The Rhode Island Political Jobs Program

Jim Hummel’s got a good report out, today, that we can file in the category of People Who Have Political Connections and Then Get Government Jobs.  In this case the connection is former State Representative and current Mayor of Woonsocket Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, and the beneficiaries are her son (and his baseball team) and a campaign contributor’s wife:

It’s part of Rhode Island’s illness that the politicians and too many of the people who elect them see no problem whatsoever.  Hummel asks the mayor how the city went about alerting young adults about the opportunity for a jobs program.  The response?  Oh, I happened to be talking to a group of athletes who just happened to be my son’s baseball team.  Without a transcript of the conversation, it’s impossible to know, but that explanation is potentially no different from the mayor’s chatting with some parents at a baseball practice and then declaring, Don’t worry.  I can take care of you all.  How’d you like $10 an hour for cleaning up city streets?

Perhaps Rhode Islanders can take some small comfort in the politicians’ promise that they only give jobs to their political friends and family if they’re qualified for them.  Of course, since everybody’s qualified to do something, making the match need only be a matter of creating the jobs that fit.

We need to fix this, and a navel-gazing Ethics Commission isn’t up to the job, mostly giving everything up to an illegal line the seal of “ethical.”  But first, we need to somehow make Rhode Islanders aware that, no, things aren’t supposed to work this way.

Four Thoughts on the Anti-ConCon Commercial

The union-driven group that’s spending a bunch of money to oppose the mere possibility of a constitutional convention in Rhode Island is out with this slick commercial:

Four thoughts come to mind:

  1. The possibility that Rhode Islanders will insist on a route to changing the status quo that goes around the General Assembly must really, really scare our state’s special interests.
  2. What, them fearmonger?
  3. Rhode Islanders shouldn’t miss the fact that the first people out with a slick commercial concerning the constitutional convention are the special interests warning that other special interests will spend money to influence their votes.
  4. If you think about it, the messaging is really bizarre.  They want voters to reject the possibility of a constitutional convention, but they ignore that voters will ultimately have to approve any changes to the state constitution.  Do they worry that people gullible enough to believe their anti-concon commercials will be gullible enough to vote against their own beliefs in the future based on other commercials?

Invested in Inequality

Writing in the Providence Journal, John Kostrzewa notes that Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has an expanded view of her organization’s concerns:

…Yellen has another, perhaps more immediate concern that is holding back growth: economic inequality.

In a recent speech to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, she said: “We have come far from the worst moments of the crisis, and the economy continues to improve. But the effects of the recession are still being felt by many families, particularly those that had very little in savings and other assets beforehand .”

That declaration seems… well… convenient, considering that the current economic “recovery” engineered by the policies of Yellen’s organization and the current administration of the federal government has benefited exclusively the top 10% of income earners (roughly above $120,136 per year) and mostly the top 1% (starting just shy of $400,000).

Indeed, the whole dance takes on a bit of a sinister tone when you consider a recent story that’s gotten a shockingly small amount of play:

It’s an extraordinary document. There is not space here to do it justice, but the gist is this: The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems.

Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them.

I’d propose that it isn’t coincidental that the growth of big, nanny-state, central-planning government has coincided with a phasing out of average Americans’ benefit from economic expansion.  Most of that expansion, after all, has been fueled by government debt, increasingly relying on investment schemes to translate into the economy.  With the Obama Era, we saw the final switch flipped in ensuring that the losses of those schemes would be totally socialized, so that the investment class never lose in the deal.

The loop has closed, in other words, between the non-producing rich and the smooth-talking progressive politicians.  The next step (perhaps that to which Yellen is alluding) is for the money handlers to increase the use of government to spread more of that unused wealth directly to constituencies so that they’ll be less tempted to overthrow the whole regime.

Keeping a Record of the Controversies

One bit of advice I’d offer to folks who are just starting to put together grassroots political organizations at the city or town level is to spend some time on an online repository right from the beginning.  Put up an inexpensive Web site and use it as a place to house all of your arguments about the issues in your city or town.

My points and research about controversies in Tiverton over the years are scattered all over the place — on Anchor Rising, on all of the local news sites (some in subscription-only archives), in the Providence Journal, on a defunct taxpayer group Web site, and probably in other places I’m not remembering.  Without a centralized place where all of those points, arguments, charts, and links can reliably be found, the local opposition is able to refer vaguely to past events in a one-sided way that is time-consuming to rebut.

Fixing that problem is one of the motivations behind Tiverton Fact Check, although because it’s a volunteer activity, it’s going to take time to fill it out, and it’s going to be more difficult to come up with easy-to-search organization with so many issues/controversies already in the mix.  On the other hand, the people advocating for the status quo in town offer helpful reminders of the issues that need to be addressed.

I’ve started the process with a response to a letter to the editor that is bursting at the seams with errors and misleading rhetoric:

One of the challenges of serving your community by getting involved in civic debate is that it’s so much easier for people to say things about you that are wrong and misleading than it is to actually explain issues.  Honest people are at a disadvantage, and often they give up when the special interests make things nasty, as Tiverton 1st and Mike Silvia have made them nasty in Tiverton.

