HEADLINES

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The 38 Studios Misfire

Putting together the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s 38 Studios scorecard, the peculiarity of the whole matter reared its head.  Most folks who’ve watched the controversy closely know that the Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) loan guarantee program first arose in a supplemental budget, but the details aren’t widely understood.  Here are some findings that don’t entirely jibe with the common recollection:

  • The increase of the $50 million program to $125 million — to surreptitiously cover the 38 Studios bonds — was not slipped in as a floor amendment during the infamous floor session at which Republican Representative Robert Watson of East Greenwich stood as the lone “nay” vote when the bill came back around a second time.  It was part of article 7 in the SubA bill (2010 7105) that the House Finance Committee sent to the floor with the supplemental budget.
  • More representatives voted against the program in the supplemental on April 13, 2010, than as a separate bill, although all but one apparently changed their views when the bill came up again:
    • Rod Driver
    • Larry Ehrhardt
    • Robert Jacquard
    • Charlene Lima
    • Brian Newberry
    • Robert Watson
  • Cranston Democrat Lima even put in an amendment that would have required disclosure of any elected officials who contacted the EDC on behalf of any company seeking to participate in the program, and 25 representatives voted for it (which is a relatively large vote for an insurgent amendment).
  • The Senate actually did pass the supplemental budget, on April 14, but oddly didn’t transmit it to the governor.

The immediate question that the Center had to consider for its scorecard was whether to count these votes.  Ultimately, we decided not to do so because, in the weird circumstances, it never became law.  Even if, for example, Lima’s floor amendment had passed, it wouldn’t have been part of the law because she didn’t resubmit it to the version of the statute that made it into law.

Had we counted the supplemental, some legislators would have edged a grade up or down, but no incumbents.  Moreover, in the discussion over the years, the public has generally considered the 38 Studios controversy as having begun with the freestanding bill that actually made it to the governor’s desk.

Reviewing the history, though, does make one wonder who knew what, back then, and why an issue that did spark some push-back in April seemed to zip right through when it came around again in May.

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Going After Free Speech Against Incumbents in Connecticut

For the Campaign Regulation Is Unconstitutional file, Joe Markley relates his experience in Connecticut:

Along with my friend and colleague, Connecticut state representative Rob Sampson, I’ve been charged with a violation of campaign-spending statutes by our state elections-enforcement authority. My misdeed was a single mention of Governor Dannel Malloy in each of two mailings we sent during the last state election. …

The fact is, we didn’t bring the governor up to hurt his campaign, but to make our own position clear to voters: Dan Malloy is Connecticut’s single biggest problem. His enormous tax hikes (the two largest in state history, one each passed immediately after his election and reelection), his reckless borrowing, and his refusal to reduce the size and scope of state government have brought our state to the precipice. Prohibiting us from sharing with voters our opinion of the governor would deprive them of the most important piece of political information we can offer.

And that’s the point.  All that stuff about getting money out of politics is dressing.  Some activists sincerely believe it, of course, but whether the political corruption was behind the cause at its inception or the corrupt subsequently identified the opportunity it presents, campaign finance and related regulations are now meant to protect the powerful.  There is simply no legitimate interpretation of the Constitution that allows the government to forbid people from criticizing the king or a duke or an earl when it matters or seek to restrict their funding or force them to list their co-conspirators.

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Escaping Backwards Thinking in Education

Future generations may study the education system in our day as a lesson in how difficult it is to make government do the right thing when there are entrenched interests involved.  Indeed, reading a post by Annie Holmquist on the Foundation for Economic Education site, I wondered if our progeny will think us downright backwards.

Quoting a former public-school-teacher-turned-homeschool-mom named Nikita Bush, The Monitor explains this movement:

“Despite the promises of the civil rights movement, ‘people are starting to realize that public education in America was designed for the masses of poor, and its intent has been to trap poor people into being workers and servants. If you don’t want that for your children, then you look for something else,’ she says.”

Bush is not alone in thinking that the public schools are keeping minority children from reaching their potential. According to a poll released in 2016 by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, minority parents “strongly reject the notion that students from low-income families should be held to lower standards.” In fact, “Nine-out-of-ten African Americans and 84 percent of Latinos disagree that students today work hard enough and instead believe that students should be challenged more to help ensure they are successful later in life.”

