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A look at the lousy situation Rhode Island is in, how we got here,
and how we might be able to get out.
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RIPR is a (paper) newsletter and a weekly column appearing in ten
of Rhode Island's finer newspapers. The goal is to look at local,
state and federal policy issues
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Available Back Issues:
Issues are issued in paper. They are archived irregularly here.
- Aug 09 (38) - How your government's
economic policies have worked against you. What a fake nineteenth
century nun can teach us about the tea party protests.
- Jun 09 (37) - Statistics of
optimism, the real cost of your government. Judith Reilly on
renewable tax credits. Review of Akerlof and Shiller on behavioral
- Apr 09 (36) - Cap and trade, the
truth behind the card check controversy, review of Governor's tax
policy workgroup final report.
- Feb 09 (35) - The many varieties of
market failures, and what classic economics has to say about them,
review of Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.
- Dec 08 (34) - Can "Housing First"
end homelessness? The perils of TIF. Review of You Can't Be
President by John MacArthur.
- Oct 08 (33) - Wage stagnation,
financial innovation and deregulation: creating the financial
crisis, the political rhetoric of the Medicaid waiver.
- Jul 08 (32) - Where has the money
gone? Could suburban sprawl be part of our fiscal problem? Review
of Bad Money by Kevin Phillips, news trivia or trivial
- Apr 08 (31) - Understanding
homelessness in RI, by Eric Hirsch, market segmentation and the
housing market, the economics of irrationality.
- Feb 08 (30) - IRS migration data,
and what it says about RI, a close look at "entitlements", historic
credit taxonomy, an investment banking sub-primer.
- Dec 07 (29) - A look at the state's
underinsured, economic geography with IRS data.
- Oct 07 (28) - Choosing the most
expensive ways to fight crime, bait and switch tax cuts, review
of Against Prediction, about the perils of using statistics
to fight crime.
- Aug 07 (27) - Sub-prime mortgages
fall heaviest on some neighborhoods, biotech patents in decline, no photo
IDs for voting, review of Al Gore's Against Reason
- Jun 07 (26) - Education
funding, budget secrecy, book review of Boomsday and the Social
Security Trustees' Report
- May 07 (25) - Municipal finance: could citizen
mobility cause high property taxes?
What some Depression-era economists had to say on investment, and why
it's relevant today, again.
- Mar 07 (24) - The state budget
disaster and how we got here. Structural deficit, health care,
borrowing, unfunded liabilities, the works.
- Jan 07 (23) - The impact of real
estate speculation on housing prices, reshaping the electoral college.
Book review of Blocking the Courthouse Door on tort "reform."
- Dec 06 (22) - State deficit: What's
so responsible about this? DOT bonding madness, Quonset, again,
Massachusetts budget comparison.
- Oct 06 (21) - Book review: Out of
Iraq by Geo. McGovern and William Polk, New rules about supervisors
undercut unions, New Hampshire comparisons, and November referenda guide.
- Aug 06 (20) - Measuring teacher
quality, anti-planning referenda and the conspiracy to promote them,
affordable housing in the suburbs, union elections v. card checks.
- Jun 06 (19) - Education report, Do
tax cut really shrink government?, Casinos and constitutions, State historic tax
credit: who uses it.
- May 06 (18) - Distribution
analysis of property taxes by town, critique of RIEDC statistics,
how to reform health care, and how not to.
- Mar 06 (17) - Critique of commonly
used statistics: RI/MA rich people disparity, median income, etc.
Our economic dependence on high health care spending. Review of
Crashing the Gate
- Feb 06 (16) - Unnecessary
accounting changes mean disaster ahead for state and towns, reforming
property tax assessment, random state budget notes.
- Jan 06 (15) - Educational equity,
estimating the amount of real estate speculation in Rhode Island,
interview with Thom Deller, Providence's chief planner.
- Nov 05 (14) - The distribution of
affordable houses and people who need them, a look at RI's affordable
- Sep 05 (13) - A solution to pension
strife, review of J.K. Galbraith biography and why we should care.
- Jul 05 (12) - Kelo v. New London:
Eminent Domain, and what's between the lines in New London.
- Jun 05 (11) - Teacher salaries,
Veterinarian salaries and the
minimum wage. Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
- Apr 05 (10) - Choosing a crisis: Tax fairness and school
funding, suggestions for reform. Book review: business location and
- Feb 05 (9) - State and teacher
pension costs kept artificially high. Miscellaneous tax suggestions for balancing the state budget.
- Dec 04 (8) - Welfare applications and the iconography of welfare
department logos. The reality of the Social Security trust fund.
