HEADLINES

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Local Politics in Poetry

You know an election season is bound to be odd when it’s scarcely begun and already poetic letters to the editor are hitting the local papers.  Tiverton entered this phase this week when one activist associated with the local big-government, high-tax political action committee Tiverton 1st sent a poem in to the Fall River Herald attacking me.

By way of background, I proposed a budget to voters (who approved it) that held taxes down to a 0.9% increase for the upcoming budget, leaving the line items up to the Budget Committee.  After achieving around 84% of the adjustments needed, the committee backtracked and instead eliminated most of the budget for curbside trash pickup, expecting people either to bring their trash to the dump or for the Town Council to set up some sort of new fee to force people to pay the money that the town initially wanted in taxes, but that the voters refused to pay.  (The move is legally questionable, particularly because the very same activists have long argued that the Budget Committee has no authority to set policy, while now the Town Council president is insisting that her council has no authority to refuse the committee’s decision.)

 

You’re Welcome, Dear Susan

Responding to a personal attack masquerading as a poem by Susan Scanlon, whose sister, Deborah Scanlon Janick, is a member of the Tiverton Budget Committee.

Hi, Susan! Your poem in these pages
thanked me for the referendum results.
As when your sister, Deb Janick, rages,
your real goal seems to be your sharp insults.

Could it be your sister didn’t tell you,
when she wrapped up work with the budget board,
ending trash was what she wanted to do?
So many non-trash options were ignored!

On June 7, here’s what Deb had to say,
writing on Tiverton 1st’s Facebook page:
“The residents of Tiverton will pay
the price for voting for Budget 2.” Rage!

Now it’s the Town Council’s turn to decide
on the administrator’s Option E,
which moves cash around to keep trash alive,
or a sneaked in tax or fee, then blame me.

So, my dear Susan, you are most welcome.
My goal, as always, is one of service.
Now our neighbors can see from the outcome
what sort of people we have in office.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Government Contracts to Infringe on Rights

Here’s an interesting bill — H7736 — on the Freedom Index (having passed both chambers) that raises some interesting political questions.  Basically, it forbids state and local government agencies from contracting with any company that is engaged in a boycott, unless the contract is very small or the company is much cheaper than competing bids.

Inasmuch as boycotting is more a thing for progressives than conservatives, particularly corporate boycotting, my gut reaction isn’t entirely negative.  I mean, boycotting Israel or North Carolina for political reasons doesn’t tend to endear a company to me and, in fact, tends to encourage me to direct my business elsewhere.

Even if every corporate boycott were a creature of the Left, though, such legislation gets dangerously close to using government’s economic clout to infringe on the speech and association rights of the individuals who band together for corporate purposes.  As government expands into more and more activities, increasing its role in our society, it approaches the point at which being blocked from government contracts would be a killer in more and more industries.

According to the Family Prosperity Index, using a metric that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity also uses for its competitiveness report card, Rhode Island ranks near the back of the pack when it comes to the private sector’s portion of the economy.  That means companies can be locked out of a disproportionately large part of our local economy if they don’t wrap themselves in these sorts of strings, just like the federal government’s increasing role in funding the states has given it power in direct contravention of our Constitution.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Raimondo Vetoes Reasonable Compromise with Wartime Rationale

Early on in this session, asked for an opinion on a bill that would allow the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (i.e., the executive branch, i.e., the governor) to enter reciprocity agreements with other countries with respect to driver’s licenses, I suggested that it contained a loophole for executive granting of licenses to illegal immigrants so big that a truck could drive through it, with room for a toll gantry.  The final version of the legislation, which passed the General Assembly, answered that concern to a high degree.

Well, surprise, surprise, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo vetoed it, with a strange rationale:

In a veto letter signed late Wednesday night, Raimondo said she supports the reciprocity aspects of the bill that would have potentially allowed someone with a foreign driver’s license and an active visa or green card to get a Rhode Island license without taking a test. But she took issue with a section that would have narrowed existing standards — requiring those drivers to submit additional documents before their foreign licenses could be recognized in Rhode Island. …

“The additional application and certification requirements of this bill are at odds with the [Geneva Convention’s] purpose of simplifying and unifying driving regulations on an international level. As such, these restrictions limit rights granted by the Convention and thereby violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” Raimondo wrote.

I’m no expert on the Geneva Conventions, and the governor’s veto message doesn’t appear to be online, so I don’t know if she provided some additional legal explanation.  However, the Geneva Conventions are mainly addressed to war-time matters.  A 2009 booklet for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators gives the impression that what’s really at issue is a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, to which the United States agreed in Geneva in 1949.  There, one finds the “establishing uniform rules” language, but also that the convention doesn’t have any mandates for foreigners in a country for more than a year, and it also refers to international driver permits (IDPs), which could easily be interpreted to be the foreign nation’s way of validating the person’s driver’s license as required in the bill.

