordable" monthly housing payment from that amount (one-third) is $914.
  • The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 2003 was $989.
  • The median monthly homeowner housing cost in 2000 was $1,205.
  • The fastest-growing industry is Elementary and Secondary Schools, with 5,122 new jobs by 2010.
  • The average Rhode Island teacher made $7,108 more than the average teacher for the nation as a whole during the 2002–2003 school year.
  • 5,122 times $7,108 is $36,407,176.
  • Not to mention benefits.
  • $36,407,176 is the amount of extra money that companies would have to pay each year for 10,940 minimum-wage workers in Rhode Island, as opposed to somewhere else.
  • In another state with the national minimum wage of $5.15, those companies will pay 10,940 employees a total of $117,189,280 per year.
  • Minimum wage workers often represent second or third incomes for a given household.
  • Companies don't just hire people at minimum wage.
  • Rhode Island consumers are probably buying the products that those companies make.
Posted by Justin Katz at 4:46 PM | Comments (2)

August 24, 2004

Rhode Island's Elite

David Sweeney, a retired lawyer with 30 years of experience negotiating teachers' contracts, has responded to a piece by retired teacher James Hosey, in which Mr. Hosey lamented that teachers' employment packages fall far short of the deals offered to — get this — CEOs. Putting aside the ludicrous comparison of, essentially, the educational workforce with the top, top class of the business world, Mr. Sweeney writes:

I don't know where Mr. Hosey worked, but every Rhode Island contract I know of contained "step increases" over 10 or 12 years. Teachers received an increase in pay for each credit earned toward an advanced degree, in courses paid for by the school districts. The workday consisted of less than seven hours, of which no more than four hours were spent in actually teaching. The work year was, and is, 180 days, and anything over that required additional compensation. Paid sick leave increased every year, and, amazingly, sick days taken by teachers also increased every year. Retirement, as taken by Mr. Hosey, was a combination of age and years worked, which permitted teachers to retire in their 50s and early 60s. ...

Former teachers who enter the real work world from the warm womb of the education industry are consistently shocked by the work demands of employers who must compete to survive. Unfortunately, these same people are teaching our children that everyone is "entitled" to all the benefits of a comfortable life, from annual pay increases to lifetime health care, without regard to individual talent or effort.

Hosey's home district, Cumberland, apparently has a relatively weak union, by Rhode Island standards. Consider these items from the personal experience that Hosey offers as "a point-by-point refutation" of a July 24 piece by Donald Hawthorne:

-- I was a teacher for 30 years; in that time, I never came close to a 12-percent raise.

-- There were no automatic increases in pay; our union had to fight tooth-and-nail for each contract as September approached, and the school committee relied upon Superior Court to order us back to work without one.

-- I never saw a longevity bonus.

One might note that the plea that the union had to "fight tooth-and-nail" for raises sidesteps Hawthorne's point, which had to do with the "just for showing up" nature of the raises that teachers do get every year, whatever show the union puts on. Marc Comtois, who is now the parent of a child in the Warwick, Rhode Island, school system, breaks down the numbers in table format.

As Marc explains, at least in Warwick, the annual raises scheduled within a given contract are deceptive, because each "step" — with advancement occurring each year, without regard to merit — increases annually. So, for example, while a first-time teacher for the 2000–2001 school year was scheduled to go from $30,348 to $33,467 (a very healthy 10% raise) for the next year, that teacher actually went to $34,722 (14.4%), because Step 2 increased. Marc also notes that, unlike Hosey's employer, his town does offer longevity bonuses, in addition to other merit-based increases.

More stunning, however, is Marc's side-by-side comparison of teachers' salaries with private-sector salaries. The disparity is huge, of itself, but compared with the national average, a visual representation makes for an extremely disheartening image for a semi-employed private-sector Rhode Islander such as myself. Note that, for the following graph, I dug up the 2002 data for the private sector (PDF) and the 2002–2003 data for teachers (USA and RI), which actually presents an improvement from Marc's previous-year data.