- Oct 04 (7) - RIPTA and DOT, who's really in crisis?
- Aug 04 (6) - MTBE and well pollution, Mathematical problems with property taxes
- May 04 (5) - A look at food-safety issues: mad cows, genetic engineering, disappearing farmland.
- Mar 04 (4) - FY05 RI State Budget Critique.
- Feb 04 (3) - A close look at the Blue Cross of RI annual statement.
- Oct 03 (2) - Taxing matters, a historical overview of tax burdens in Rhode Island
- Oct 03 Appendix - Methodology notes and sources for October issue
- Apr 03 (1) - FY04 RI State Budget critique
For those of you who can read english and understand it, the following
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The Rhode Island Policy Reporter is an independent news source that
specializes in the technical issues of public policy that matter so
much to all our lives, but that also tend not to be reported very
well or even at all. The publication is owned and operated by Tom
Sgouros, who has written all the text you'll find on this site,
except for the articles with actual bylines.
Tue, 28 Jun 2005
Ok, he won
Now that the Governor essentially got everything he wanted in this
year's state budget, what do you think he will use for his speeches?
He can't go around declaring that he is powerless against the insiders
and the unions any more, can he?
13:11 - 28 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
The war on science
There's an interesting set of articles
about the politicization of science. Enjoy.
13:10 - 28 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Gosh, what a delight
So the House Finance sent its budget to the floor. Essentially no
more money for schools than the Governor proposed, and a puny tax cut
for anyone whose car is worth more than $4,500. What a pleasure to
have a House leadership so committed to carrying the Governor's
water. What's that, you say? You say they're his opposition? Funny
way to show it.
09:34 - 23 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Sat, 18 Jun 2005
The moral high ground
It wasn't exactly
but apparently we did lie about it. To the members of the
"Coalition of the Willing," among others.
Aren't you glad the US is such a beacon of freedom, humanity and open
17:33 - 18 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Thu, 16 Jun 2005
We agree with the Governor
It happens sometimes.
Carcieri Defends the Workers' Compensation Fund
Governor Carcieri has expressed his strong opposition to passage of a bill
(H-6530) to transform Beacon Mutual Insurance Company from a public
corporation established for the good of the people of Rhode Island into an
entirely different entity.
The bill proposes keeping Beacon a mutual insurance company but eliminating
its place as a "non-profit independent public corporation." Beacon's
creation a decade ago was a vital element of the restructuring of the
troubled worker's compensation system in Rhode Island, and its overwhelming
presence in that market remains a economic factor today.
This bill relaxes regulatory requirements and significantly impacts Beacon
Insurance's current rating structure, replacing it with an unproven
formula. It weakens public participation on the board of directors and
restricts public hearings on rate increases, while permitting Beacon to
take great risks in new, out-of-state markets.
The Governor has called on legislative leaders to vote down this measure
and preserve the success it created in the 1990's.
Beacon, as it is, is one of the real policy successes of the past
fifteen years. Messing with it would be giving in to the same kind of
impulses as brought us the credit union crisis. If the directors
aren't content running a small insurance pool whose purview is only RI
businesses, then we should find us some new directors.
Ambition is often a fine thing, but around here, hubris is the more
18:11 - 16 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Tue, 14 Jun 2005
Supply side realism
One of the first steps to making progress in the tax debate in RI is
to be honest about what is going on. Here's one
honesty about a member of the tax-cutting pantheon.
11:52 - 14 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Mon, 13 Jun 2005
See here for some
tidbits (oh, sorry) about the mad cow reported in Sunday's papers.
As reported down in the
the cow in question was
actually detected last November, but the USDA only thought to mention
it last week after the diagnosis was confirmed by the standard test.
Why they waited so long to confirm is not addressed in the article.
One begins to doubt that the USDA has only consumers' best interest at
heart. Shocking, I know.
For more about the USDA's scandalous "testing" regimen,
see last year's food issue of RIPR.
12:41 - 13 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Bad ideas on the march
about cutting the income tax. The time has come, they say:
THE RHODE ISLAND Public Expenditure Council believes that now is is
the time to reduce the state's personal-income tax and make a
downpayment on improving the state's tax position in the region.
Etc etc etc...
As I pointed out below
a plan like this is a tax cut for the rich, and a hike on everyone
else, since no one expects property taxes to abate their march up and
up and up without action from the state. It is no surprise that RIPEC
is promoting such a plan, but why should anyone go along with it?
