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.

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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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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, 27 Nov 2007

The Big Picture

Curious how our state budget follies fit into the big picture? Do you know that we haven't had a real federal budget for quite a while? The president won't sign off on anything, so we continue with "Continuing Resolutions" which are de facto federal spending cuts. (Except for the war.)

Here's a summary.

17:03 - 27 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Sun, 25 Nov 2007

Why this publication exists

Read here.

Especially read the James Fallows link you'll find there.

16:23 - 25 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Wed, 21 Nov 2007

What motivates conservatives?

Have you seen "conservapedia"? This is a wikipedia for conservatives who feel somehow that wikipedia's definitions are warped by the godless mass. Herein a list of the most-viewed pages in this fine work. (via Atrios)

07:31 - 21 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Sat, 10 Nov 2007

Pouring gas on the fire

As the dollar continues its tumble, here's something to keep it falling: oil. Oil is still priced in dollars, so it remains one of the important reasons why other countries want dollars. But it's also a way in which the US bleeds money out to oil-producing states, like Venezuela and Iran, not to mention Saudi Arabia. Because the two effects push in opposite directions, the net effect on the dollar's value isn't clear. But the effect on the net wealth of our country vs. the oil-producing states is very clear.

15:35 - 10 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Fri, 09 Nov 2007

The Tax Foundation

We hear a lot from the Tax Foundation, a group in DC whose goal is essentially to lobby against all taxes, whatever they pay for. They publish rankings of the state tax burdens every year, and Rhode Island's ranking on their lists is a source of concern for state lawmakers, who use it as a blunt instrument to beat about the head and shoulders of anyone who suggests that one possible reason for our state budget crisis is all the money we've given away recently.

I've written too much about the Tax Foundation and their bizarre methodology. But here (via Pat Crowley at RI Future) is a much more systematic and thorough takedown of their statistical work.

People who rely on data like this should be laughed out of any position of responsibility they hold.

17:37 - 09 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Mon, 05 Nov 2007

Wondering about the subprime market?

A very clear (and funny) explanation of what constitutes a "Structured Investment Vehicle" and the subprime mess can be found here.

15:59 - 05 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

How long will the dollar last?

Another huge loss to overseas investors from dollar-denominated investments. At this rate, the dollar won't remain the world's reserve currency for much longer. And the Fed has shown it will respond to the domestic economy's need for lower interest rates, rather than the high interest rates needed to keep dollars attractive, so bond investment yields aren't going anywhere. If you lived in another country, why would you want dollars?

09:31 - 05 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Thu, 01 Nov 2007

Issue 28

Is out. Apologies for the long delay.

  • Adding police where there isn't crime, losing police where they're needed: fighting crime in Rhode Island
  • Estimating the true cost of the alternative "flat" tax cut for the rich.
  • IRS coverup -- income statistics are no longer being provided.
  • Review of Against Prediction by Bernard Harcourt, about the dangers of using profiling to fight crime.

Didn't you mean to subscribe?

10:05 - 01 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

Presidential Health Care Plans

Want to get an idea of how candidate health care plans actually compare? The National Journal circulated a survey among several health care policy types, and presents a compilation of their comments about the various plans in this article.

I'm not sure it is wise to dignify a couple of the Republican plans with the company they keep (Giuliani's "plan", for example, should be embarrassing -- see comments in issue 27), but it is useful to see them all lined up like this.

10:05 - 01 Nov 2007 [/y7/no]

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