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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).
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.
If you'd like to help, please contribute
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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.
Fri, 29 Apr 2005
Last Monday the Providence School Committee refused to cut any more
from the schools, and approved an unbalanced budget for next year.
Now the Mayor has to figure out what to do, but the School Committee
has made it clear that more cuts come out of bone, not flesh, and as
advocates for the schools, they wish to have no part in the massacre.
23:36 - 29 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 28 Apr 2005
Speaking of the abuses of the press, Al Gore gave a tremendous speech
yesterday, blasting the forces of the religious right, and the move to
make all judges religious zealots. But you didn't read about it in
the paper, did you? It's here
and well worth reading.
12:30 - 28 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
For the people who are most disappointed that Ann Coulter continues to
be a prominent voice in what passes for our national discussion, it's
worse than you thought. Read here.
It's not possible to get an accurate picture of what's happened to
our politics without looking at what's happened to our press. And
it's sad. A couple of days ago, I listened to Texas Senator John
Cornyn "say the thing that is not" (in the delicate language
of Swift's Houhnhnyms) in an NPR interview. And I waited for
the reporter to call him on it. And waited.
11:36 - 28 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Tue, 26 Apr 2005
At last, a specific agenda
for a Democratic Congress. In all the handwringing about the fate of liberalism
and "morality" voters that we've had to endure since the
election, a basic point seemed to be lost. A platform is a set of
things you intend (or would like) to do. A platform is not a
mood or a concept or a slogan. In the last election, the Democratic
platform was pretty hard to discern. Though it definitely existed,
and it definitely contrasted significantly with the Republican
platform, it was also definitely not front and center, presumably for
reasons of too-clever-by-half strategy.
The agenda at the link is not terribly specific in some important
places, either. But putting a document like this out front and center
is a great relief, and probably not only to us policy nerds.
14:11 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Another mystery of life
in yesterday's Projo. Presumably these stickers have something in
common with the male display of peacock feathers. Perhaps that's why
they're issued in the spring?
(Photo by Projo's Andrew Dickerman)
10:24 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
The wrong argument
In today's NY Times, John Tierney
seeks to persuade us of George Bush's benevolence by
travelling to Chile and interviewing someone who profited from Chile's
privatized pension scheme. But in a system like Chile's, where
individuals bear the risks, there are winners and losers.
Mr. Tierney's friend is one of the winners, but the losses of the
losers have pressured the government into setting a guaranteed pension
level. (See here.)
By now the costs of taking care of the losers are a
significant chunk of Chile's general revenue. Chile's system may be a
good one, but it is not a cheap one. Retirement benefits are more
generous in Norway, too. Why not interview someone there?
No one would dispute that there are ways to make Social Security
benefits more generous. But many of us object to the duplicitous way
in which the President's Social Security "reform" plan is being sold
to the public. Columnists unable to make these distinctions are
doomed to write pointless columns, and then wonder why their readers
10:24 - 26 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Fri, 22 Apr 2005
But how much flatter can it get? See
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, via the Christian Science Monitor.
19:42 - 22 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 21 Apr 2005
New issue out
- Q: What does tax fairness have to do with funding schools? A: More than
- A quiz about the growth in state and local taxes over the past 15
years. Which has grown fastest? Which slowest?
- Book review:
Rethinking Growth Strategies, from the
Economic Policy Institute, which
is quite a handy guide for
who are bothered by tax giveaways in the name of economic development.
Don't you just want to subscribe?
Apologies are due for its late mailing — confusion with the
printer is to blame. If you are a subscriber, it should be in your
mail today or tomorrow.
13:20 - 21 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Thu, 14 Apr 2005
An event next Friday
Check out this flyer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Our Starving Schools:
A forum on how to feed our underfunded public education system
Join us for a public discussion on Friday April 22 at 5:30pm at AS220 with:
Stacey Jordan, Mayor's Special Ass't for Education
David Segal, Councilman
and Tom Sgouros Jr.
