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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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or $18 with shipping and sales tax).
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book's subjects, featuring the famous mystery graph.
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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
that affect life here in the Ocean State, concentrating on action, not
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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
is an email address you are welcome to use. If you are a web bot, we hope
you can't understand it, and that's the point of writing it this way.
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.
Wed, 31 Aug 2005
Government policy matters
What a surprise. And to see what happens when the people in charge of
it don't believe in its value, ask yourself where FEMA is in New
Orleans? Why can't the police communicate with each other? Why is it
Wednesday before FEMA gets minimally involved? Read
Indeed, the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled
the beginning of the end for FEMA. The newly appointed leadership of
the agency showed little interest in its work or in the missions
pursued by the departed Witt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and the
creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Soon FEMA was being
absorbed into the "homeland security borg."
This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the
disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The
move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In
fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in
disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be
established) will have that mission.
FEMA will be survived by state and local emergency management offices,
which are confused about how they fit into the national
picture. That's because the focus of the national effort remains
terrorism, even if the Department of Homeland Security still talks
about "all-hazards preparedness."
Via Washington Monthly.
17:10 - 31 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Mon, 29 Aug 2005
The conflict between services and taxes...
where it doesn't work.
14:25 - 29 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Katrina's economic effects
As we wait to hear about the terrible
effects of Katrina in New Orleans, it's
worth a moment to remember one of the curious things that happened to
the economy of South Florida after much of it was flattened by
Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
$26 billion of damage and killed around 60 people
(depending on how you count), but the gross economic measures that
people use to define the health of Florida's economy were largely
untouched — or went up. After all, there were all these repairs
to pay for in the aftermath.
This isn't meant to minimize the tragedy of Andrew (or Katrina);
these are awe-inspiring storms, with truly awful effects. But it's
worth pointing out that public policy these days is run to maximize a
curious set of economic statistics that (1) are pretty much impossible
to measure accurately, and (2) may not have that much to do with how
happy the people in that economy are. If a storm like this makes the
overall economic picture look better, isn't it time to
re-think our reliance on these statistics?
12:21 - 29 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Wed, 24 Aug 2005
Why are there still monkeys?
From "Larry King Live" last night
and I hope he was wearing a smile at the time:
KING: All right, hold on. Dr. Forrest, your concept of how can you
out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are
there still monkeys?
You're reading this on the internet, so apparently it is the 21st
century. But sometimes it's hard to tell.
13:45 - 24 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Tue, 23 Aug 2005
Intelligent design, again
A piece in Slate points
out that "teaching the controversy" about evolution isn't a
half-bad idea, since, after all, the reason the vast majority of
biologists believe in evolution is because the theory was proven
so superior to the alternatives in the course of that same
The great set piece, which I was taught in school,
involved the debate at Oxford between Darwin's supporter Thomas Huxley
and Bishop Wilberforce... In front of a large audience, Huxley cleaned
Wilberforce's clock, ate his lunch, used him as a mop for the floor,
and all that.
15:59 - 23 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
The Bush administration is taking credit for an improved economy reducing
the expected deficit this year. While reserving judgment about
whether there's all that much to celebrate over a $331 billion deficit
over a $365 billion deficit, especially given that we were in surplus
not so very long ago, it is interesting to notice what's in the fine
print. From the Congressional Budget Office's recent "Budget and
Economic Outlook: An Update."
Revenues are likely to be $85 billion higher this year than CBO
expected in March, primarily because of robust growth in corporate
income tax payments.
This is what's making the deficit go down, apparently. And this is
in the second paragraph of the executive summary, right up front.
But down on page 24, there's this word of explanation:
The sources of the current strength in corporate tax receipts will not
be known until information from tax returns becomes available in
future years, but CBO anticipates that most of that strength will be
They go on to explain that only $1 billion of the estimated $53
billion increase in corporate tax collections can be attributed to
improvements in the economy. They speculate that the burst here can
possibly be attributed to companies deciding to "book"
Our interpretation: companies are figuring that grim reality can't
be far away, and that, at least in budgetary terms, a day of reckoning
is ahead. Because of this, the tax situation is as good for them now
as it is going to get, so if there are profits in the offing, move
them to the present, and take the tax hit now.
So look forward soon to reports of big companies recording
favorable profits, and look forward to uncritical reporting of those
Read the CBO
document here, and read a critique of more than corporate profits
15:41 - 23 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Thu, 18 Aug 2005
In the quest to explain our creation. I speak, of course, of the
FSM, and his many millions of devout followers. Read more
01:42 - 18 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Tue, 16 Aug 2005
It appears the official Democratic strategy to the nomination of Judge
Roberts to the Supreme Court has been
Aren't you glad to know that Scalia will soon have such a good friend
across the table?
Maybe someone can explain carefully to everyone why exactly a
judge's judicial philosophy is not a valid basis on which to make a
decision about whether that judge deserves elevation to a higher
court? Strangely, I thought it was probably the most important
consideration, but I guess that's just me.
10:03 - 16 Aug 2005 [/y5/au]
Wed, 03 Aug 2005
The editor (that's me) is away until the 14th of August, when posting
will resume. Until then, feel free to browse the archives, and can we
suggest you read about Judge Roberts
to prepare for the fall nomination follies?
22:36 - 03 Aug 2005 [/y5/jy]
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