Who would have thought that this issue would be so complicated, both politically and legally?  If the legislation comes up again next year, it’ll be worth a deeper dive, but at the moment it seems to me that either the governor’s goal is to secure the loophole mentioned above or the legislation isn’t needed in the first place, because anybody with a license and an IDP can drive here for up to a year, anyway.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

IRS Scandal and Fragile Commitment to Rights

Reading Eliana Johnson’s NRO article, “New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law,” it occurs to me just how fragile our rights are.  Ten years ago, I would have thought this sort of thing would be a cause of universal outrage, across the political spectrum.  The American Left and news media haven’t proven to have as much integrity as I’d thought, back then:

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns from the IRS to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And it was almost certainly illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups.

Speaking with people, in a social setting, who are likely to find their way to voting for Hillary Clinton, I’ve wondered if it’s all a function of long-term narrative propaganda and raw audacity.  That is to say that the Left has spent decades making themselves the heroes and their opposition the villains in every story, such that a sufficient number of people would be inclined to interpret real transgressions as well-meaning indiscretions or overzealous errors.

With that sense established, an incentive begins to form to be audacious in the lies.  Get people invested in the interpretation that Hillary Clinton and President Obama were working from faulty intelligence when they lied about the nature of the Benghazi attack and that Clinton’s private server was mainly used for sharing recipes with friends and the like.  Purposefully slip the admission of illegal activity from the IRS into an obscure Q&A session.

The initial benefit of the doubt given on the basis of decades of propaganda then gains the general sense that the culprits wouldn’t have gotten away with it for so long if it were really bad.  But the prerequisite is, again, that the American Left and its partisans in the media really don’t believe the things they claim to believe about rights.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Two Paths When Things Go Bad

As the scarcity of posts in this space illustrates, I’ve been extremely busy, this week.  Things have slowed, but I’m still getting back on track.

One thing I’ve been doing has been to sift through the data available from the Family Prosperity Initiative (FPI).  In summary, the conclusion seems to be inevitable that Rhode Islanders are good people who are just relatively unhappy, with something having happened around 2012 to reinforce that feeling, as suggested by adverse changes in things like new business establishments after that year.  Notably, that was the year that Rhode Island first sank to 48th in the country by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), where it has remained since.

But the broad data from the FPI has some interesting contrast.  Rhode Island does poorly on almost all markers, whether economic or having to do with healthy behavior, with an up-tick around that year in, for example, obesity.  Yet other positive markers also jumped that year, or soon thereafter, including an increase in marriages, a decrease in divorces, an increase in weekly church attendance, and an increase in the percentage of children living in married households.

I wonder if some of these results are an indicator of two distinct paths’ that Rhode Islanders follow.  I’ve long been saying that Rhode Island has been driving out its “productive class“; that is, people at a point in life during which they want to make progress and be productive tend to account for a disproportionate share of the Rhode Islanders parting for elsewhere.  I’ve also been describing the “company state” mentality, whereby the state government pursues policies that increase the number of clients who give it justification for taking money from other people (the producers), in the state and elsewhere.

Maybe what the data shows is that, when a community gets in a funk, some people turn toward things that have traditionally led to stability, meaning, and success (religiosity and family), and other people turn to unhealthy behaviors, like drug use.  This is speculation, at this point, but I’d wager that there’s a strong correlation between these two paths and the other options of leaving the state, on the one hand, or falling into government dependence, on the other.

monique-chartier-avatar

It’s Pull-Papers Time!

If you’re planning to run for office in Rhode Island, it’s time to file a Declaration of Candidacy form. Deadline to file is tomorrow (Wednesday, June 29, 2016) by 4:00 pm. If you’re running for local or state office, you would file them with your local Board of Canvassers. (The Board of Canvassers is often a part of your City or Town Clerk’s office and, if not, they can certainly direct you.) If you’re running for federal office, file with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office. (… I presume that’s what “Department of State” means on this form; seems like poor wording by the RI Secretary of State’s office.) FYI, next step will be to collect signatures on the nomination papers that you will, in due course, need to obtain.

A couple of current event items to note. The Tee-Shirt guy had vowed to run again but as of the end of the day yesterday, he had not pulled papers. (Possibly an investigation by the Rhode Island State Police has impacted either his schedule or his plans.)