As Marc gives reason to realize, with his comparison of Rhode Island with its two contiguous states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, this chart isn't anywhere near the whole story. Rhode Island's tax burden and cost of living are high, relative to the rest of the country. As a percentage of income, Rhode Islanders pay 1.4% more in total state, federal, and local taxes than the nation as a whole. As for cost of living, I looked at one tangible expense, annual homeowner costs, for which Rhode Islanders pay 10.75% more than the nation as a whole. (Unfortunately, the latest data that I could find for housing was for 2000, and house prices have skyrocketed since then, doubling or more in some areas.) Here's a very rough picture of all of the above information lumped together:

The colored wedges, in total, represent the average Rhode Island private sector income (wages = $33,240). The white wedge is the actual-dollar amount of money that the average RI teacher has left over after taxes and housing above and beyond what the average private sector Rhode Islander has left over ($21,868 – $8,376 = $13,492).* In short, from this rough, limited picture, it looks as if the average Rhode Island teacher could almost afford to pay one additional family's housing costs, including mortgage, for the entire year and still have Rhode Island's average remainder left over. Here's the comparable pie graph for the nation as a whole.

And even that isn't the whole story. Rhode Island teachers get fantastic benefits, including absolutely free healthcare, on top of the career perk of a 180-day work year. (I don't know what the private sector's average work year is, but I'd be surprised if it weren't at least 220 days.) No wonder our retired teacher, Mr. Hosey, proclaims:

I would put my own head in a noose before I would ever again work in a non-union environment.

Unfortunately, as valuable and noble as the teaching profession may be, public union workers' employment packages have to find their funds somewhere, and in Rhode Island, that means hanging the rest of us.

* For the average teacher's remainder, I did remember to calculate and subtract the relatively higher tax slice, although I treated it as a flat tax.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:16 AM | Comments (3)

August 12, 2004

Rolled (Taxpayer) Island

It begins to get frustratingly old — irrelevantly old for readers from elsewhere — but I think Rhode Islanders with any sort of platform at all are morally obligated to continue demanding governmental change. In this respect, the Providence Journal's editorial board continues to do what the American press was practically invented to do:

Rhode Island must face reality. It confronts a frightening downward spiral: higher taxes inflicted on the few who remain in Rhode Island, with educated children forced to move out to find jobs, and job creators steering clear in self-defense.

The new RIPEC study is far from the first warning Rhode Island has received. In June, the magazine Bloomberg Wealth Manager rated the Ocean State the worst in the nation -- of 50 states and the District of Columbia -- in punishing wealth. That advertises to those who might otherwise bring wealth (and jobs) to the Ocean State that they should avoid what the magazine called "tax-hell Rhode Island."

Meanwhile, the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy rated Rhode Island fourth from the bottom in creating a climate in which free enterprise can flourish.

It is time for the Ocean State's leaders to respond to this problem by positioning the state so that it can aggressively compete with its neighbors for jobs. Those leaders must stop focusing on rewarding special interests and start worrying about the general interest -- and the taxpayers who keep the whole structure of government going.

In all likelihood, the politicians will not mend their ways until the voters drive them in that direction. The longer it takes, the worse off Rhode Island will be.

I've colored my town red on the map at the top of this post, which I found on Rhode Island's official tourism Web site. Newcomer rabble rouser that I am, I've pondered the necessary procedure to get the town to secede from the state. But running to Massachusetts presents its own considerations; I like Rhode Island; I believe that one ought to work to fix a place rather than abandon it; and the state can only improve from its current political condition.

Still, I hope I don't have to sell the house and move for less voluntary reasons than voting with my family's feet before my fellow citizens wake up from their Democrat daydreams.

(Note: I don't know whether the press was actually invented for this purpose, but it sounds good, doesn't it?)

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:03 AM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2004

Those Coveted Slots

In March, Rhode Islander Donald Hawthorne did some comparative math between increases in state aid to our educational establishment and a moderate family budget. Let's just say that I wouldn't be inclined to complain, much less proclaim a crisis, if my employer told me that budgetary considerations required that my promised $15,000 annual raise would have to be reduced to $14,250.

