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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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 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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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.

editor at whatcheer dot net


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, 19 Dec 2006

A Terror Trial...

... finally concludes with a conviction. Didn't you hear about it? Wonder why. Read here.

09:30 - 19 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

Mon, 18 Dec 2006

North Kingstown

Because the issues aren't strictly related to RIPR's mission, but more related to the accident of where the editor makes his home, a sub-blog has been established here to deal with matters that pertain to the town of North Kingstown, and the town government there. For example, the Budget Advisory Group report of last year is there. See here.

00:56 - 18 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

Tue, 12 Dec 2006

Issue 22

New issue out:

  • Who's responsible for the state of the state budget?
  • Why is being so irresponsible about the budget thought to be good politics?
  • Quonset rears its ugly head again.
  • We are adopting Massachusetts's tax code. Shouldn't we know more about what's going on there? (See below.)

Wouldn't now be a good time to subscribe?

09:02 - 12 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

Mon, 11 Dec 2006

The honor roll

Paul Krugman's column of last Friday listed a few people who were, of all things, right about the War in Iraq in 2002. Along with the few hundred thousand of us who were in the streets of New York and DC. It wasn't that hard to make what turned out to be the right decision.

00:00 - 11 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

Fri, 08 Dec 2006

DOT director resigns

Story here. The funny part about the plaudits awarded Director Capaldi upon his departure is that DOT is a fiscal nightmare, and has dragged the rest of the state budget down with it. DOT excesses have put us so far into hock it will be years before we get out. But the article is all about his far-seeing innovations that allowed us to get even further in debt under his watch. But the cleanup will happen when Mr. Capaldi is on the beach in Florida, sipping whatever they sip down there.

But the funniest part yet about all this is that the dimensions of the DOT disaster were first described to me by none other than James Capaldi, in a meeting in his office in 1998. Since then, of course, he's done precisely nothing to right the excesses he described to me then, and has only contributed to making them much much worse.

There's more in the current issue of the Reporter. Why not subscribe?

22:48 - 08 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

What might happen

A Projo story about the possible consequences of the state government's deficit. Dire, yes. A surprise? Not for anyone who was involved in writing the budget last spring. You were looking for honesty in the budget? You cast your vote based on the charade of the budget? Oh, dear, I'm so sorry to hear it.

22:48 - 08 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

Thu, 07 Dec 2006

Mystery report

Where is this from?

[C]ities and towns are facing a long-term financial crunch caused by increasingly restricted and unpredictable local aid levels, constraints on ways to raise local revenue, and specific costs that are growing at rates far higher than the growth in municipal revenues.

Municipal managers and elected officials across the state---regardless of whether they live in cities, towns, resort communities and rural hamlets---understand that municipal government is nearing a crisis point. Citizens are feeling increasingly sour toward local government because their family's property tax bill has increased dramatically, they are now paying fees for many services that used to be covered by general revenue, and, still, core local government services are being cut.

Sound familiar? It sounds like any number of recent reports about Rhode Island, but this is about Massachusetts, and is quoted from Local Communities at Risk: Revisiting the Fiscal Partnership between the Commonwealth and Cities and Towns, a 2005 report from the Municipal Finance Task Force, a group convened by the Metro Area Planning Council, the umbrella planning authority for greater Boston. The task force was chaired by John Hamill, the President of Sovereign Bank New England, so the report is occasionally called the "Hamill Report."

There's more about this in the upcoming issue of RIPR, out tomorrow. Wouldn't now be a fine time to subscribe?

11:37 - 07 Dec 2006 [/y6/de]

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