And, if you were mulling a run for the General Assembly, perhaps this will tip you over: WPRI’s Ted Nesi has crunched the numbers and determined that Governor Raimondo, with the highly misguided approval of the General Assembly, has handed out $50 million ($50,000,000) AND COUNTING in corporate welfare under the guise of economic development. As a legislator, you would have the ability to vote against such costly, inequitable madness.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Rhode Island ACLU Works Against Civil Liberties

My thought on allowing women to be full members of yacht clubs:  of course.  The reasonable reaction upon hearing that some private yacht club somewhere else does not do so:  that doesn’t make sense; I wonder what mix of personalities and traditions keeps that going.  The Rhode Island ACLU’s reaction: let’s use our access to activists’ donations and free lawyers (and the lack of consequences for legal bullying) to force the private club to conform to our worldview.

The organization’s reasoning makes it even worse:

In his statement, [RI ACLU lead bully Steven] Brown said, “The ACLU fully appreciates that private clubs have a general First Amendment right to associate without government interference – a right that we support. However, that right is not absolute. In this case, it is our understanding that the Club opens some of its facilities to non-members, serves as an important networking opportunity for business people in the community, and has benefited from state and federal funds over the years.

“It also seems clear that the ban on women members is not because the Club seeks to express some sort of political view about the role of women, but is instead simply an archaic vestige from another era when women were treated as second-class citizens in a wide variety of settings…”

To progressives, Americans lose their rights the moment they leave carefully protected enclaves.  That’s why they can pretend to support rights that they really only support for people who agree with them.  Ever let anybody who’s not in your club use its facilities?  You lose your right “to associate without government interference.”  Derive some social benefit from your club?  You lose your rights.  Ever received any public funds for anything, even if those funds went to other groups that might have practices with which not every American agrees?  You got it: rights are gone.

And then as the perfect cherry on this ideological cow pie, the ACLU insinuates that it would be fine if the policy were an overt expression of an objectionable political view.  If it’s limited to being a less-objectionable expression of deference to tradition, to be changed gradually over time at a pace suiting its members and befitting a social club?  Ain’t got no rights.

By all means, speak against the policy, if you’re so inclined, but the ACLU repeatedly crosses the line into seeking to disenfranchise Americans and undermine our ability to accommodate each other as much as possible.  In other words, the organization proves time and again that its claim to support civil liberties is cover for imposing a narrow view on the country through lawfare.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Backbone That Jumps from Body to Body

Let’s question a bit of common wisdom in big-government circles, shall we?  This is from an article in the Worcester Telegram about Woonsocket Glass Fabricators — a Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company that Northbridge, Massachusetts, lured away from the city whose name it bears:

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy as well as communities.

That was the message conveyed on Thursday during a celebration marking Woonsocket Glass Fabricators’ new 33,000-square-foot production center and showroom at 369 Douglas Road in Whitinsville.

Founded in 1946, the company outgrew its space in Rhode Island and, after an extensive search, decided to relocate in Massachusetts, according to president and chief executive officer Chip Rogers. He said he received nothing but support from Northbridge officials and the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Massachusetts provided a $5 million taxpayer-backed bond and $375,000 in additional tax credits, which makes one wonder: What sort of “backbone” can be lured out of its body with easy money?  Once again, the point of this worldview seems to be that government is the backbone of the economy and the community.

Supporters of this sort of government-picks-the-winners crony capitalism would take this story as an opportunity to say, “See, this is why Rhode Island has to be able to compete in handing out taxpayer dollars.”  How Rhode Island could possibly compete with nearby states that have more people, more money, and stronger economies is never explained.

The alternative, of course, would be to reduce taxes and eliminate regulatory burdens to make the Ocean State more attractive on its own merits, without the handouts.  But that wouldn’t leave as much room for politicians’ ego trips and corruption.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When the People Aren’t Represented

This Peter Hitchens essay about the reordering of politics visible in the Brexit vote is worth reading for a variety of reasons.  The crux is that Great Britain’s politics (like those of the United States) have developed such that the elites of the two major parties have more in common with each other than with sizable portions of their bases, which therefore have more in common with each other than with their own elites.  One particularly notable part comes toward the end:

Thursday’s vote shows that the House of Commons is hopelessly unrepresentative. The concerns and hopes of those who voted to leave the EU – 51.9 per cent of the highest poll since 1992 – are reliably supported by fewer than a quarter of MPs, if that. Ludicrously, neither of the big parties agrees with a proven majority of the electorate – and neither shows any sign of changing its policies as a result.

Hitchens rightly calls this a scandal.  How can a majority not be represented?  I can’t find it just now, but not long ago, I noted the strong traditionalist sentiment in a foreign country (Great Britain again, I think) when it came to marriage.  It wasn’t quite a majority, but it struck me that some sizable percentage of the electorate (around one-third or more, as I recall) was entirely without representation in the government.  That can’t go on long, particularly in societies that still have some vestige of their independent past.

