Rhode Island Policy Reporter

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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.

Budget Demystification!
Fiscal Derring-Do!
Economic Jiggery-Pokery!

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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 intentions or talk.

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whole site RIPR back issues

Available Back Issues:

  • 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 economics.
  • 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 news.
  • 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 housing laws.
  • 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 tax incentives.
  • 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
Issues are issued in paper. They are archived irregularly here.

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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.


Creative Commons License Tom Sgouros

Mon, 31 Oct 2005

Record profits at Exxon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM - news) on Thursday posted a quarterly profit of $9.9 billion, its biggest ever and one of the largest in U.S. corporate history, as it raked in a bonanza from soaring oil and gas prices.
Are you surprised? Read here.

22:31 - 31 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]


Read all about Alito here. If you have a little time, it's worth a look at the RIPR July issue for a look at how much damage one persuasive and intransigent activist Justice can do. That would be Scalia we're talking about.

15:31 - 31 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

Sun, 30 Oct 2005

Tax time is coming up...

The 2006 legislative session is coming soon, and the Governor is beginning to get into the festive mood by proposing a couple of terrible tax reform ideas: a "sales tax holiday" for the busiest shopping days of the year, and a cut in the sales tax.

Because we expect the season to be a busy one, we thought we'd remind everyone of the real state of our tax system. Click here to see the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy study about tax fairness. (Or at least the RI pages. See here for the whole thing.)

The takeaway message: the system is not what you'd call fair. To be more precise, in 2002, the richest Rhode Islanders paid about 8.6% of their income in state and local taxes, and since some of these can be deducted from the federal tax bill, the effective rate is about 6%. On the other hand, the poorest folks in the state — which is to say the bottom 60% — pay more than 10% of their income in state and local tax. The bottom 20% pay more than 13%.

Since 2002, as the regressive property tax has increased, the picture has only gotten worse.

20:37 - 30 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

Mon, 24 Oct 2005


Trillion dollars in the national debt.

Remember the point isn't that the debt is a bad thing. But debts are most usefully incurred in order to buy us something that will become more valuable later. So what did the $2 trillion added to the debt since 2000 bring us?

23:39 - 24 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

Thu, 20 Oct 2005

Deficit spending

Words from US Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska:

"When a natural disaster, be it a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood, hits a particular region or state, the rest of us can often feel disconnected because it's happening to 'them' and not 'us,'" Young said.

"Buying bonds that are specifically designated for these types of disasters can help bring together Americans and create a sense of patriotism."

America has averaged 31 major federal disaster declarations annually for the past 50 years, Young said.

"We must find a way to meet the inevitable needs that will arise after future disasters," he said. "We cannot continue deficit spending."

One wonders how he imagines the deficit is financed, if not by bonds. This is one of the people in charge of our nation's budget.

Via Atrios.

17:38 - 20 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

A generally unheard question

And a good one:

...executives who complain about the high cost of labor in the United States compared to, say, China, are surprisingly silent about the high cost of executive talent in the United States compared to, say, China.

What's with that, anyway?

Read more via here.

15:05 - 20 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

Wed, 12 Oct 2005

This makes me feel better. How about you?

Apparently we're supposed to feel better about Harriet Miers because of her religion. Good to know about that ol' first amendment.

On the other hand, I suppose it wasn't supposed to comfort me, since I'm the sort of guy who once imagined church and state separation was widely considered a good idea.

18:06 - 12 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

Tue, 11 Oct 2005

Highway relief

Not for them, from them.

21:19 - 11 Oct 2005 [/y5/oc]

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