HEADLINES

Becoming the Medicaid State

Yesterday, I noted that enrollment in health insurance plans through the state-government-operated HealthSource RI had dipped by August 2.  In contrast, Medicaid enrollments have continued to grow, by an average of 3,430 per month, or a five percent growth of the total Medicaid rolls from the end of March to the end of August, now up to 257,884.  That’s now more than one-quarter of the entire state population.

If we assume that all new Medicaid enrollments were through the exchange, it’s an increase of 21% since March.

 

Here’s a not-so-fun fact:  The number of new Medicaid enrollments in Rhode Island from March to August was more than five times greater than the number of seasonally adjusted new jobs based in Rhode Island.  If you want a barometer of the direction in which the state is headed, that’s a pretty good one.

When the Future Can Pay for Your Business Model

The federal government’s deus ex machina act with HealthSource RI is as good an example as any of how government shouldn’t (but inevitably will) behave.  There was a little bit less than the preferred 100% certainty that the state would allocate money for its experiment in health broker entreneurialism during the last session of the state General Assembly, and the administration of big brother Obama swooped in with the cash to keep the Web site going for another year.

It wasn’t supposed to do so, under the written word of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and the state wasn’t supposed to accept it, under the written word of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s executive order creating the health benefits exchange.  But what’s the rule of law and twenty-something million dollars compared with giving government agents the opportunity to experiment with a new business model?

If the U.S. Congress and the governor have to say one thing in order to get their big-government policies implemented and then ignore the specifics when they become inconvenient, and if more imaginary money has to be pushed to the resulting agencies, that’s just the price of trying to solve all of our problems via the political system.

The combined activities of Americas local, state, and federal governments now cost more per American household than the median American household brings home in income.  The federal debt is now higher than the national GDP.  In Rhode Island, the state government is suffering the consequences of its need to fill budget gap with one-time fixes and a ratcheting squeeze on residents, who are choosing to leave.

Last week, I checked in with HealthSource RI.  After the open enrollment period ended in March, the agency had 27,961 enrolled individuals, with 21,097 having paid.  By the end of April, 25,767 had paid.  As of August 2, HealthSource counted 26,686 enrollees and 25,892 people paid up.

The federal government, in other words, gave nearly $1,000 per enrollee just for the exchange’s operating costs.  That doesn’t include the subsidies that 85-90% of the enrollees are receiving.

It takes a little bit of education and imagination to see the consequences of this behavior.  All that money comes from somewhere, and by the looks of the recent trends, it isn’t the much-vilified One Percent.  Not being able to trust that the deal that politicians make actually means what they say it means when they first say it has consequences, too.

It may be the perfect crime, though.  As the machine works its destruction, those whom it kills and those from whom it steals can’t easily see who’s to blame.

July 2014 Employment: The Dream Is Over

Rhode Island’s statistical employment surge came to a screeching halt in July, but not before putting the Ocean State in company with the Deep South. (Of course, the numbers still look likely to be revised downward dramatically in January.)

Don’t Abort a Constitutional Convention Over Scare Tactics

Government insiders want to do to the constitutional convention what they do to any opposition that comes their way — kill it before it can be born.

Illegal Alien Juveniles: And Rhode Island’s Total Rises to 148

Breitbart’s Tony Lee has obtained updated numbers from the United States’ Office of Refugee Resettlement as to the number of illegal alien juveniles released by the federal government for the period of July 7 to July 31 – July 7 being the last date for which we had those figures. The state by state breakdown indicates that Rhode Island’s total has risen from 129 to 148.

Our elected officials – those who support illegal immigration – have been acting as though this has been a completely unforeseen, one time wave of children, such as might be due to an earthquake, flood or other natural disaster.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These children are being drawn here – are being sent here, more accurately – by the willful actions and inaction of our national leaders: 1.) more generally, the United States has substantially reduced its enforcement of the immigration laws currently on the books and 2.) more specifically, the action of the President of the United States, who has effectively turned on a beacon by making it clear that his administration is extremely reluctant to deport any illegal children who come here. (You don’t suppose word will get out about the data that backs this up, do you? Naw!)

