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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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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
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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.
Tue, 25 Aug 2009
History: Leveraged buyouts
Apropos of issue 38, out tomorrow, here's some good reading about how
government policy encouraged layoffs in the 1980's, from those
radicals at Forbes magazine. Remember, the
shape of today's economy wasn't randomly forged by impersonal forces
of nature. It is largely the result of consciously chosen government
policies. Read here.
14:19 - 25 Aug 2009 [/y9/au]
Mon, 17 Aug 2009
How do they do that?
Some places in America are not doing so badly controlling health care
costs. Some other places are simply awful. What makes them different
and which are they, anyway? An interesting
called "How do they do that?"
get at some of these points, and a
New Yorker article found there
picks up some, too.
What's the answer? Seems to be one of those unsatisfying and villain-less, but
likely correct, stories about the culture of the place, and what
people think is normal.
21:52 - 17 Aug 2009 [/y9/au]
Health care information from the White House
I appreciate lists of things, as anyone can tell. So here are some
good lists of eight things. I'd only suggest that some uses of "myth"
below are a little kind. I think "lie" might be equally appropriate.
8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without
- Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies
will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical
- Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Ins
urance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can
charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
- Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must
fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you
prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for
- Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies
will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage
for those who become seriously ill.
- Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited
from charging you more because of your gender.
- Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will
be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you
- Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be
eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
- Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required
to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in
full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because
someone became sick.
Learn more and get details:
8 common myths about health insurance reform
- Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It's a myth that
reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to
"rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of
rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
- We can't afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It's
a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the
President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the
up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing
government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance
companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating
care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help
bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
- Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It's a malicious
myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for
seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and
physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover
these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with
these personal and difficult family decisions.
- Vets' health care is safe and sound: It's a myth that health
insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get
now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands
coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who
were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to
be available for all eligible veterans.
- Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It's a myth
that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the
contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide
tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the
playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their
employees on average.
- Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It's myth that
Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare
benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term
financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate
waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to
close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more
affordable for seniors.
- You can keep your own insurance: It's myth that reform will force
you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change
doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not
- No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is
an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank
accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration,
making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method
that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you
can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And
forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The
choice is up to you - and the same rules of privacy will apply as
they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details:
8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
- Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated
that 12.6 million non-elderly adults - 36 percent of those who tried
to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in
the individual insurance market - were in fact discriminated against
because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or
dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
- Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are
paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health
insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times
faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan
purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings
of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for
health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
- Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women's reproductive health requires
more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap
smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to
report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates
of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are
similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches
and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These
chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and
follow-up care. Learn more:
- Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are
nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health
care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates o
f poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary
health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic
downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health
disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural
communities. Learn more:
- Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly
one-third of the uninsured - 13 million people - are employees of
firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion
of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance
fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business.
The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68%
to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such
workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance
through a spouse. Learn more:
- The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are
at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly
couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not
covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
- Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of
non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell
from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three
Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007
and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families.
- The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will
continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on
families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets.
Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is
the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance -
projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in
2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:
08:46 - 17 Aug 2009 [/y9/au]
Fri, 14 Aug 2009
Hear me talk about my book, Ten Things You Don't Know About Rhode
Island at 2pm, August 13, on Dan Yorke's show on WPRO (99.7FM and
630AM), and then again on Citadel Community, Sunday August 16, 790AM
(5am), 106FM (6am), 105FM (6:30am), WPRO 99.7FM and 630AM (8am).
Update: Podcast of the Dan Yorke segment is here
13:50 - 14 Aug 2009 [/y9/au]
Sun, 09 Aug 2009
Health care spending per capita in the industrial countries, according
to a 2003 OECD survey.
20:50 - 09 Aug 2009 [/y9/au]
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