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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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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.
Mon, 25 Feb 2008
Did you know that health insurance in Rhode Island is a bargain for
some people? And quite expensive for some others. Check out tables
VIII.C.1 and VIII.D.1 in the 2005 federal HHS
Expenditure Panel Survey.
Compare Rhode Island's average expenditures in various wage classes
with other states that have more competition,
and then tell me again how increasing competition among insurers in
Rhode Island will help lower our costs.
Why is this relevant? Well, Elizabeth Roberts health plan is really
mostly about increasing competition among insurers to lower costs.
There aren't any other controls envisioned, even though there are
provisions made that might make it easier to establish controls at
some future date. But I think the evidence that a lack of competition
is what ails us is pretty thin, making it pretty unlikely that
enhancing competition is going to be very effective "reform."
13:05 - 25 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Mon, 18 Feb 2008
Took a long time, but it's at the printer. Watch your mailbox:
- Did you know the IRS publishes migration data? Did you know it
has something to say about who's leaving and who's arriving and how
much they earn?
- Medicaid: what are the components. Probably not what you
- Judith Reilly: Confusing the state's two historic tax
credit programs. Please don't.
- A Wall Street Sub-primer.
Plus a special bonus on the battle flag of the First Rhode Island
Didn't you mean to subscribe?
12:53 - 18 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Random references for issue 30
Sound good? Didn't you mean to subscribe already?
12:52 - 18 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Mon, 11 Feb 2008
Government as a car
For the upcoming issue of RIPR (out Wednesday), and for this week's
column, I spent a little time revisiting the unholy mess that is our
system of applying for welfare. Do you know that the state employs
around 160 people whose job it is to help people fill out the
application forms? These are the "Eligibility Technicians" or "ETs".
The reason they exist is because the rules for all the different
programs are so maddeningly incompatible and restrictive that it takes
a year of intense study to figure them out, thereby making the program
more expensive to run, less able to help, more unwieldy and less
Anyway, today Atrios
reminded me of
perfect description of how we got into situations like this.
If the Goverment is a car setting out to give every one a ride to work,
then for 40 years the Republicans have been puncturing the tires,
pouring sand in the gas tank, stealing the distributer cap, and,
whenever they can get their hands on the wheel, driving it straight
into the nearest ditch and then, pointing to the wreckage as the tow
truck backs up to it, saying, See, this proves that people were meant
And they do this so that they don't have to chip in on gas.
Around here, there are plenty of people who call themselves
Democrats who fall into the same category. Let's not pretend that
the social services provided by our government were designed by
Democrats. They were largely designed by Democrats trying to
cooperate with people determined to make them fail.
08:38 - 11 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Fri, 08 Feb 2008
I got this in today's email:
Legislative leaders to announce plan to bring movie studio to Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE - House Speaker William J. Murphy and President of the Senate Joseph
A. Montalbano will hold a news conference this afternoon to announce a plan to
bring a major film production studio to Rhode Island, generating jobs and
This will probably kill any hope of reining in the movie tax credit
this year. But let's be real here. The movie tax credit cost us
about $12 million by the most recent online.
The credit is for 25% of production costs, for productions exceeding
$300,000. So a million-dollar production, which is chump change in
that world, really, will get a $250,000 tax credit. If all
of that million dollars is spent on salaries of Rhode Island citizens,
the state will recoup about $50,000 in tax money. But this isn't
realistic. More likely would be a $5 million production, of which
half a million is spent on in-state salaries. Given the base of
expertise and staff in the state, even this is pretty optimistic.
A production like that will cost the state $1.25 million, and bring
in about $25,000 in new taxes. If you count the "multiplier", maybe
we're talking about another half-million spent in state. So the
result is that we'll spend $1.25 million in state money, in exchange
for around $50,000 in new tax revenue and almost a million dollars in
economic benefit to the state. What a bargain.
This is not economic development. This is a combination of
desperation and intoxication. Desperation that no one in a position
of power has any better ideas, and intoxication with something as
glamorous as movies. Feh.
Update: Rhode Island's Twelfth has looked
deeper into this.
13:06 - 08 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Tue, 05 Feb 2008
While we're all watching the presidential primaries, our President
continues to demonstrate that he's in power, and Congress is
irrelevant. In his latest signing statement, Bush has proclaimed that
Congress has no power over what he spends. Congress, predictably, is
silent. What, one wonders, will it take for that august body to act
to defend its relevance? Why, exactly, should any future president
pay attention to what Congress does or says? What, exactly, is meant
by the phrase, "A government of laws, not of men?"
This is, of course, the least of it. The President's budget does
not actually contain all of the spending he is planning on. (Much of
the spending on the war, for example, is MIA.) That's already a $3.1
trillion budget, with record-breaking deficits, and it's not even a
complete accounting of the spending. But none of this even merits a
13:54 - 05 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
Sat, 02 Feb 2008
The Governor released his budget last Thursday, a couple of weeks
after the deadline. But did he? What's posted is only the executive
summary, the personnel report and the technical appendix. The capital
budget is missing, the overall budget document is missing, and the
parts that are there are missing important pieces. For example, the
executive summaries always contain five-year projections of costs and
revenue. This is where the "structural deficit" is reported. That
section is missing entirely from the executive summary. So when do we
get the rest of the budget?
18:11 - 02 Feb 2008 [/y8/fe]
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