If RIPEC wants to improve our tax position in the region, they
should work harder to enact living-wage ordinances, and to increase
the minimum wage. As the current issue of RIPR documents (subscribe
here), RI's blue-collar jobs pay substantially
less than their counterparts in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Perhaps that's why our tax position is "unfavorable"
relative to those states. Have they considered that? Have you?
12:10 - 13 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Fri, 10 Jun 2005
We learn from the Projo
not just that a math error and a program oversight mean the state has
much less money to spend this year and next than it though it did.
But we also learn that the new
contract the Governor is negotiating with state employee unions might
cost as much as $43 million more than he budgeted. This is only a fraction
of a percent more than he'd budgeted, but it's interesting that the
Governor seems unable to negotiate down the employees who work for the
state, but he seems to think that the school committees who do the
same are spineless wimps.
11:21 - 10 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Thu, 09 Jun 2005
What's the matter with New England
A report from the New
England Council Reports on the economic health of New England.
The report, written by the consulting firm AT Kearney
has a lot to say about how New England can become more prosperous. It
talks about increasing investment in public higher education —
including community colleges and vocational education — shoring
up transportation infrastructure, including public transportation,
working to create strategic alliances between large groups of
businesses, and dealing with the housing crisis.
From the press release:
A.T. Kearney identified five engines of economic growth including
regional networks and collaborations; education; regional brand;
infrastructure and structural costs; and demographics and
"In many of these areas we found New England facing
challenges," said Michael Roepel, a vice president in
A.T. Kearney's Cambridge office. "The challenges include high
infrastructure and structural costs; a lag in rankings of value of the
education system, with a need to focus more energy on lifelong
learning and raise the prominence of public universities; and the fact
that the New England "brand" lacks distinction within the
U.S. The region is also facing challenges in demographics — an
aging workfarce with slow or no labor force growth."
It says nothing at all about taxes. The people who want to will find
taxes as part of the "structural" costs mentioned in the
release and report. And they'll completely ignore the prominence of
the recommendation to raise the value of the public colleges and
universities, or the part about investing in low-income housing.
Because that's the way our debate works around here.
But congratulations to the
for skipping that part.
09:40 - 09 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Wed, 08 Jun 2005
Everything you know about RI is false
What do you really know about Rhode Island? Did you know, for example:
- There are places in 27 other states where the sales tax is
higher than it is here in Rhode Island.
- Our state tax burden is not the highest in the country,
except by some very strange calculations.
- Rhode Island has the eighth-highest paid teachers in the
country, but we also have the seventh-highest paid accountants, the
fifth-highest paid veterinarians, and the third-highest paid
- Like veterinarians and accountants, our teachers are paid wages
comparable to similar jobs in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but our
cashiers, house painters and cleaners are paid far less than their
counterparts in those states.
- Cutting the income tax while allowing property taxes to rise is
a tax cut for the very rich, and a terrible deal for everyone else.
- Property tax collections over the past 15 years have risen much
more slowly than income tax collections. But the income tax rates
have declined over that time, while the property tax rates have
- The Governor (and Treasurer) are holding the costs of teacher
and state employee pension payments artificially high this year.
- ...And that all of the above matter far more to a family
trying to get by in Rhode Island than whether a Supreme Court
Justice is moonlighting on a military tribunal.
These facts are from just a few of the articles that have
appeared in the last few months of the Rhode Island Policy Reporter.
Join our crack team of analysts as they look at different aspects of
state and federal government policy. What you'll find in our pages
doesn't always reflect the conventional wisdom, but if the
conventional wisdom were always correct, wouldn't we be living in an
Why not subscribe, and help that crack team
of analysts find out more stuff like this? Won't that feel good?
And if you're going to an event where you know people who might be
interested in RIPR, give them a back issue (archived to the left), or
leave a few copy of this flyer lying around. Thanks.
12:14 - 08 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Fri, 03 Jun 2005
This coming Sunday, I am to be a guest on WHJJ/920 AM, talking about
taxes and funding public education and other stuff. Expect to hear
relatively incendiary stuff, at least by the standards of todays
constricted debate. (See below, and the April issue, too.) The show is from 1 to
3, and I think it's call-in. Listen, and please call in.
Oh, and the May issue will be out on Monday. Ok, so it's June.
- Teacher salaries - are they paid too much? Rhode Island has
the fifth highest-paid veterinarians in the country. What about them?
- Using usury - third world debt and Rhode Island, a review of
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Wouldn't now be a good time to subscribe?
01:15 - 03 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
Wed, 01 Jun 2005
for court filings about American Power Conversion's tax case.
12:00 - 01 Jun 2005 [/y5/jn]
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