It’s very easy to see how the transgender-bathroom issue is a pre-planned next step in the Left’s attack on our culture, now that the Supreme Court has amended the U.S. Constitution to impose same-sex marriage on the country, but Brexit is probably a related phenomenon, as well.  Whatever the issue, what’s stunning is that Western elites are simply refusing to adjust, as if they’re sick of having to bide their time, as if their attitude is, “We run the country, damn it, not you backwards morons.”

The American Interest makes much the same point, as quoted on Instapundit:

Failure to control immigration? Amnesty? Social benefits for non-citizens when citizens are suffering? Nation-building wars abroad instead of nation-building at home? Massive debt? Failures to confront terrorism effectively? Businesses moving jobs overseas? Recession in the countryside while the capital prospers? Rapid changes in gender politics? Bizarre contortions of politically correct speech, which shout down what many see as common sense? It has left many in the electorate angry and disenfranchised. And when those in the public who feel this way have objected or resisted, elites have doubled-down, rather than listen and adjust.

As Glenn Reynolds appends, “They see us as, at best, livestock to be managed,” which gets right back to my observation, locally, that people in government and the media seem to believe it’s their job to force us to give government more money than we want to give (see here and here for elaboration).  Brexit was a signal that the battle isn’t over.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Corruption as Central to Rhode Island’s Economy

There’s something frustratingly telling about James Bessette’s Independent article on one project that former Democrat Representative Donald Lally undertook when he was working his revolving-door-skirting job within the administration of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.

Taking the politics out of it, the story is about Harvey Cataldo’s ridiculous difficulty trying to clear all of the bureaucratic obstacles to open an oyster business.  “I’m good at looking at this stuff on the internet and I could not find a place that said ‘OK, I have to get this, this and this, and then do this, go back and I can have my license,'” he said.

Enter Lally, whose hiring attracted a great deal of attention in September because of its tinge of patronage and with whose political campaigns Cataldo has been involved since the 1980s.

In a Sept. 2 email to Rhode Island Commerce Corp. executives, including Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, DBR Director Macky McCleary said Lally was “doing yeoman’s work” helping Cataldo, owner of Bluff Hill Cove Oyster Company, “through the complicated permitting process across several agencies.”

“Just want to give kudos,” McCleary wrote.

What we see, here, is a progressive bureaucratic system that has become so out of whack that a business owner has to rely, for legitimate activity, on his connection to a politician who was given a government job under the shadow of corruption.  It’s the perfect melding of ordinary economic activity with crony corruption, and even though it’s obviously a peculiar case, it ought to open eyes around the state.

The story won’t open many eyes, though, because most people won’t ever come across it and among those who do, a sizable percentage like things just the way they are because the status quo advantages them through either knowing a guy or being the guy to know.

Tivertonbanner-featured

What If Rhode Islanders Really Had a Say on Budgets, Like Tiverton?

In this video, I wonder what would happen if the people of the Ocean State had a say in the budgeting process. In Tiverton, electors in town have the ability to submit budgets directly to voters. For the third year in a row, a budget that I submitted for the financial town referendum to set Tiverton’s upcoming budget won a strong majority of votes. That makes three years with tax increases under 1%.

By design, Rhode Island politicians at the state level leave the public no time to digest the budget and express their preferences to their representatives, and most of their representatives have no intention of bucking legislative leaders anyway.

Imagine, though, if Rhode Islanders really did have a say, like we do in Tiverton. What do you suppose the result would be?

Watch this new video to learn more now.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Government-Pushed Pre-K May Be Worse than Neutral

Progressive politicians, like Rhode Island Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, simply assume that more government support for pre-K is a good thing, and the news media doesn’t help.  In 2014, for example, WPRI reporter Dan McGowan characterized RI’s program as “one of the most successful state-funded pre-K programs in the country,” but all of the benchmarks used to determine “success” are inputs, like teacher degrees, free meals, and number of students per teacher.  “Success” in those terms is basically measured in the cost of the program — as in, “we’re successful at making people give us money and power.”

Lindsey Burke and Salim Furth, of Heritage, have looked at the research and found that government-centered pre-K programs have no measurable academic benefit and may, in fact, do harm academically and, especially, behaviorally.  Sure, it creates new union jobs and encourages more families to organize themselves around government dependency, but that comes at a cost.  Note this, for example, in Quebec:

The program has had a large impact: privately funded child care arrangements have almost disappeared, and Quebec has the highest rate of subsidized child care in Canada, at 58 percent in 2011.

One can’t help but wonder whether that was more the goal than an unfortunate side effect, but other results were surely unintentional:

Regrettably, new research has found that children who became eligible for the program in Quebec were more anxious as children and have committed more crimes as teenagers. The availability of day care clearly worsened children’s non-cognitive “soft” skills.

Why is this?

