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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.
Now at bookstores near you, or buy it with the button above ($14,
or $18 with shipping and sales tax).
Contact information below if you'd
like to schedule a book-related event, like a possibly entertaining talk on the
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
intentions or talk.
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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.
Mon, 19 Dec 2005
Health care accounting
An interesting (and alarming) article in Sunday's Journal (front page,
above the fold) was about the exploding costs of health care for state
government retirees. Since the deal was made under the DiPrete
administration, costs have exploded. This part is a familiar story.
But there's worse in store:
As a result of a new public-sector accounting rule, Rhode Island --
along with every other state, city, and town, water, sewer and school
district in the nation -- will soon have to disclose to its taxpayers
and bondholders the total value of its retiree health-care promises.
The way it should read is:
...will soon have to disclose to its taxpayers
and bondholders the total value of its retiree health-care promises with
accounting rules designed for the private sector.
The exploding cost of health care is a huge problem for everyone, not
only retired government employees. To single them out like this is kind
of strange. Air pollution is a real problem for retired government
employees, too. (And it probably pushes up the cost of their health
insurance, besides.) But that's not how I'd usually think of the
But worse, the article conflates that problem with an accounting change
ordered by GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board). The important
difference between a private business and a government is that a private
business can go bankrupt and disappear. In that case, it's important
that there be financial backing to the commitments it has made to its
customers and employees. This is why it's inappropriate for a private
business to pay for pension costs out of current revenues, and why a
corporation's "unfunded liability" -- the difference between what they
owe and the cash they have on hand -- is such a big deal.
The same is not true of a government. Social Security, for example, has
happily paid benefits out of current revenues for decades, and there's
no reason it can't continue into the foreseeable future. But this
accounting rule change will make this kind of perfectly responsible
fiscal management appear to be mismanagement, and will cause thousands
of governments across the country to raise taxes or cut services in
order to pack away huge sums of money so they can appear more "fiscally
responsible" than they really need to be. A hardship for all of us and
a windfall for people whose business is to invest those funds, but I'm
sure that had nothing to do with the changes.
09:39 - 19 Dec 2005 [/y5/de]
Tue, 13 Dec 2005
Stink tank forums
A couple of weeks ago we held the first of the Stink tank House of
Unrepresentatives policy forums (fora?), on affordable housing, and it
was quite an interesting event. People came to discuss affordable
housing in a way that rarely happens. We heard proposals about
inclusionary zoning, and about restrictions on rental conversions for
section 8 housing, two ideas worth serious consideration to help ease
the housing crisis.
Join us for the next meetings, in 2006. I neglected to post this
schedule before, but here it is. The
next forum will be January 18, at 5:30, and will be about educational
"adequacy": How much is too little? How little is too much?
The witnesses and panels will be announced in January.
10:30 - 13 Dec 2005 [/y5/de]
Eight beautiful numbers
Our new International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 1557-5675.
Granted by the Library of Congress National Serials Data Program. Oh,
the sweet smell of legitimacy.
10:22 - 13 Dec 2005 [/y5/de]
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