Last week, Mr. Hawthorne listed some of the benefits of being a public employee in Rhode Island, for reader comparison to their own deals:

The unions say they represent working people. Test that claim with this nonfiction test. If you are a working person or retired working person, has your work environment included:

Annual salary increases up to 12 percent?

Automatic increases simply for showing up, not based on merit?

Additional longevity bonuses, just for showing up?

No-layoff provisions?

Seniority valued more than expertise or organizational need?

Zero co-payments on insurance premiums?

Eleven weeks of paid time off per year?

A pension equal to 60 to 80 percent of your salary for the rest of your life, starting immediately after retirement and with as little as 28 years of service, regardless of your age?

Today, state- and local-government employees and teachers receive some combination of the above terms, paid for by working people, single parents, and retirees, many of whom earn nothing close to those terms.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:27 AM

June 23, 2004

Guerrilla Budget Battles

Edward Achorn continues to slip encouragement to Rhode Island conservatives — actually, to anybody who opposes our corrupt one-party government. Yesterday, he noted a relatively small, but hugely symbolic, victory on the part of Governor Carcieri:

When [the doling out of power and money] was over, and the budget passed 49 to 22, House Democrats held a victory party with beer and wine. [Union boss Frank] Montanaro stopped by to celebrate yet another triumph for his special interests.

But the celebrations may have been premature. As Republicans were quick to point out, the state constitution requires the "assent of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the general assembly" to pass certain spending in the budget. And there are 75 elected members. Forty-nine falls one vote short of two-thirds. ...

In the end, the most powerful politician in the state -- Speaker Murphy -- was reduced to stalling for time, while Democrats feverishly tried to round up a 50th vote. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox railed on the House floor, shouting at foes, as Mr. Caprio put it, "like Howard Dean times 100." When Mr. Murphy failed to scrounge 50 votes, he had the chamber approve the budget anyway and send it to the Senate -- a tactical mistake, surely, since that threw the ball into the Senate's court. ...

Whatever happens, though, Friday's budget maneuvers revealed a flaw in the machine that for decades has been running the state as a wholly owned subsidiary of the public-employee labor unions. Mr. Murphy has rebellious Democrats in his ranks. Governor Carcieri, rather than wave the white flag to more powerful forces, has made it clear that he intends to do battle.

Have I mentioned that the sun has broken through the clouds?

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:18 AM

June 22, 2004

Guarding the Private Cash Well

Rhode Island's union cartel isn't happy about certain noises being made about curbing their power. They're going after the (Republican) governor with deceptive ads:

And so a campaign of ads against the governor has been unleashed. One published recently featured unattractive pictures of Governor Carcieri and slammed him for the pension he receives as a retired corporate executive. What it didn't point out is that the taxpayers pay for public-employee benefits -- not for Governor Carcieri's private pension -- and that most of the taxpayers doing the paying do not receive benefits nearly as plush. Nor does the ad point out that property taxes are going through the roof in many communities, and that elected officials are unable to manage efficiently, in part because of giveaways in contract negotiations. ...

The union leaders say their latest attack was in response to a May 10 fundraising letter by the governor. ... In a state where politicians have traditionally been too fearful to awaken powerful enemies, this talk borders on heresy.

To get rid of the thorn-in-the-side (Republican) mayor in Cranston, their strategy is a bit less rooted in the First Amendment:

The union that represents the city's crossing guards, Public Service Employees Local Union 1033 of the Laborers International Union, sent letters June 1 and June 7 asking union members to disaffiliate from the Democratic Party so they can vote against Mayor Stephen P. Laffey in the Sept. 14 primary. ...

The cards were then delivered en masse to the Board of Canvassers office, at City Hall.

The board's registrar, Jaclyn Caruolo, said most of the roughly 260 cards were dropped off in bunches. The rest, she said, were filled out individually at the office and witnessed by the clerks in the office, who serve as notaries.

Democrat City Committee Chairman Michael Sepe — through his sparkling level of class — evinced the degree to which he is a union stooge:

"I think the mayor right now needs a diaper change after what the unions are doing to him," Sepe said. "What's his problem? Now that they want to get into the Republican primary, you can't be crying about that."
Posted by Justin Katz at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

Just Enough to Live On

My first reaction to this news was to wonder what people do with their money:

It takes about $50,000 for a Rhode Island family of four to scrape by with the bare necessities.