The effects could be occurring through any (or all) of three channels:

  1. Worse care for children who would have been cared for by a family member if day care were not subsidized;
  2. Worse care for children who would have gone to a less-regulated, non-subsidized day care; and
  3. Spillover impacts on children who are not participating.

So while all of the “success” benchmarks cited to push Rhode Island’s program forward were of the form “we think this must be a good thing,” evidence of actual outcomes is not encouraging.

We can predict, however, how government will respond as its programs harm the economy by withdrawing money that would have been better spent elsewhere and harm students by reshaping their early lives to put them in something resembling the public school system that we already know to be failing in Rhode Island:  Elected and appointed officials will all claim that they need more money and more authority over our lives and must put more private companies out of business in order to fix the intractable problems of our humanity.

monique-chartier-avatar

Great Britain Says No to Centralized Government

Nice – defying the latest poll results, Great Britain has voted to leave the European Union.

The UK has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum which threw Westminster politics into disarray and sent the pound tumbling on the world markets.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage declared that June 23 should “go down in history as our independence day”, while Vote Leave’s chair, the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, said it was “our opportunity to take back control of a whole area of democratic decisions”.

Excerpt below from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s statement on the implications of the Brexit vote. Read their full statement here.

Symbolic of its fight against regional governance and federal intrusion into state and local affairs, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today applauds the British people for voting to re-establish their national sovereignty and to depart the European Union.

monique-chartier-avatar

Rhode Island’s Big Kahuna Acquires an Opponent

Big news yesterday as Steve Frias (R-Cranston) announces that he will run against House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) to represent House District 15.

Republican Steven Frias hopes to ride a wave of dissatisfaction with Rhode Island’s status quo to unseat House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, often referred to the most powerful elected official in the state.

Interestingly, GoLocalProv refers to Frias, who resides in Cranston, as a “Boston Lawyer”, the only news outlet to do so.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Standing Firm Against Political Abuse

With local progressives’ lashing out and attempting an overt Saul Alinsky ploy to tar me as the cause of lost basic services in Tiverton, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to moral culpability.  A couple of days ago, I suggested that groups that are acting in the interest of their communities position themselves so that good policy benefits them politically, while the hurt-the-taxpayers faction currently in power in my town are pushing bad policy with the expectation that it will be good for them politically.  Objectively, one must admit that raises the questions of intention and blame and who is responsible if standing up for good policy nonetheless has adverse effects for political reasons.

At the moment, Tiverton is awaiting the judgment of its Town Council as to whether it will follow the lead of the town’s Budget Committee and attempt to inflict pain on residents by eliminating the curbside trash pickup to which we’re accustomed as a basic service.  Through founding member Robert Coulter, the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) has released a statement that cuts right to the questions I just mentioned:

If the Town Council follows through with the Budget Committee’s threat and breaks its contract with Patriot Disposal, maybe voters will “learn the lesson” that angry insiders want to teach them… or maybe instead we’ll remember this stunt when the officials who are supposed to represent voters are up for reelection in less than five months from now. Maybe, too, we’ll decide to take back the new trash fee through additional tax reductions at next year’s FTR. After all, the Budget Committee left over $2 million in alternatives on the table.

The statement is clear that the TTA would prefer a different outcome — one in which the Town Council continues the job that the Budget Committee started and then abandoned, accommodating voters’ will in the way that causes the least amount of disruption.  Still, when the budget season comes back around next year, if taxpayers are paying a new trash fee, they may very well decide that it ought to be an even exchange taken out of the tax bill of the following year.

No doubt the angry radicals in town will respond by attempting (or at least threatening) to kill another of the services that they hold hostage, but that will be, once again, on them, not on voters who pursue the necessary policy of long-term tax relief.  Standing firm against abuse is one of the most fundamentally good policies.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Brexit for All of Us

Today, as Roger Kimball writes, “perhaps for the last time in a generation, the British voters have a choice” about how they will be governed.  I have not followed the matter with sufficient attention to have anything more than hope about the outcome, and I hope our fellow Anglospherians will put the brakes on progressive internationalism before it falls to hard reality to stop it.

Last week, I noted a similarity of the “government town” concept I’ve described multiple times in this space on either side of the Atlantic.  Kimball brings forward another disconcerting echo:

A couple of years ago when an earlier chapter in this saga was unfolding, I was chatting with an Italian friend, a former Italian senator, who employed the word to describe the ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian premiership in 2012. “Super Mario” was technically appointed by the Italian president; in reality, he was foisted upon Italy by the European Union. As it happens, that same day Lucas Papademos was sworn in as Greece’s prime minister.

