Fri, 29 Apr 2005
Last Monday the Providence School Committee refused to cut any more from the schools, and approved an unbalanced budget for next year. Now the Mayor has to figure out what to do, but the School Committee has made it clear that more cuts come out of bone, not flesh, and as advocates for the schools, they wish to have no part in the massacre.
23:36 - 29 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 28 Apr 2005
Speaking of the abuses of the press, Al Gore gave a tremendous speech yesterday, blasting the forces of the religious right, and the move to make all judges religious zealots. But you didn't read about it in the paper, did you? It's here and well worth reading.
12:30 - 28 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
For the people who are most disappointed that Ann Coulter continues to be a prominent voice in what passes for our national discussion, it's worse than you thought. Read here.
It's not possible to get an accurate picture of what's happened to our politics without looking at what's happened to our press. And it's sad. A couple of days ago, I listened to Texas Senator John Cornyn "say the thing that is not" (in the delicate language of Swift's Houhnhnyms) in an NPR interview. And I waited for the reporter to call him on it. And waited.
11:36 - 28 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Tue, 26 Apr 2005
At last, a specific agenda for a Democratic Congress. In all the handwringing about the fate of liberalism and "morality" voters that we've had to endure since the election, a basic point seemed to be lost. A platform is a set of things you intend (or would like) to do. A platform is not a mood or a concept or a slogan. In the last election, the Democratic platform was pretty hard to discern. Though it definitely existed, and it definitely contrasted significantly with the Republican platform, it was also definitely not front and center, presumably for reasons of too-clever-by-half strategy.
The agenda at the link is not terribly specific in some important places, either. But putting a document like this out front and center is a great relief, and probably not only to us policy nerds.
14:11 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
A story in yesterday's Projo. Presumably these stickers have something in common with the male display of peacock feathers. Perhaps that's why they're issued in the spring?
(Photo by Projo's Andrew Dickerman)
10:24 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
In today's NY Times, John Tierney seeks to persuade us of George Bush's benevolence by travelling to Chile and interviewing someone who profited from Chile's privatized pension scheme. But in a system like Chile's, where individuals bear the risks, there are winners and losers. Mr. Tierney's friend is one of the winners, but the losses of the losers have pressured the government into setting a guaranteed pension level. (See here.) By now the costs of taking care of the losers are a significant chunk of Chile's general revenue. Chile's system may be a good one, but it is not a cheap one. Retirement benefits are more generous in Norway, too. Why not interview someone there?
No one would dispute that there are ways to make Social Security benefits more generous. But many of us object to the duplicitous way in which the President's Social Security "reform" plan is being sold to the public. Columnists unable to make these distinctions are doomed to write pointless columns, and then wonder why their readers aren't persuaded.
10:24 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Fri, 22 Apr 2005
But how much flatter can it get? See here.
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, via the Christian Science Monitor.
19:42 - 22 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 21 Apr 2005
Don't you just want to subscribe?
Apologies are due for its late mailing — confusion with the printer is to blame. If you are a subscriber, it should be in your mail today or tomorrow.
13:20 - 21 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 14 Apr 2005
Check out this flyer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Come one, come all. See you there.
15:49 - 14 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Wed, 13 Apr 2005
I see that the IRS has stopped publishing statistics about rich taxpayers. The Statistics of Income tables, which researchers use to look at the effects of tax laws, no longer break out any incomes over $200,000. That is, they used to publish statistics about incomes between $200,000 and $500,000, between $500,000 and $1 million, and over $1 million. Now they publish all of them together.
What they do publish allows me to see that between 2001 and 2002, the Bush cuts were worth $100 million to the approximately 8000 richest Rhode Islanders. This is about a 10% tax cut. By folding the categories together, the IRS hides the fact that people who are just barely in that bracket didn't do as well as the astronomically rich.
(And it's not just because we're a small state. The tables for all states reflect the new reality, which apparently is that that reality is to be frowned upon.)
00:17 - 13 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Sometimes newspapers make the point for you. (From
All these articles report on the same meeting.
09:15 - 12 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Mon, 11 Apr 2005
If you'd like to see some real numbers about US health care costs, and outcomes, look here. It's not very pretty, though.