According to Holmquist’s post, black students who are homeschooled perform as well or better than the national average in reading, language, and math, and the contrast with black public school students is stunning.  (Having not reviewed the underlying research, I should note the possibility that there may be factors affecting the numbers, such as the relative income of the group.)

The thing that seems backwards, though, is that only in Georgia is it possible for parents to work together for a sort of homeschooling co-op.  How did we get to a place in a supposedly free country in which the government’s underlying assumption is that parents cannot be trusted to educate their children?  That doesn’t strike me as the proper relationship between government and the governed.

Of course, it may be an exercise in unreasonable optimism to think that future generations will have a better sense of how that relationship ought to be structured.

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Check out Your Legislator on the “38 Studios Legislator Scorecard”

The public is outraged that there has been zero accountability on the 38 Studios issue. The insiders have failed to provide any transparency by releasing the 38 Studios documents. The Center is now offering our own version of transparency by publishing a new scorecard that tracks and grades the voting records of lawmakers on the 38 Studios affair. Many people consider it extremely hypocritical for any lawmaker who rated an F or D on this scorecard for their past record to now jump on the band-wagon by calling for the Attorney General or Governor to release the documents.

Despite the johnny-come-lately calls from many lawmakers for the release of documents from the government’s 38 Studios Investigation, 81 of the 113 sitting General Assembly lawmakers graded an “F” on their related voting records. On the scorecard, we documented and scored legislative votes on 15 related bills, amendments, and budgets since 2010 related to the 38 Studios disaster. There have been many missed opportunities for transparency. Why do they feel they have to protect the political machine?

As we approach the November elections, we’re providing voters with the voting records of their elected officials so they can decide whether or not to hold them accountable. It is up to you to choose if you want to change the Ocean State. Overall, of the 178 lawmakers, 132 graded an F, 10 a D, 8 a C, 6 a B, and 14 an A. You can see the full scorecard by clicking here now.

Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround. We must adopt an open and transparent public policy culture that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. The 38 Studios disaster is the perfect example of everything wrong with the way our state is being run. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and demand that the status quo changes.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

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When the Tide Has Nowhere to Turn

Although his title may not really capture the point, Jim Geraghty is on to something with “Crazy Theory: This Year the Right Is Winning the Culture Wars.”  Here’s one item of his evidence:

Target Corp. said it will spend $20 million to add a private bathroom to each of its stores by next year, after customer protests of its policy allowing transgender individuals to use whichever restroom corresponds with their gender identity.

My wife mentioned to me, the other day, that at least one Target store in the area had porta-potties outside, with some sort of cleaning station, and when her friend asked what they were for, an employee told her they’re “for the transgendered.”  My first reaction was to suggest that’s what happens when there’s such disconnect between corporate big-wigs and the people.  Making a grand politically correct statement using an entire chain of stores seems very important when perched at the cocktail party top, but as with universities’ capitulating to the whiny brats among their student population, the broader public has different views.

That is to say that Target has learned what happens when your leadership really does have contempt for a plurality of views.

The incident brings to mind Plato’s description of the steps by which an oligarchy deteriorates into a democracy:

This state, then, is in the same precarious condition as a person so unhealthy that the least shock from outside will upset the balance or, even without that, internal disorder will break out.  It falls sick and is at war with itself on the slightest occasion, as soon as one party or the other calls in allies from a neighbouring oligarchy or democracy; and sometimes civil war begins with no help from without.

In Plato’s reasoning, the elites of the oligarchy have become so soft and unlike their fellow countrymen that when anything happens to throw them all together, “the poor man, lean and sunburnt,” will observe of his social betters that they “are rich because we are cowards.” Applying this to Geraghty’s thesis, we might say that the lesson isn’t that “the Right is winning,” but merely that the Left hasn’t yet won — meaning that the self-righteous elite cannot yet impose its every will and fashion on the country with no consequence.

Another way to phrase it would be to say that the cultural tide appears to have hit progressive dams, with none of the releases that a free and equal representative democracy has in place to allow for self governance.  Unfortunately, the turmoil has brought Donald Trump to the forefront, so the next question will be what happens if the dams should hold in November, bottling up the pressure, or if they should break more expansively than is healthy for our society.