How did that happen? Well might you ask. That day, we received a plaintive email from a journalist friend in London:

Today, two modern European democracies installed prime ministers who had been elected by nobody. This is what we have come to. It is roughly the equivalent of the federal government stepping in to appoint an unelected governor of California when the state went broke — which is beyond inconceivable. Pray for us.

I’m not sure whether Kimball’s friend was serious or sarcastic with that “beyond inconceivable,” but it clearly is an accurate description.  We’ve seen this in Rhode Island, for example, with our quick resort to municipal dictators when communities began driving themselves off the financial road.

As states find it increasingly difficult to continue the gambit of putting people (often imported) on government-service rolls and under generous government contracts in order to demand that others pay for the government’s activities, they’ll turn to the federal government to extract more wealth from areas of the country that are still doing well.  In some state, somewhere, the strategy will not work, whether because of reckless pension promises or a demographic balance that tips the scales.  As Rhode Island municipalities have done, the ruling classes of that state will gladly hand over their people’s sovereignty for a federal bailout.

Maybe we’ll call that person a “receiver” rather than a “governor,” but it will amount to the same thing.

Human beings have always wanted the power to tell others what to do (especially when the command is to give them money and power), and a certain faction of humanity is relentlessly consolidating into a movement meant to cover the entire planet.  The sooner we shatter the movement, the less painful it will be.

monique-chartier-avatar

Sustainable? Some of RI’s Corporate Welfare is Funded by Moral Obligation Bonds!

Brian Bishop points out in today’s GoLocalProv that certain corporate welfare handed out by the state is funded not pay-as-you-go, out of the budget, but by moral obligation bonds.

Even if you think historic tax breaks are a necessary evil, we didn’t budget for the cost of these breaks, we used moral obligation bonds through the Commerce Corporation to pay for them, a harbinger of the tax [breaks] and spend ‘fireworks’ economy. The flash and bang from each growth purchase fades quickly, requiring us to head back to the fireworks factory and buy more and more, when we haven’t even paid for the fireworks that have already gone off and faded.

The corporate welfare in the form of crony-targeted tax breaks that Governor Raimondo, with the approval of the General Assembly, hands out are bad enough. But the state also hands out corporate welfare for which taxpayers must pay interest! (Remember, this was also the funding method of the 38 Studios debacle.)

The cool new thing with progressive politicians is “sustainable”, as in “sustainable development” and “sustainable energy”. But how can (re)development funded at someone else’s (taxpayers) expense via high-interest moral obligation bonds be cast as “sustainable”?

In fact, what state and local taxpayers really need first and foremost is sustainable budgeting! And further to that, we need elected officials in the Rhode Island Executive and Legislative branches who recognize these (corporate welfare and, even worse, corporate welfare charged to someone else’s high interest credit card) for the unsustainable policies that they are and put an end to them.

monique-chartier-avatar

ProJo Editorial Correctly Highlights Bad Jobs Report

Spot on editorial by the Providence Journal yesterday about last week’s bad jobs and employment report.

Two points in particular to highlight.

1.) Their call for broad-based improvement to the state’s business climate.

Beyond targeted incentives, Rhode Island needs a better tax and regulatory climate that encourages companies that are here to grow and others to come.

Thank you thank you thank you.

2. And this.

Perhaps what is most alarming about last week’s jobs report is that it’s never really felt as though Rhode Island was out of the woods.

Indeed, a well-founded feeling confirmed by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Jobs and Opportunity Index (JOI): our state has been stuck at forty eight since 2012. This is a situation that will only change when state officials take to heart the call by the ProJo and many others to take a much broader approach to economic development than the handing out of welfare to a very narrow list of corporate cronies and occasional, isolated tax reductions that lack credibility as they are unaccompanied by a reduction in overall spending.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Research and Experience Agree: Socialism Stinks

At nearby University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, one professor has belatedly made the journey across ideological divide and concluded that “socialism doesn’t work”:

“I gradually became disenchanted with Marxism by visiting many of the countries that had tried to shape their societies to conform to its doctrines. I was disillusioned by the realities I saw in … socialist countries – the USSR, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, etc,” [Jack] Stauder told The College Fix via email.

“I came to recognize that socialism doesn’t work, and that its ‘revolutionary’ imposition inevitably leads to cruelty, injustice and the loss of freedom,” the professor continued.

“I could see the same pattern in the many failed left-wing revolutions of Latin America and elsewhere. By combining actual travel with the historical study of socialism and revolution, I succeeded in disabusing myself of the utopian notions that fatally attract people to leftist ideas.”

Becoming familiar with people who work with their hands for a living in the American West also aided Stauder along, when contrasted with life immersed in left-wing academia.