It probably doesn’t hurt that the federal government has rolled out the red carpet for at least some of the illegal alien juveniles.

Accordingly, as things stand, there is no reason for this stream of illegal arrivals, nor the strain on public budgets nor the erosion of our sovereignty, to end.

The question now, closer to home, is, what is Governor Chafee doing to stem the tide of illegal aliens into Rhode Island and the corresponding stream of money out of state and local tax coffers? Has he offered objection to the federal government to the arrival in Rhode Island of these and any additional illegal alien juveniles, an action that would also help to address the larger problem by discouraging illegal immigration? If not, has Governor Chafee identified what he would like to see cut from budgets, both local and state, none of which have much leeway in the expenditure column, to pay for the expenses – minimally, education and Medicaid – associated with these arrivals?

Little Towns, Big (Government) Guns

The events in Ferguson, MO have drawn widespread public attention to the increasing militarization of local police departments. It’s a topic that has been discussed amongst civil–rights minded folks for the last decade or so and has both national and local impact.

Judicial Objectivity When Politics Is a Job

Honestly, I’m torn about this one, although it brings me back around to the same place as much political news:

A federal magistrate judge has granted the city’s bid to delay Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’ questioning under oath in a lawsuit involving changes to the retirement system until after the upcoming primary election for candidates for governor.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond late Tuesday granted the city’s emergency motion for a protective order to postpone Taveras’ deposition in the city’s lawsuit against its former actuarial firm, Buck Consultants LLC, until after the Sept. 9 primary. Almond found, without further explanation, that the city had shown good cause to delay Taveras’ questioning and to limit it to three hours.

On its surface, this looks like further evidence supporting the common wisdom that, if you’ve got a lawsuit involving political insiders in Rhode Island, you’re best off getting  it in a federal court.  On the other hand, if the mayor weren’t the mayor, but something else, and was requesting a brief delay of judicial proceedings to the other side of a major work project on which his career hinged, that would seem reasonable in a case with no major urgency.

Of course, the mayor is the mayor, and it’s difficult not to conclude that he’s worried about the ways in which his testimony (and the opposition lawyers’ spin of it, amplified by other candidates for the office he’s seeking).  In that regard, it’s a question of transparency.  After all, his administration brought the lawsuit.

And if it’s a matter of the time preparation for the deposition will require, we shouldn’t accept the notion that government must stop operating because people in office are bucking for a promotion.

At the end of the analysis, put this one on the stack of arguments against fostering a government environment in which politics is a career.  If public office were in fact — as politicians like to claim — a question of service, then the argument for delaying the deposition pretty much evaporates.

One in Six Legislators, Employers Have Received Payments from the State

Representative Peter Palumbo isn’t the only legislator in the General Assembly whose places of business have received money from the state government. The Ocean State Current takes a look at some of the others.

Tobacco and the Problem with Letting RI Government Do Anything

Progressives and Democrats, including in their roles as members of the local news media, like to beat up on former governor Don Carcieri for things that he didn’t stop the General Assembly from doing, and sometimes that he helped legislators do.  Some of things, conservatives will agree were lapses in an otherwise good eight years.

Two obvious items on that list are 38 Studios and Deepwater Wind, one that we often neglect to include is using settlement money from a tobacco lawsuit to plug budget gaps.  That move was bad on principle and has thus far stood mainly as evidence that the people who govern Rhode Island aren’t serious about repairing its problems.  However, Kate Nagle reports on GoLocalProv, today, that the move is coming back to haunt the state in new ways that it can ill afford:

In a report issued by ProPublica — “How Wall Street Tobacco Deals Left States With Billions in Toxic Debt” — Rhode Island is now facing $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052, a revelation that comes nearly sixteen years following the landmark United States tobacco settlement intended to combat the adverse impacts of smoking.