Either way, although the Left might be said to be losing, I’m not sure those of us on the right will really consider ourselves to be winning.

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The Practical Distance Between America and Venezuela

A post on by Daniel Greenfield got me to thinking why the United States couldn’t suffer a similar fate to Venezuela’s:

After the fun of electronics stores forced to discount televisions at gunpoint, there were no more televisions. And no more cars. Then no more toilet paper, milk and other basic necessities.

The Socialist government tried to solve its money problem by printing more money. But it wasn’t able to pay for the money it wanted to print because of the inflation which officially did not exist.

Greenfield goes on to note that some American politicians propound policies of a similar mindset, making one wonder whether there’s something in the American character that will eventually stop the process or it’s just a matter of luck and the erosion of principle.

The first argument of distinction between our country and the one that Hugo Chavez ruined is that we’re wealthier, and in a broader way. But that just means we have farther to fall, which could mean more time or it could only necessitate a bigger mess up… say a decade of quantitative easing and massive federal debt combined with a regulatory state that makes it more difficult for people to work off the extra burdens and a welfare state that promises to buy them off if dependence on government is an option they’re willing to entertain.

A second argument, related to the fact that we have more wealth and room to fall, is that we have a culture of self-reliance and rebelliousness. Well, we’re arguably engaged in an experiment to discover how few generations it takes to get out of the habit of self-reliance. And as for rebelliousness, that’s well and good to talk about and believe in, but the proof is in the doing.

Ultimately, if it can’t happen here, we better get to proving it soon.

 

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Ray Mathieu: Not Too Late to Default on 38 Studios and Force Investigations

Taxpayers are and should be outraged not only at the final “findings”, or rather lack of findings, resulting from the conclusion of the multi-year investigation of the 38 Studios fiasco, but also at the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation. Based upon what professional bond investment managers have told me, I have stated repeatedly since long before the first bond payment was ever made that the only way to have a thoroughly independent, full-blown professional investigation would be to default on the bond payments, thereby forcing the bond insurance companies, who would wind up paying these bonds, to perform their own deep investigation.

Of course, The Powers That Be did not want that, for fear of the real truth coming out, so they used the fear mongering excuse that the state’s bond rating would be adversely affected if we defaulted on the bonds. While, as I’ve been advised, it may be true that the rating of moral obligation bonds like the 38 Studios bonds, which are not backed by the full faith and credit of the State and, therefore, do not carry a low tax-exempt interest rate but rather a much higher and fully taxable interest rate, may be adversely affected, we should not be issuing anymore of these moral obligation bonds anyway. Such bonds are approved by the legislature so the debt can be issued without requiring voter approval. Needless to say, after the result of the 38 Studio investment, the practice of issuing bonds without voter approval should be curtailed permanently.

As I have been also advised, the ratings of the state’s general obligation bonds may also be affected by a default on the 38 Studios moral obligation bonds, even though general obligations require voter approval and are backed by the full faith and credit of the state. Even so, the possible potential increase in the amount of interest the state may have to pay on potential future bonds not even yet issued would be far less than the $90 million we are currently paying on the 38 Studios bonds, and the state would have avoided what now appears to be a cover up.

If the governor and state treasurer had stepped up and done the smart thing by defaulting on the bond payments initially, the taxpayers could have saved tens of millions of dollars and would have had the results of a professional insurance investigation made public years ago.

It is still not too late to default on the remaining 38 Studios bond payments and, thereby, force the bond insurers to give us the full investigation the taxpayers deserve and reduce the cost of this fiasco to the taxpayers.

 

Ray Matheiu is an independent candidate for RI state representative in district 1.

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Who Paid Whom for Notable Activity in RI?

A headline that just hit the Providence Journal Web site may (unwittingly) capture with perfection the progressive, Brookings, CommerceRI, Gina Raimondo approach to economic development:

Makers of “The Polka King” paid $3,000 to use R.I. State House

You have to read the article to find out who paid whom, because while one would expect a for-profit enterprise to pay for the use of some public resource, under the progressive, Brookings, CommerceRI, Gina Raimondo approach to economic development, the public very often pays for-profit enterprises to do something that makes it look like the government is actually fostering a healthy economy.