Some of the first comments to the post are interesting.  Defenders of socialism appear to take two tacks:  1) the bad socialist countries aren’t socialism, but dictatorships, and 2) good countries that aren’t fully socialist are socialism.  One could take the countries listed and suggest that nations deluded into socialism can choose one of two options as socialism gets around to not working.  They can either reform away from it (as Northern European countries have been doing) or move toward dictatorship, which is the inevitable end point when a people refuses to abandon socialism’s core tenets.

Given Stauder’s illustration that it is possible, even late in life, to abandon bad ideas, it’s saddening that socialists in the United States and the internationalists are managing to spread their malignant ideology.  Let’s hope that Americans haven’t destroyed their culture too fatally to avoid the dictatorship option.

monique-chartier-avatar

Please Check Out the Gaspee Business Network Thursday!

On Thursday (June 23, 2016) at 5:30 pm, the Gaspee Business Network will be holding a Partner Information event at the Radisson Hotel, 2081 Post Road, Warwick. If you’re a business owner and you’re not satisfied with the state’s business climate, please consider dropping by to check out the “Incorruptible Voice of Rhode Island Business“.

We will be discussing why the GBN is different from other business networking groups and how you can take part in the most formidable force to fight the hostile business environment so prevalent throughout Rhode Island.

For more information about the GBN, click here. Click here to register for the event. Or just show up!

monique-chartier-avatar

Tee-Shirt May Shield Well From Allergens … But Not From a Board of Canvassers Inquiry

In light of the serious questions about the rep’s domicile raised by this Target 12 investigation, the Providence Board of Canvassers yesterday voted

… to take up a case challenging whether state Rep. John Carnevale lives in his legislative district, determining there is “reasonable cause” to suspect he is ineligible to vote there.

It is impossible not to speculate what defense the rep will bring, what steps he may take to defend his assertion that he lives at the Providence address. Is he, for instance, briskly arranging even now for one of the tenants at the two family house to move out so that he can occupy that apartment? (Stipulating for a moment the premise – innocent until proven guilty even in a civil proceeding – that he doesn’t currently live there …)

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Curious How “Revitalization” Requires “Longevity” for Officials

One thing conspicuously missing from Kate Bramson’s article today, titled, “GrowSmartRI summit: Speakers share revitalization success stories,” is any statistical evidence that the stories are, indeed, about successes.  Oh, sure, when government agents and activists push hard enough, they manage to fund projects and (eventually) bring them to completion, but when most people hear the phrase “revitalization success stories,” they are likely to expect that the areas were revitalized.  The fact that three “relatively new” restaurants open their doors each night in Attleboro doesn’t tell us much.

This lack of substantial evidence relates to another giant omission in the article — namely, further explanation of this disturbing opening:

Patterns emerged Tuesday as government leaders from three smaller, northeastern cities shared success stories about their revitalization efforts.

Longevity — of elected leaders and employees working for them — was one of several themes that arose before an audience of about 200 business and civic leaders at a summit hosted by the nonprofit GrowSmartRI.

So, “revitalization” requires that voters elect the same officials repeatedly and that the bureaucrats keep their jobs, too?  Well, how convenient.

It’s also obvious.  The entire motivating philosophy of GrowSmartRI, the Brookings Institution, the RI Foundation, the Raimondo administration, and the broader society of progressive elites is that one of government’s central functions (probably the central function) is to plan out the future and enforce that plan so the grimy masses aren’t really free to shape their communities.

When your organizational motivation is to tell other people what to do and how to live, you can’t really abide such disruptive things as individual freedom or the inevitable change inherent in representative democracy.  The goal is to take the permanence that we used to apply very narrowly in a Constitution and Bill of Rights and apply it expansively to minute details of how all we should live.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

With This Year’s Session a Bust, Can RI Try Something Different, Next?

Yesterday, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released its monthly Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report.  By design, the index doesn’t change much month to month, and the multiple data sources cover different periods.  Nonetheless, it was a pretty down month, with employment, labor force, and jobs all down, while Medicaid enrollees were up.  Of the five updated numbers, only SNAP (food stamp) enrollment moved in a positive direction (that is, down).

The key finding of JOI is the longer-term ranking among states, and by that measure, Rhode Island has been stuck at 48th since 2012.  Combine that with the employment stagnation that the recent post in this space pointed out, covering nearly a year, and we’re clearly not in good shape, and we’re clearly not being helped by the approach of Governor Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly.

The problem is that the things that Rhode Island insiders place as their highest priorities — the irreducibles that they will not touch — are not only directly contrary to policies that would encourage economic health, but if politicians are to attempt to do anything at all, the irreducibles require workarounds that exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the problem.  That is, rather than reduce the high taxes, regulations, voluminous give-aways, and labor union stranglehold by which insiders protect their own sinecures, they “invest” our tax dollars in new special interests that are bought off from the start, such as large companies given tax breaks to set up shop, here.

