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

Fri, 31 Oct 2008

A Nature-al Choice

Here's a funny endorsement:

As anyone in academia will know, a thoughtful and professorial air is not in itself a recommendation for executive power. But a commitment to seeking good advice and taking seriously the findings of disinterested enquiry seems an attractive attribute for a chief executive. It certainly matters more than any specific pledge to fund some particular agency or initiative at a certain level — pledges of a sort now largely rendered moot by the unpredictable flux of the economy.

This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.

Well, not that funny an endorsement, but a funny source: Nature, one of the two most prestigious journals of science in the world.

10:20 - 31 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Tue, 28 Oct 2008

Heartwarming examples of civic engagement...

... or rancid acts by democracy-hating extremists. You decide.

07:23 - 28 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Fri, 24 Oct 2008

Issue 33

Is out after an inexcusable delay, my apologies.

  • What is the real source of the financial crisis? It's not mortgages, and it's not derivatives either, really. Too much capital?
  • Graph of the month! Profits v. wages, Republicans v. Democrats.
  • Word games with Medicaid, by David Rochefort and Kevin Donnelly. Does how it's said affect what you hear?

22:42 - 24 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Wed, 22 Oct 2008

RIPR Award for absurd campaign literature

These are the candidates (with working web sites) mentioned in this week's column:

  • Christine Spaziano, Republican candidate for Senate District 4 (Providence)
  • Larry Signore, Democratic candidate for Senate District 32 (Barrington/Bristol)
  • Tim Lee, Republican candidate for House district 21 (Warwick)
  • Steven Hart, Republican candidate for House district 28 (Coventry)
  • Chris Ottiano, Republican candidate for Senate district 11 (Portsmouth)
  • Robert Paquin, Republican candidate for House district 19 (Warwick and Cranston)
  • Dan Reilly, Republican candidate for House district 72 (Portsmouth and Middletown)
  • John Pagliarini, Republican candidate for Senate district 35
  • Bill Connelly, Republican candidate for Senate district 36 (North Kingstown/Narragansett)

10:57 - 22 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Tue, 21 Oct 2008

Heard on NPR

Maya McGuineas, of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, on the possible stimulus bill the next Congress might pass: "I just hope they don't pork it all up... just so it's not spend spend spend"

I used to aspire to do satire, but why bother?

20:59 - 21 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Mon, 06 Oct 2008

The big picture?

Well, not so big, but the big picture when you consider that each of us has choices to make in our lives, and are forced to live with the consequences. In dealing with the personal (and mental) consequences of staring into the uncertain future, Judith Warner nails it, for some of us.

09:23 - 06 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

Wed, 01 Oct 2008

This seems about right

Why did the bailout plan fail? Was it principled opposition or failed gamesmanship? from here:

The House conservatives who sank the bailout didn't do so because they were listening to loud and angry voices. They sank the plan by accident. They were trying to double-cross the Democrats. First, they wrung lots of concessions out of Democrats at the negotiating table as the price for delivering 80 votes. Then, by not delivering 80 votes and forcing Pelosi to pass the bill as a partisan Democratic bill, they were going to wage a demagogic anti-bailout campaign. But Pelosi refused to be played for a sucker and so the conservative inadvertently sank a bill that, all evidence suggests, they actually wanted to pass. They just wanted to vote "no" on it for short-term political gain.

As evidence for this view, it appears that the RNC prepared — in advance of Monday's vote — attack ads to be run against Democrats who voted for the plan.

As a philosophical point, there are two competing views of what politics is. Or at least there are two with which I am familiar. One view has it that politics is the process by which we rule our polity. This conception of politics is all about finding solutions to the problems we face. Another conception of politics is that it is war. In this conception, all the entities involved in politics are engaged in an all-out struggle for primacy and power. Which do you think serves our nation better?

10:50 - 01 Oct 2008 [/y8/oc]

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