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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.
If you'd like to help, please contribute
an item, suggest an issue topic, or buy a subscription. If you can,
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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.
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?
a list of legislation that has been blocked in the Senate by
Republican threats to filibuster.
12:14 - 16 Jul 2007 [/y7/jy]
Fri, 13 Jul 2007
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
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 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.
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?
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?
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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