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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).
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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
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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
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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.
Sun, 20 Apr 2008
The capture of Keynes
Every time you see a TV ad with shaky camera work, think that you're
seeing the commercial use of what was once a hallmark of the
non-commercial, and marvel at the free market's ability to co-opt
pretty much everything — including economic policies originally
meant as a critique of business-as-usual market capitalism.
Communist revolutionary Che Guevara rapidly became an inspirational
figure for revolutionary socialist change after his execution in
Bolivia in 1967. Forty years later, Che lives on but his image now
adorns t-shirts that have become popular fashion statements. This
transformation reflects the extraordinary power of markets to capture
and transform, turning an avowed enemy of the market system into a
Read more here.
The process of capture also holds for economic policy, which has
witnessed the conservative capture of Keynesianism. This capture is
now on display as U.S. policymakers struggle to contain the effects of
a collapsing house price bubble that was recklessly funded by Wall
Street. The sting is that the full powers of Keynesian policies are
being invoked to save an economy that no longer generates Keynesian
outcomes of full employment and shared prosperity.
18:04 - 20 Apr 2008 [/y8/ap]
Fri, 18 Apr 2008
Data about immigration
What? There's actual data to inform the discussion of illegal
immigration and its effect on the state budget? Huh.
Here's the Congressional Budget Office's
of 29 reports about the fiscal impact on state and local budgets.
What does it say? It says that illegal immigrants pay more in
taxes than the services they receive, but that they pay most of it in
federal taxes, and the services they use are state and local services.
Federal services typically deny assistance to illegal immigrants, but
federal laws and court rulings deny that possibility to states and
Immigration is, of course, largely a federal problem. It's the
federal government that turned a blind eye to employers who came to
depend on cheap labor from the south. So immigration is, again, a
case of the powerful shifting the cost for their bad decisions onto
someone else, simply because they can. The real mystery is why
everyone gets mad at the immigrants and not at Congress or the
is a page of research from Federation
for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). They would seem to be the
source of a lot of the data used in
debates about illegal immigration here. I couldn't help but notice
that they are on the high side of all the relevant estimates, though
perhaps within the margins of error.
16:02 - 18 Apr 2008 [/y8/ap]
Thu, 17 Apr 2008
Is at the printer.
- Eric Hirsch on homelessness and the housing market. How income
polarization has affected homelessness in more ways than you
- What car imports in the 1980's and the housing market of the past
few years have in common. See here.
- Review of Dan Ariely's book "Predictably Irrational", a behavioral
economic account of irrational behavior.
Didn't you mean to subscribe today?
17:52 - 17 Apr 2008 [/y8/ap]
Tue, 15 Apr 2008
A moment passed
It's now quite clear that nothing is going to happen to the President
who has openly admitted that he authorized torture, and that, far from
being the acts of a few bad apples, our appalling descent from at
least a pretense to the moral high ground was engineered by decisions
made at the very top.
It's hard to find
words to express the astonishment at how quickly our country could
descend to barbarism. Not to mention the sadness.
Here's someone who tried.
Background summarized well here.
09:56 - 15 Apr 2008 [/y8/ap]
Thu, 10 Apr 2008
Hurray for the free market
turned in the war on drugs. Apparently poppy production in
Afghanistan is down. Why? It's more profitable to grow wheat this
Isn't that great? And it comes in bags of white powder, too.
11:03 - 10 Apr 2008 [/y8/ap]
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