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Jobs in RI: Even a Drip Will Eventually Fill the Sink

Another jobs report, another opportunity to brace yourself for government spin.  I’ll put up my regular employment post tomorrow and a new Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) post on RIFreedom on Monday, but with tweets like this those from Patrick Anderson and Ted Nesi, a separate point is worth making.  Here’s Nesi’s tweet:

RI payrolls are now above 490,000 for the first time since 2007, per DLT. Unemployment rate steady at 5.5%.

For the record, payrolls were over 490,000 in March, which may seem like being nitpickety, but not if anybody’s making a point worth making.  If the idea that crossing 490,000 is some kind of milestone, then we should admit that it’s taken a long, long time to get there.  And to pre-address spin that we might see from Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s office, she deserves almost no credit… maybe the opposite of credit.  Growth has slowed.

Jobs based in Rhode Island hit bottom in July 2009, at 455,900.  The seven years to this July’s 490,900 puts the compound annual growth rate (CAGR; the average annual increase) at 1.06%.  That’s not anything to write home about.

Making matters worse, if we look at just the year for which our current governor might credit her policies, the growth rate appears to be slowing.  It was 1.03% from July 2015 to last month.

So, yes, any growth at all will eventually hit any particular height.  We should remember, too, that 490,000 is arbitrary.  If we should pick the peak number of jobs that Rhode Island had in December 2006, 495,700, we still have a year or so to go.  It’s a good thing we’re not overdue for another recession.

Oh, wait…

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In the Darkness Beyond the Footlights

This Richard Fernandez essay would be worth a read if only for the historical analogy:

… Florence Foster Jenkins was a Pennsylvania socialite who aspired to be a diva. The trouble was she couldn’t sing a note. “From her recordings it is apparent that Jenkins had little sense of pitch or rhythm, and was barely capable of sustaining a note. Her accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes. Unfortunately, there was nothing McMoon could do to help conceal the glaring inaccuracy of Jenkins’ intonation: the notes she sang were consistently flat and their pitch deviated from the sheet music by as much as a semitone. Her dubious diction, especially in foreign languages, is also noteworthy. Additionally, the technically challenging songs she performed, requiring levels of musical skill far beyond her ability and vocal range, served only to emphasize these deficiencies.”

The key part is that Jenkins’s friends covered for her, forbidding objective critics from entering her shows and deploying such Obama-esque spin phrases as lauding her “intentionally ambiguous” technique.  Fernandez even supplies an audio clip to capture what sound the phrase was intended to describe.

Readers won’t be surprised that I agree with Fernandez’s application of this analogy to President Obama and the mess that he has made of the world.  To the extent that the question remains whether Obama is incompetent or bumbling for some ulterior purpose, the best spin available might be that his performance is “intentionally inadequate.”

Still, the most intriguing part of the comparison with Jenkins is Fernandez’s suggestion that our elites in government and the media “can’t see the audience in the darkness beyond the footlights heading for the exits.”  That captures the feedback problem we have when the elites who want to spin reality have thorough control over so much of the country’s education and information systems.  Those of us wincing at the sound from the stage have no way of knowing, really, whether the audience is going along with the con or is preparing to throw rotten vegetables at the stage.

The unexpectedly successful candidacy of Donald Trump gives some indication, but without making clear whether people are accurately associating their headaches with the noise from the stage or are merely lashing out, knowing not at what.

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Rhode Island Admits Its Diplomas Are Meaningless

Articles on Rhode Island’s education system have become downright depressing.  Here’s Education Commissioner Ken Wagner essentially admitting that his office sees diplomas from the state’s public schools as meaningless pieces of paper designating satisfactory attendance:

Wagner, who arrived here a year ago, defended his decision to drop a standardized test from the high school graduation requirements. He said it doesn’t make sense to punish students for poor test scores when “it is just as likely that they weren’t adequately prepared” by their schools and teachers.

“When kids don’t graduate, it has lifelong consequences,” he said. 

Wagner wants to hold school districts, not students , accountable for improving student achievement….