No Friday night dinner at Chuck E Cheese's. No trips to Walt Disney World, or karate lessons after school. Just rent, food, utilities, bills.

And they are the fortunate ones.

Roughly half of all families in Rhode Island -- 47 percent -- earn less than $50,000 a year, according to a study being released this morning by the Poverty Institute, a policy and advocacy group at Rhode Island College.

Primary among the discordant details of the article is that the story's central profile, that of April Brophy, doesn't fit the claims of the piece. Apparently, she and her husband were doing just fine on $35,000 — paying for a mortgage, two cars, "a modest savings account." Then divorce dropped her to $14,000 per year, but the state's temporary safety net was enough to get her rolling, even with only a GED foundation to start with. She still relies on state-subsidized healthcare and daycare for her children, but she's making ends meet, earning around $23,000 per year. So why do the state's social workers believe her to require almost twice as much?

The answer opens up all those sticky areas in which different worldviews lead directly to incompatible solutions. The first thing to note, looking at the Poverty Institute study that formed the basis of the article (PDF) is that the $50,000 figure neatly rounds up from just over $48,000 for a two-parent home. More importantly, the numbers are a theoretical sum of various expenses, calculated from separate estimates; they therefore do not take into account the sorts of decisions that people make to stay comfortably afloat.

For instance, the $391 per month for transportation strikes me as high. The $650 per month of medical assumes, at the least, an extremely poor benefits package at work (especially for jobs supporting that level of income). Not surprisingly, the biggest chunk is the $1,215 per month ($14,580 per year) for childcare. These few factors go a long way toward explaining how the Brophys survived before the divorce. Merely mom's staying home with the kids increases the income value of $35,000 per year to $49,580. A job that completely covers health insurance (like public school teacher in Rhode Island, ahem) adds another $7,800-plus of value.

And that is where the policy differences really begin to come into play. To isolate one factor, the high income ceiling for subsidies for childcare encourages double-income families. A family with two parents and two children can make $42,413 and still receive $9,588 from the Rhode Island taxpayer (if they pay the maximum co-payments, however that works). A family like the nuclear Brophys, making $35,000, has incentive, not for the mother (or father) to stay home and save $14,580 on daycare, but to work at least part time.

With the system as it is, the taxpayer reward for having two incomes exacerbates the job shortage and keeps wages down. It doesn't seem insignificant that the income that the Poverty Institute claims families to need is in the range of what might be thought of as the subsidized baseline. Meanwhile, encouraging parents to put their children in daycare inflates the demand for childcare providers, which raises the price. A similar (albeit more complicated) dynamic comes into play with the free or cheap healthcare that Rhode Island offers to all children whose household income is less than 250% of the national poverty level (or a little over $47,000 for a family of four).

All of these various policies are debatable at the individual level and become a mess of causes and effects, incentives and side-effects, in the broader view. Trying to solve them through ever-expanding giveaways, however, will tend make the problems worse. Unfortunately, the urge to do just that is all-pervasive — strangling Rhode Island from every angle:

Along with protecting the subsidies for struggling families, Gewirtz says the state should demand higher-paying jobs from companies that move to Rhode Island.

"The best way out of poverty is a good job," Gewirtz said. "A lot of times we give tax breaks to companies that promise to bring jobs, but they are often poverty-level jobs. There needs to be more accountability."

Apart from the interesting tidbit that the jobs Rhode Island attracts are in the range in which employers find the government covering much of what they would have to offer to secure workers, the extent of belief that a state can just force higher incomes is astounding. Demand higher-paying jobs. Accountability for creating the wrong types of employment. For companies that move to the state. Something tells me that the number of such companies would continue to decline.

Rhode Island, in short, is approaching calamity from two directions through its urges toward socialism. Driving away businesses while pushing the publicly funded benefits for citizens ever up the income scale will eventually create a state attempting to subsidize everybody with revenue from nobody.

ADDENDUM:
This is the first post of a new "Rhode Island" category.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:08 AM