Did you know:
- That Rhode Island's economy is currently outpacing the rest of New
- That RI has tens of thousands of jobs that we didn't have fifteen
years ago, but still around the same number of people?
- That our economy is half again as large as it was in 1990, despite
- That state income tax collections are up almost 7% from last year?
And last year they went up 10% from the year before?
Now that you know, doesn't it seem odd that school systems around the
state are laying off teachers and closing buildings? Why are they in
crisis? If this is what happens in an expansion, what will they do
during the next recession?
For decades, we've watched successive Governors and legislatures try
to avoid dealing with school funding. Each year they find a way to put
off establishing a fair and adequate way to finance public education
in Rhode Island, and each year the situation becomes just a little bit
worse. Property taxes rise, disparities rise, anger rises. And the
education of our children suffers.
It's time to stop waiting for the formation of a Blue-Ribbon
commission, and come up with some solutions of our own. Join us at
AS220 on Friday, April 22 at 5:30pm for the first of a series of
discussions about pressing State and City policy initiatives.
AS220 is located at 115 Empire St. Providence, RI 02903
http://www.as220.org --- 401-831-9327
Come one, come all. See you there.
15:49 - 14 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Wed, 13 Apr 2005
I see that the IRS has stopped publishing statistics about rich
tables, which researchers use to
look at the effects of tax laws, no longer break out any incomes over
$200,000. That is, they used to publish statistics about incomes
between $200,000 and $500,000, between $500,000 and $1 million, and
over $1 million. Now they publish all of them together.
What they do publish allows me to see that between 2001 and 2002,
the Bush cuts were worth $100 million to the approximately 8000
richest Rhode Islanders. This is about a 10% tax cut. By folding the
categories together, the IRS hides the fact that people who are just
barely in that bracket didn't do as well as the astronomically rich.
(And it's not just because we're a small state. The tables for all
states reflect the new reality, which apparently is that that reality
is to be frowned upon.)
00:17 - 13 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Sometimes newspapers make the point for you. (From
All these articles report on the same meeting.
BUSH SUPPORTS PLAN BY SHARON FOR A WITHDRAWAL FROM GAZA -- NYTimes
BUSH PRODS SHARON ON PEACE -- Washington
BUSH DEMANDS A HALT TO MORE WEST BANK HOMES -- Times
BUSH, SHARON CLASH OPENLY -- LA
09:15 - 12 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Mon, 11 Apr 2005
If you'd like to see some real numbers about US health care costs, and
It's not very pretty, though.
22:05 - 11 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
Legislation to require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions has
reared its head.
One notable feature of the bill is the requirement that the doctor
to perform an abortion be identified by name on the phone. This is in
opposition to security procedures in place at RI clinics.
It also requires the provision of pamphlets, a web site, and a
24-hour hotline to provide information that isn't really accurate.
But there are specs about how many pixels per inch the illustrations
are to be. The fiscal note from the health department says that
creating and distributing the information would cost around $500,000
per year. Just what we need: half a million to distribute inaccurate
information instead of funding schools.
People who think the best way to eliminate some practice is to
outlaw it would do well to read the
of a study published in JAMA a few years ago. The study was to
examine the effects of a 24-hour waiting period on Mississippi women
seeking an abortion. The finding was that the waiting period decreased
the abortion rate in Mississippi, but:
For all women, RRs of the percentage of abortions performed after 12
weeks' gestation increased 39% more in Mississippi than in either
South Carolina or Georgia... We also show that the percentage of
abortions performed out of state increased 42% more among women in
Mississippi relative to women in South Carolina after the law.
So the number of late-term abortions actually increased, and more
people had to travel for medical care they couldn't get at home.
A hearing on this bill is scheduled for the House Judiciary
Committee, Tuesday at 4:30, Rm 35.
11:52 - 11 Apr 2005 [/y5/ap]
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