Another bit of advice that I’d offer is to never give up.  Part of the strategy of local activists in the progressive–labor union mold is to create the illusion that everybody hates somebody who speaks up against them.  That’s not true.

Unfortunately, your city or town is mostly filled with normal people living normal lives, and they aren’t going to fill the papers with letters about how wonderful you are or put up Facebook pages in your honor to combat the Facebook hate-pages.  The periodic thumbs up at the store, back-slap at the soccer game, or encouraging question after church is going to have to suffice.

Reading into Militarization of the Police

Stephen Beale had an interesting article on GoLocalProv, last week, on the trend of local police militarization that quoted me.  Here is the complete comment that I sent him:

Military equipment — from machine guns to armored trucks — is designed for use against an enemy, mainly in hostile terrain. That’s a very different mission from serving and protecting a civilian population at home.

We have to balance community security and officer safety with individual liberty.  However, militarization of police is implicitly a constraint on our freedom.  My larger concern is that big government and militarized police go hand in hand.

For isolated incidents in which a significant military-type force is needed, domestically, actual military units can be called in to assist local law enforcement.  If police departments find they need this sort of firepower to enforce the law, generally, we have to start wondering why there’s so much law to enforce.

AG Candidate Hodgson Tackles One of Rhode Island’s Big Problems

Dawson Hodgson, candidate for Rhode Island attorney general, is attempting to enforce ethics through the only system that might still work in the Ocean State — politics.

AFL-CIO Nee’s Penchant for Contradiction

The most humorous contradiction in RI AFL-CIO President George Nee’s recent Providence Journal op-ed about the potential Rhode Island constitutional convention is the part where he insists he’s not a “fearmonger.”  It’s funny because Nee starts by declaring:

We stand on the brink of a dangerous precipice. If Question 3 is approved, the floodgates will be opened to out-of-state special interests, and our Constitution could be radically altered and our rights stolen.

After saying he’s not “fearmongering,” Nee proceeds to end his paragraph with a double-barrel of exclamation points:

Do not be fooled! They do not support our best interests!

What? Him fearmonger?

The more telling contradiction, though, is the notion that Nee speaks for the working class.  According to the Rhode Island AFL-CIO’s 990 report for 2012, Nee collected $171,731 from his organization and “related organizations.”  Not a bad gig for a spokesman for the working class.

That’s a lot of motivation for the union fat cat to forget that, no matter what the delegates to the constitutional convention should decide, the people of Rhode Island will be able to approve or disapprove of any change.  Let me write that again, with emphasis:  The people of Rhode Island will be able to approve or disapprove of any change to the state constitution.

If you want to know whom George Nee represents and what he’s concerned about, try this mental experiment:  Imagine the state of Rhode Island were to implement policies that resulted in an explosion of high-paying jobs that were not unionized.  That would be devastating to the very-highly-paid Nee.

Now imagine the state of Rhode Island were to maintain the policies that are currently draining the state of economic vitality and private-sector jobs, thus increasing the prominence and reliance on unionized jobs that can be imposed by the force of the law — whether in government or dependent upon government.  Mr. Nee’s services would then be so valuable to people who don’t want to leave the state that he might be able to negotiate his way over the $200,000 mark for his own income.

One has to wonder about Nee’s statement that “they” are against “our best interests.”  By “our,” does he mean wealthy union organizers?

“I Am the Conservative; I Speak for the People”

The cartoon version of The Lorax takes Seussian propaganda to the next level, most objectionably by vilifying poor and working class people who become upwardly mobile through enterprise.

Gina’s Quantum Position on Raising Taxes; Or, “Dual Nature” Doesn’t Just Describe Matter and Light

On Thursday, Gina Raimondo, democrat candidate for governor, held a press conference during which she accepted the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and expressed a desire to lift the ban in Rhode Island law on partial birth abortion. (Yes, to confirm, contrary to what she lied … er, broadly implied at the press conference, Allan Fung does not wish to change the parameters of Rhode Island’s abortion law, she does.)

This has created some controversy, as well it should, especially on the radio and social media.

On his radio show this morning on WPRO, John Loughlin took a bigger picture perspective to make the case that one of the mistakes candidate Raimondo made at her press conference Thursday was the strategic one of getting off message.

That’s probably true. But there are a couple of additional factors that come into play. Firstly, the General Treasurer is probably pleased to get her candidacy any kind of publicity, even if it doesn’t adhere to her campaign script. (Tomorrow’s episode: “Will She Take Communion???”, co-starring a vociferous cast of advocates, some in the ranks of the press, standing by to canonize her if the Catholic Church moves to bar her from communion.)

The Cultural Disconnect on Abortion

Gina Raimondo’s pro-abortion radicalism and District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux’s ruling making partial-birth abortion legal suggest a disconnect between the general public and the ruling elite.

Yet Another Difficulty of Writing

An article about writers’ Curse of Knowledge lays out a challenge of which we ought to be aware, especially those of us who write and read about politics and social matters.

