Rhode Island Policy Reporter

What's this? A Book!

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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.

If you'd like to help, please contribute an item, suggest an issue topic, or buy a subscription. If you can, buy two or three (subscribe here).

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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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Deep archive


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

Tue, 30 Jan 2007

Issue 23

Hits the mailboxes.

  • How much real estate speculation is there around here anyway? Some real data, from the Providence tax assessor.
  • A National Popular Vote for President? Who are we kidding?
  • Book review: "Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue" by Stephanie Mencimer.

Isn't it time to subscribe?

13:47 - 30 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Executive Pay

What he said. I'd only add that until there is something more attractive to do with that money than give it to executives, pay will continue to rise. You can see it as a power failure of workers if you like, or see it as a lack of real investment worth investing in. Either way, if companies continue to make lots of cash, and don't see anything better to do with it, they'll continue to give it to their executives, since those executives are usually the ones making those decisions.

13:43 - 30 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Tue, 23 Jan 2007


For issue 23. Here's the US Department of Justice statistics page. And here's an interesting reference on it. Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 1994-1995. Here's the 1997 version and the 2002-2003 version.

Other data about state courts can be found at the National Center for State Courts. The data about state court tort filings is here, look for table 16, and add the numbers up vertically.


14:17 - 23 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Mon, 22 Jan 2007

Curious about Massachusetts' Health Care Reform?

Some details are starting to emerge about the Massachusetts Health Care plan. The plan, you'll remember, was created to have nothing in the way of cost controls. So, unsurprisingly, it will cost almost twice per month what former Governor Romney said, will have a deductible of at least $2,000/$4,000, and often much more, for a not-very plush policy. The way the Massachusetts law gets universal coverage is simply to mandate it: you have to buy it, or pay a penalty.

By choosing to court the insurance companies, Massachusetts has passed a plan palatable to the insurance lobby, and that sounds like something good, but will it actually help people who can't afford it now to get coverage for themselves?

We want universal coverage, but we want coverage that we can afford. Enacting this kind of "reform" without cost controls is a recipe for public policy disaster, which was easily foreseen by the creators of Medicaid in the 1960's. It was also easily foreseen by Nick Tsiongas, in his RIPR article about what Rhode Island can do about health care reform, in issue 18.

Here's a Boston Globe article: Sticker shock for state care plan

Robert Kuttner's Op-Ed Health insurance dilemma in the Jan. 20 Boston Globe.

10:16 - 22 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Wed, 17 Jan 2007


Here we come, creeping up on another anniversary of going to war in Iraq. For old times' sake, and because people have asked about where were we anti-war types in 2002, here's something from our deep archive. And here's another.

If you visit the archive, you'll find them sandwiched between articles about my trips to DC and New York to participate in protest marches. So I guess that makes me one of the softies.

00:05 - 17 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Fri, 12 Jan 2007

Rule by the wrong

How is it perpetuated? Via writing by the wrong. Read about it here and here.

11:57 - 12 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

Tue, 09 Jan 2007

Seeking differences among oil companies

The Sierra Club has done some work so you don't have to: sought the fine distinctions between oil companies and their energy and environmental records. Look here.

18:14 - 09 Jan 2007 [/y7/ja]

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