Starting in 2021, Rhode Island will offer a “commissioner’s seal” for high school students who meet proficiency on a standardized test like the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Career. Instead of evaluating districts based on student test scores, the state Department of Education could judge districts based on the percentage of graduates who earn a commissioner’s seal.

Wagner’s thinking is all wrong.  Rhode Island Association of School Committees Director Tim Duffy is right that “we’re not doing students any favors by not preparing them for college or work,” but it’s more than that.  A diploma is supposed to be an achievement, not a participation trophy.  We’re supposed to hold students accountable, and moreover, they ought to be the first link in a chain of accountability:

  • If students aren’t succeeding, parents are responsible for resolving whatever problems are getting in their way.
  • If parents conclude that the school is the problem, then they hold the school accountable by seeking correction or leaving.
  • If the schools aren’t performing, then it’s the responsibility of the community that pays the bills to hold elected officials and administrators accountable.

The Dept. of Education’s role should be to facilitate this process, not to supplant it.  Otherwise, the state government is presuming to take on the role not only of every school’s administration, but also the roles of parents and of voters.  The childless commissioner’s apparent fondness for calling children who are students in pubic schools “kids” is not a good sign for the department’s perspective on those young Rhode Islanders.  (“A kid’ll eat ivy, too,” after all.)

The ideal reform would be to empower students and parents to hold districts accountable more directly, but allowing them to apply money that would otherwise to go the district to an alternative, like a private school. Until that option becomes feasible, though, the incentive for parents and students to complain has to be stronger.

The bottom line on Wagner’s ploy is that the people who are the most insulated from accountability — the unionized teachers — have a controlling hand in the state government.  The state, therefore, cannot be trusted to “judge districts” and take appropriate action.

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A Culture Of Silence In The Ocean State

In America, we must all remain free to voice our opinions without fear of state-sponsored persecution. It is reprehensible for any political elitists to collude to prosecute those who disagree with them on policy. For this reason, the Center is assisting a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General release documents they have refused to make public. We believe that General Kilmartin, and his fellow enemies of debate, are seeking to maintain a cloak of invisibility over the national AG group’s attempt to crush dissent by those who disagree with their radical climate change agenda.

In June, the Center published an energy report that demonstrated how oppressive state renewable energy mandates, as part of the national climate change agenda, will cost taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. These mandates will cause job losses in the thousands, and artificially raise local electricity rates. It is research and advocacy such as this that Kilmartin and his AG group are seeking to muzzle and potentially prosecute as criminal. No matter where you stand in the climate change debate, citizens must have the right to speak freely.

This culture of silence in the Ocean State is chilling. Why do so many elected officials and prominent people want you to be quiet? The rigged system protects the corrupt insiders. As we saw in the recent 38 Studios political whitewash, the machine will do what it takes to keep you from knowing the truth. Rhode Islanders want a government that works for everyone not just the chosen few. Things do not have to be this way in our state. We can have an open state government that serves the real needs of our families, and protects our freedom to achieve our dreams.

Elected officials saying things are getting better in Rhode Island is not enough, they must take action. We need action. Unless the Ocean State adopts the proven free market reforms that can transform our state, we will continue to see the negative trends continue. You can change the status quo. You must not allow anyone to silence you. By speaking out on the issues that affect your family, you can make a powerful statement to the insiders that you have had enough. Now is the time to be bold, and have our public policy culture make a complete turnaround.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

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Bike Paths, Lights, Sustainability – RhodeWorks Tolls Turn into Huge Bait-And-Switch

Am I going crazy? (Don’t answer that!) Didn’t Governor Gina Raimondo sell us on her unnecessary and highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan by saying that the money would go to repair our very unsafe (oh so unsafe; most unsafe in this quadrant of the galaxy) bridges? But look at this RhodeWorks Quarterly Report!

Bike paths, lights, guardrails, road re-paving, something called “I-95 Sustainability” – RhodeWorks is being spent on all kinds of projects, not just bridge repair. Remarkably, there is even a RIDOT sign that CONFIRMS money from the RhodeWorks/Toll Project is being spent on a bike path!

What the heck??? Tolls were supposed to go to our unsafe bridges! Where did all of these other projects come from?