There’s another a list that Rhode Islanders might keep if it didn’t make them shudder to do so: deals and decisions that are on a path to sour our future.  Think pensions and other post-employment benefits, gambling, years of transportation bonds, renewable energy mandates, and on, and on.

A Constitutional Convention in Rhode Island; Citizen Democracy in Action

A constitutional convention could help bring an end to a state government of the special interests, by the special interests, and for the special interests.

Education Rhetoric from the Unions’ Candidate

It’s disappointing that — at least in Linda Borg’s Providence Journal presentation — none of the candidates for Rhode Island governor even mentioned support for school choice beyond the entirely intra-government variety, charter schools.  A silver lining, though, is that the teacher unions’ hand-picked candidate, Clay Pell, offered a perfect example of what he means when he rebuffs attack ads by claiming the campaign should be about ideas.

Borg places this after a question about teacher evaluations, which means either Pell skirted a direct answer or she wanted to make sure he got an irrelevant talking point toward the front of her article:

“As governor, I will provide strategic direction and strong leadership to ensure a world-class education for all Rhode Islanders. I will support our classroom educators and make sure they have the flexibility to innovate and embrace students’ creativity. I do not support a charter school system that erodes the quality and sustainability of public schools. I believe it is critical that we invest in our public schools to ensure equity and high-quality education for all students; no matter their ZIP code.”

That’s by far the longest quotation in the article, so Borg must think it’s important, yet it appears to be nearly substance-free, with respect to the policies that the candidate supports.

  • It’s nice that Pell would have a “strategic direction,” but what would it be?
  • What will he do to provide “strong leadership”?
  • How will he measure a “world-class education”?
  • What sort of “flexibility” will he ensure for teachers, and how will he make sure they aren’t abusing it?  (It was a question about evaluations, after all.)
  • Is “students’ creativity” really the singular trait of children on which schools teaching basics should focus?  What about the varying degree of creativity found among a diverse student body?
  • Does he support a charter school system that does not “[erode] the quality and sustainability of public schools”?
  • Does an “investment” that “ensure[s] equity… no matter their ZIP code” mean anything other than redistributing wealth to the union-operated schools in urban areas?

One gets the impression that Pell has memorized — like prayers — some of the meaningless, sound-good phrases that the people who’ve brought us a failing state drape over the rot of their ideas.

George Shuster: Obama’s War on We the People (Told You So)

Early indications of President Obama’s disrespect for freedom of speech have blossomed into an attack on the very fabric of our republic.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 39 (A Providence Income Tax)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the notion of a municipal income tax in Providence

Reevaluating the Wisdom of a Constitutional Convention

I don’t know if I’ve written about it anywhere, but privately, I’ve expressed wariness of a constitutional convention.  It has seemed to me that opening up the constitution at a time when the power of opposition voices has managed to fade beyond what seemed an impossible whisper is to risk a final roll.  Partly by virtue of working on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s initial analysis of the convention, and partly owing to the growing vehemence with which people are advising each other to leave the state, I’m starting to reevaluate.

As the conclusion of the Center’s analysis says:

Although it often depends whether or not they have the advantage in a given circumstance, activists on both the left and the right see the risk of direct democracy as a general principle on which to base government.  However, for some issues, and at some points in history, letting the people make final decisions is appropriate, the best available option, or even absolutely necessary.

The Ocean State is at such a point in history, with many Rhode Islanders feeling that the solutions are as obvious as the problems are intractable.  A constitutional convention would present an opportunity to settle some of the relevant questions.

Maybe a constitutional convention could motivate the people who understand the direction in which the state needs to head before there are just too few of us left in the state to make a difference.  Maybe working around the normal, corrupted, rigged electoral system will prove that there are more of us than insiders in government and the media would have us believe.