This won’t end well, the only question being whether the Ocean State will continue to bleed out slowly or have a fatal crisis.

monique-chartier-avatar

Definitely No Taxpayer “Bridge Financing” – Or Any Other Tax Dollar Involvement – for Superman Building

An editorial in yesterday’s ProJo mentions an interesting and disturbing prospect that I at least had not yet heard about: taxpayer funded “bridge financing” for the Superman Building. (Tolls on “bridges”; now the possibility of “bridge” financing for an empty building. How did bridges suddenly become a new peril for state taxpayers and residents?)

The editorial also identifies the $64 million question that needs to be answered.

It is not the taxpayers’ business to make High Rock whole on a bad investment. But there is public interest in seeing activity there rather than vacancy and slow deterioration. For example, turning the Superman into a classy downtown apartment building with magnificent views of the city and the water would breathe economic life into the downtown, since new residents would dine out, shop and pay taxes.

The question is: How much is this activity worth to the taxpayers?

The latest estimates to rehab the Superman Building are in the $60-100 million range, though this GoLocalProv story from three years ago mentions the even more insane figures of $140 to $145 million.

To answer the ProJo’s question – “How much is this activity worth to the taxpayers?” – there simply is no amount of secondary/related economic activity that could come close to justifying any taxpayer involvement in such an exorbitantly expensive real estate rehabilitation project. Any official who proposes to do so must satisfactorily answer every entirely valid question posed by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity three years ago.

Elected officials would be wise to instead address the conditions that have contributed to the dearth of business tenants that financially imperil this building, and almost certainly others: the state’s business-repulsive tax and regulatory climate. Taxpayers cannot possibly “bridge” the financial chasms, either at 111 Westminster Street in Providence or everywhere else around the state, created by state officials’ continued refusal to do so.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Speech About Which the Governor Cares

All things considered, I’d probably have to side with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo in concluding that the “revenge porn” legislation that she just vetoed is too broad and ought to be much more explicit in protecting free speech.  That said, this line from her veto message contributes to my cynicism:

“The breadth and lack of clarity may have a chilling effect on free speech,” she wrote.

The reason I smirk at that is that other legislation that would most certainly have a chilling effect on free speech has passed both chambers of the General Assembly, and I suspect the governor won’t find it quite so objectionable.  Specifically, I’m referring to H7147, which would subject any individual, or any kind of organization at all, who spends more than $100 advocating on local ballot questions to campaign regulations, including reporting requirements.  (The legislation is championed by Tiverton Democrat John “Jay” Edwards and is obviously aimed at my friends in town.)

There’s no question but that adding such burdens to political activity has a “chilling effect,” and there’s no question that electoral speech ought to be the most sacrosanct when it comes to the law.  Yet, under the current progressive understanding of free speech, it seems publishing naked pictures of people without telling them is a more fundamental right than expressing opinions on local issues without telling your vicious rumor-mongering opposition who your friends are.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Something UHIP This Way Comes

Rhode Island won’t forever be able to avoid the arrival of the state’s Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) monster, although the latest from Lynn Arditi is that it won’t darken our state until the leaves begin to shade and the season of evil approaches in the fall (appropriate to an election season, this time around, too).  It’s a sinister beast, too, this dependency portal, which weaves itself in sly language.  Witness (emphasis added):

The new system will allow the state to verify eligibility for programs such as Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income residents, and integrate them with other state assistance programs, officials said, to improve service and weed out fraud. …

“Rhode Island has been running the same enrollment and eligibility software since the Reagan Administration,” Roberts said. “This new system is a smart investment that will result in better customer service and significant savings for state taxpayers. As we move toward the September launch, we will continue to incorporate best practices and lessons learned from other states. We are confident that setting a launch date in September will allow the state ample time to anticipate and prepare for any issues that may develop during a transition from an aging software system to a modern, digital portal that meets our 21st century needs.”

In our traditional understanding of such concepts, one does not “verify eligibility” to receive “customer service,” and the wise reader should expect that “significant savings” will be measured against what the costs would have been to expand benefits by some less-efficient route.  That’s what UHIP is going to do.  As with the expansion of Medicaid and its implementation through the ObamaCare health benefits exchange (which was the first key piece of the portal), “verifying eligibility” will not prove to mean stopping people who apply from receiving benefits inappropriately, but rather, verifying that people who didn’t know they were eligible and who were not really seeking benefits are indeed eligible and should indeed receive taxpayer dollars.

Like some magical being, efficiency of this sort can be a positive when it is pursued in the proper spirit.  When the spirit is corrupted, though, efficiency merely accelerates the spreading of its dark shadow, particularly when the bureaucratic cult that summoned the beast has so mastered the technique of shaving its two pounds of flesh.

← Older posts...