22:05 - 11 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Legislation to require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions has reared its head.
One notable feature of the bill is the requirement that the doctor to perform an abortion be identified by name on the phone. This is in opposition to security procedures in place at RI clinics.
It also requires the provision of pamphlets, a web site, and a 24-hour hotline to provide information that isn't really accurate. But there are specs about how many pixels per inch the illustrations are to be. The fiscal note from the health department says that creating and distributing the information would cost around $500,000 per year. Just what we need: half a million to distribute inaccurate information instead of funding schools.
People who think the best way to eliminate some practice is to outlaw it would do well to read the abstract of a study published in JAMA a few years ago. The study was to examine the effects of a 24-hour waiting period on Mississippi women seeking an abortion. The finding was that the waiting period decreased the abortion rate in Mississippi, but:
For all women, RRs of the percentage of abortions performed after 12 weeks' gestation increased 39% more in Mississippi than in either South Carolina or Georgia... We also show that the percentage of abortions performed out of state increased 42% more among women in Mississippi relative to women in South Carolina after the law.
So the number of late-term abortions actually increased, and more people had to travel for medical care they couldn't get at home.
A hearing on this bill is scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee, Tuesday at 4:30, Rm 35.
11:52 - 11 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Wed, 06 Apr 2005
It's nothing but a scandal when the Governor keeps the pension costs to cities and towns higher than it needs to be, and then runs around the state doing this:
Beating the Drum for Pension Reform
The bear market in 2001-2003 was the cause of much of the increase but the Governor himself bears responsibility for around 20% of the pension increases this year. (Details here or here -- caution: math) Because no reporter does math, this will go unexamined this year.
It may well be that pensions need reform. The teachers I know tend to agree with the Governor. But the Governor is not being honest when he says he's concerned about the cost of pensions. If he was, he and the treasurer would act to reduce their cost. This could be done with the stroke of a pen, and would not endanger any bond ratings or cause anyone to look askance at our management. The Governor is forcing all the cities and towns (and the state) to appear more fiscally responsible than anyone asks us to be. For Warwick, this is as much as $700,000 or so.
18:46 - 06 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Mon, 04 Apr 2005
Thomas Friedman, NY Times columnist, notices that there are creative and capable people in the rest of the world, and that you can't limit globalization to the manufacturing of goods. That is, you send your factories overseas, and pretty soon, someone there is going to notice some way to improve your product, or your factory. And then you lose the economic race.
The "logic" of globalization has been, for many years, to assume that we could export the means of production without exporting the intellectual capital necessary to establish and use those means. In other words, we let other people manufacture our goods, but we keep the "important" part of the company — the innovation, the inventions, the marketing — here at home. But this view has always rested on an obscenely low estimate of the intelligence and drive of the people in those other countries. It's as if to say, it's safe to send the manufacturing to China, because they'll never be the innovators we are.
Are we entitled, then, to some scorn when someone like Friedman "discovers" this isn't really, um, true? That's "discover" in the same sense that Columbus discovered an America already quite well populated, thank you very much. But there's nobody here but us fuzzy-headed radicals, so I don't imagine pundits like Friedman will notice.
12:28 - 04 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Fri, 01 Apr 2005
Will we turn back from the brink in mid-air, or when we're at the bottom?
I read that my town's school committee feels it has to come up with $600,000 in cuts again to meet the town council's target. Whether or not the Gov gets his pension reform, my town's pension costs next year are going to go up, by a lot. If he gets his reforms, it will go up by less, of course, but so what? Once the school system is cut to the bone, who cares what size is the additional burden? In David Copperfield, Mr. Micawber said, "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
His point: when you're cutting it that close, sixpence additional is enough to create a tragedy.
I think the only real question at this point is whether the town pushes back at the state when the school system is devastated, or after. I'm not saying that this year's cuts are devastating, though I'll reserve judgment until next year. But the logic of the situation — and the players — will force us all to this outcome. It sure seems unlikely that the town will cavil until the school system can take no more.
Once again, this is a crisis of choice. The state is rich enough to have good schools, good services and good roads. But a combination of bad information and the ubiquity of conservative conventional wisdom have robbed us of the state we ought to have.
22:46 - 01 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
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