And maybe if all of that is so much misplaced optimism, it’d be better to let the inevitable happen sooner than later.  It would be clarifying, anyway, for Rhode Islanders currently agonizing over decisions about what to do with their lives and where to live.

When We’re All a “Community,” Even a Majority Can Be Voiceless

Mickey Kaus highlights President Obama’s apparently corporatist vision of the U.S. Constitution.  Read the whole thing, but for my purposes, here are some key phrases from a comment from the president that Kaus highlights as follows:

… we have a bipartisan bill, Wendell, bipartisan agreement supported by everybody from labor to the evangelical community to law enforcement. So the argument isn’t between me and the House Republicans. It’s between the House Republicans and Senate Republicans, and House Republicans and the business community, and House Republicans and the evangelical community. I’m just one of the people they seem to disagree with on this issue. …

And in circumstances where even basic, common-sense, plain, vanilla legislation can’t pass because House Republicans consider it somehow a compromise of their principles, or giving Obama a victory, then we’ve got to take action. Otherwise, we’re not going to be making progress on the things that the American people care about.

Kaus translates an apparent argument for bypassing the people’s elected legislature, as follows:  ”Where the key interest groups of society — business, labor, religious organizations and the MSM (who else is going to anoint a bill “common sense … legislation”?) — are lined up behind a policy, then if Congress doesn’t act, the President can.”

What I find most intriguing about this theory — based on my recent education in the Rhode Island elite’s method of designating fellow insiders to represent this or that “community,” ensuring that nothing changes — is that it enables Obama to make the American people non-people… to make what may be a majority simply disappear.  At the very least, one must admit that a whole lot of Americans are very concerned about illegal immigration, want it stopped at the border and dealt with within the country, and want to reduce the total flow of people immigrating.

You can agree or disagree with all of those people, but it’s a masterwork of deception for the president to make them all disappear on his way to arguing that they shouldn’t be represented in government.  Of course, division, deception, and dehumanization are what this president and his fellow progressives do.

(Via Instapundit.)

Making a Stand Far from the Cliff

Why stand our ground in Rhode Island? Because somewhere in the world, the easier decision is to throw your children to their merciful death.

Feeling the Tightening of the Special Interest Manacles

Providence Firefighter Tom Kenney may hold the key to the antidote to save Rhode Island and the United States.

How We Run Education in Rhode Island

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you government control of education:

Eva-Marie Mancuso, chairwoman of the state Board of Education, said Tuesday she was appalled that a cornerstone of the department’s high school graduation policy, one that was years in the making, was discarded by the legislature in the waning hours of the session.

“Maybe everybody should trust the professionals rather than running behind our backs and going to the legislature,” Mancuso said. …

But Rep. Gregg Amore, D-East Providence, the NECAP bill’s sponsor, said he is “shocked” by Mancuso’s misunderstanding of the graduation process. He said the waiver process was introduced because RIDE recognized that the NECAP was an inappropriate measure of student performance.

Linda Borg doesn’t mention it in her article, but Amore is a government-school teacher in East Providence, making him a bit more interested than your average well-meaning legislator.  This is what our state’s schools have come to: Government officials, one appointed and one elected, the latter representing the state’s most powerful special interest, arguing about whether it’s a sign that the system did or didn’t work because school districts were able to hand out diplomas to students whom they failed to educate.

We’re so many steps from a working system that this front page story might as well be about tweens arguing who was a Bieber Belieber first.

The World the West is Creating with Vladimir Putin


Is there a better way than political authoritarianism and stunted economic growth that Vladimir Putin’s subjects (including high-ranking oligarchs) might want to consider? Western elites might not like to admit this, but ratcheting up an “uncivilized” tribal strategy may be an effective way for Putin and current Russian leadership to answer this question in the negative, by boosting the morale (at least in the short term) of his Russian followers, and by frightening an “internationalist” coalition away from being willing to take the steps necessary to slow his expansion.

The ultimate effectiveness of this strategy depends on the strength and the nature of the coherence of the adversary that Russia faces.