A Recurring Theme: Uniting People Through Division

Providence Mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza’s “One Providence” rhetoric strikes a disturbing note against his anti-Cianci rhetoric.

Rest, Much Needed; Peace, Much Deserved

A local progressive once argued that tax rates weren’t driving out Rhode Islanders, because my mother-in-law was nearby to watch my children during the workday.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating a bit; her argument wasn’t as convoluted as that.  What she was saying was that people don’t up and leave an area over taxes, because there’s so much more to life… and a person’s life in a particular area. That’s inarguable, and there may be no finer evidence than Arline Griffiths.

It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Arline was the source of the gravity that kept my wife and I in Rhode Island.  She wanted her daughter close, and her daughter wanted to be close.  Child care is one thing, but what’s the value of holidays with three generations tripping over each other in a too-small ranch — two grandparents, three brothers and a sister (plus wives and husband), and eleven grandchildren (and don’t forget at least a few of the family pets)?  What’s the value of a son-in-law nearby when the freezer is jambed and won’t close?  What’s the value of grandparents near enough to come over in the middle of the night to keep an eye on two sleeping children when the third decides to enter the world in the middle of the night?

What’s the value of a room packed with family, filling the air with recollections of your life during its last twenty-four hours?

A state — a world — is poorer when such things are rare, and from a negative perspective they became one person rarer, this week.  From another perspective, the one that I prefer, Arline spent her life doing the heroic work of convincing her family, at least, to keep those values alive and keep them growing, ensuring that their particular neighborhood of the world remained a home, not just a place to live.

After such a life, God knows, a rest is much needed and peace much deserved.

About that “Outside Special Interest” Thing

I’ve got a new post on Tiverton Fact Check that looks at the first offering of the FakeCheck site that the local political opposition has created to spread fog in the public debate in Tiverton.  Most of the post is a lesson in how to judge the credibility that a Web site deserves, but this point may be of broader political interest:

The idea that distant political forces are funding a targeted campaign in Tiverton through me is pure paranoid delusion. (Although the Tiverton 1st crowd may be thinking of the way that national labor unions and progressive groups leverage their members in our town and its government to manipulate the political system. In that case, they may just assume that those of us on the other side would naturally do the same thing.)

Representative Democracy, Left and Right

A view of “representative democracy” that casts representation as a mild form of dictatorship will destroy a society, whether we’re talking about Obama or an environmental protest in Somerset.

RI Income Tax Withholding Shows No Evidence of Employment Boom (But a Bigger Tax Take)

A comparison of income tax withholdings, in Rhode Island, with employment growth indicates that (1) employment statistics have probably been off, and (2) the state’s method of soaking taxpayers is not a wise strategy for economic growth.

Government School Enrollment Over Time

Somebody asked me, recently, whether there’s any way to know how many students leave Tiverton High School for private schools. It’s an interesting question, and the short answer is “yes,” but in a sense, “no.”

The RI Dept. of Education (RIDE) keeps records of the students from each district who attend private schools, including the schools that they attend. The problem is that the way the state keeps the numbers makes it time consuming to pare them down to a usable form.  Even when that work is done, though, I don’t think such records go back for a very long time.  Since what we really need are cohorts (tracing grade levels from year to year), and because factors like the economy can affect the data, all of the work cleaning data might produce useless results if they only cover the last few years.

Nonetheless, I thought the question interesting enough to kick off a new feature on Tiverton Fact Check, for which readers can email us questions about Tiverton (about statistics, about process, about the law, or about whatever) and we’ll do our best to answer them.  In this case, I looked to RIDE’s October enrollment data, which goes back to the 1998-1999 school year.

Specifically, I compared Tiverton to North Smithfield (because similar) and Barrington (because dissimilar in a way that Tiverton should work to change), and found:

To answer the reader’s question as directly as this data allows, for the twelve years that we can compare the number of students starting eighth grade in Tiverton with the number starting twelfth grade, the average number of students lost is 30.  That’s an average of a 17% drop in high school seniors from the start of eighth grade.

For comparison, North Smithfield lost an average of 20 students, or 13%, while Barrington actually gained an average of 8 students, or 3%.

August 2014 Unemployment: Turning Down from the Clouds

The employment figures for Rhode Island are on a downswing, although a shrinking labor force keeps the unemployment rate steady or “improving.” Meanwhile, a likely revision in January may darken the picture further.

Coalition Radio Introduces Three Fiscal Topics into the 2014 Campaign

Issue 1: Do any candidates for Rhode Island Governor or Rhode Island General Assembly support modifying or repealing Governor Chafee’s Wall-Street-first law regarding municipal priorities?

Issue 2: Will any of the candidates for Governor of Rhode Island have their fiscal staffs look immediately into the possibility of a Providence receivership. Will they tell us if they do?

Issue 3: Buddy Cianci, according to some research done by Michael Riley, once advocated for pension obligation bonds to help finance Providence’s pension system. Might he do so again?

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 43 (Third Parties and Runoffs)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss third parties and runoffs. (And Justin adds a bit of text in “what-if” elaboration.)