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.

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, 24 Jul 2007

Salaries in RI

An article in the Projo reports that EDC wants to establish a new tax credit, in order to raise the average salary in Rhode Island. This, of course, is crazy, for reasons outined in issue 11.

That issue was written in 2005, and the data have changed somewhat since then. You can find an updated rankings table below.

The numbers are annual salaries for a fairly random assortment of skilled and unskilled jobs. There is nothing rigorous here, though the findings are consistent enough in my opinion to warrant further study. But I haven't done it yet, and I don't know who else has.


For the record, the skilled jobs in the table, include Economist, Registered Nurse, Architect, Accountant, a couple of varieties of Psychologist, Dental Hygienist, Computer programmer, Civil Engineer, Consulting Engineer, Research Scientist, Voice Pathologist, and a few others. The Unskilled jobs are Butcher, Baker, Cleaner, Electronics Assembler, Hair Stylist, House painter, and Fish packer. The data are from SalaryExpert.com, but they are ultimately BLS data.

21:07 - 24 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Mon, 16 Jul 2007

Expose the Obstructionists

Have you wondered why the newly-Democratic Congress has gotten so little done on their agenda this year? Here's a list of legislation that has been blocked in the Senate by Republican threats to filibuster.

See here for more.

12:14 - 16 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Fri, 13 Jul 2007

New column

Read here for another column (by me) in the Woonsocket Call (as well as the Pawtucket Times and some of the weekly papers) about real estate speculation. It's essentially a reprise of some of the data first developed for issue 23. The short version: there's a lot more of it than you think, and it has a lot bigger effect on prices than you think.

(If you were a subscriber, this would be old news.)

09:32 - 13 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Thu, 12 Jul 2007

Economists and Weathermen, more

Another list of economic orthodoxies that continue to be orthodox despite the lack of evidence that they are, you know, true or anything.

11:54 - 12 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Wed, 11 Jul 2007

The Shame

Here's the real shame about Michael Moore's new movie: "Journalists" feel they have a pass to call him a fact-fudger even when their own facts tell the same story.

The link is to a collection of CNN clips interviewing Moore, where he's being forced to defend himself against being called a liar by a CNN reporter whose facts don't disagree with his in any important way. They do, of course disagree in the details: Does the US spend $7000 per capita each year on health care, or is it only $6000? Both numbers come from respectable sources (Moore's is from the US Dept of Health and Human Services, CNN's from the World Health Organization), and either way, it's way more than any other country. The only reason to argue about distinctions like this is because you don't understand how such numbers are compiled and imagine that there is only one, undisputable, answer to the question of how much a country spends on health care in a year.

What's more, Larry King seems unable to understand that being called a liar on national television is something to which one ought to respond angrily. Sanjay Gupta seems unable to understand that his critique will only be used to discredit the larger point of Moore's movie, a point with which he claims to agree. Bizarre.

Try this for more. Here, too.

10:26 - 11 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Thu, 05 Jul 2007

Selling out or making the world a better place

Why do so many people feel there has to be a choice? Is there a better way to arrange the world so the choice isn't so stark? Read here.

10:55 - 05 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Mon, 02 Jul 2007

June (!) issue out.

Sorry about that.


Wouldn't you like to subscribe?

17:40 - 02 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

Why Aren't Economists as Accurate as Weathermen?

Good article.

This is particularly useful information here, where economists are always predicting a spectacular flowering of investment or a breathtaking exodus of wealthy people after what is really a small change in our tax laws. Some state and local taxes are significant because they are the only ones. There is no federal property tax, or sales tax. But there is an income tax and it's much bigger than the state income tax. So predicting that vast changes can occur based on changes to a second-order tax is pretty odd, when you really think about it.

17:30 - 02 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]

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