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Funding the Fundamental Transformation of America

Periodically, I’ve noted ways in which the seemingly out-of-nowhere madness sweeping our nation has actually been funded from the top-down, largely with our own money.  My favorite example — because it was my own discovery, my first hint of the mechanism, and so clear a one — is PolicyLink, an activist organization largely funded through the federal government, sometimes indirectly (as when the state of Rhode Island was forced to hire the group as part of federally funded RhodeMap RI activities), that has used its resources in the past to fund research into transforming U.S. capitalism into far-left socialism.

Yes, there are billionaires funding the Left’s astroturf, such as Tom Steyer on environmentalism and the infamous George Soros, but a whole lot of the money comes from us, largely through debt that we’ll have to pay.  No billionaire can beat the U.S. government for spending.

I mention this today, because I’m going through bookmarks of links on which I never managed to post and came across this, from the Sean Higgins in the Washington Examiner:

Bank of America has been able to reduce a multi-billion dollar mortgage fraud penalty imposed by the Justice Department by giving millions of dollars to liberal groups approved by the Obama administration.

The bank has wiped about $194 million off its record $16.6 billion 2014 mortgage settlement by donating to nonprofits and legal groups. Thanks to little-known provisions in the settlement, the bank only had to make $84 million in donations to do that. …

Among the groups receiving the money were Hispanic civil rights group the National Council of La Raza ($1.5 million), the National Urban League ($1.1 million) and the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America ($750,000).

Our government does not represent us.  It is abusing us, and there’s no end in sight.

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Climate Change as an Excuse to Turn Government Against the People

Kevin Mooney has picked up, for The Daily Signal, the story about an open-records-related lawsuit against Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.  In brief, Kilmartin’s office has signed an agreement to work with other attorneys general and environmental activists to target companies and organizations on the other side of public debate about climate change and related public policy, with a further agreement to keep the larger agreement and correspondence secret.  One problem with that:

If Kilmartin and the other attorneys general prevail in the deal to keep select details secret, the ordinary citizen will be the loser, Chris Horner, a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy, said.

“It will mean that they can create privilege for what are otherwise public records, even when shared with ideological activists and donors, so long as everyone who wants to keep their scheming secret agrees in advance,” Horner told The Daily Signal.

That’s not the only way for government officials to keep things secret.  I’ve been writing about the efforts of the Employee Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner to withhold from me the total amount of pension promises to which the state is committed, efforts in which the attorney general’s office is now involved.  In that case, the state government is making the ludicrous claim that, because a private actuary has the data, might have to perform a simple calculation, and might charge some price to produce the results, getting it would implicitly be an “undue burden,” thus creating an exemption from the law.  That is, even if the costs would be small and the people requesting the information were willing to pay the fees, public agencies do not have to release public information as long as they use an outside company to process it.

With that massive loophole in mind, turn to an essay from May by Hans Von Spakovsky and Tiger Joyce.  As part of this very same effort of state attorneys general to go after political opponents in the name of climate change alarmism:

Some state attorneys general are hiring profit-seeking, private-sector personal-injury lawyers to do their legal dirty work. Moreover, any contingency fees collected by these lawyers through settlements arising from these cases could be used, in part, to fund the campaigns of allied politicians who embrace the “one, true belief” of man-made global warming.

Unfortunately, the Department of Attorney General does not appear to be included in Rhode Island’s transparency portal, so there’s no immediate way to dig into Kilmartin’s expenditures with private firms, but even if the state has not yet reached the point of paying hired bounty hunters to track down those lawless climate change deniers, we can certainly include this whole corrupt effort on the list of ways in which government at the state and national levels has left the road along which the people can safely feel as if they are legitimately governed.

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Belling the Taxpayer Cat

In Aesop’s fable about the council of mice, a colony of murines gets together to figure out what to do about the household cat, which is obviously an impediment to their comfort and happiness.  A young mouse suggests that they place a bell around the feline’s neck, and then they will always have warning as it approaches.  The council agrees that it is a brilliant idea until an old mouse hobbles forward and asks who is going to bell the cat.

We can safely assume that Aesop did not have public-sector pensions in mind when he wrote his fable some two-and-a-half millennia ago, but the moral of the tale clearly applies to the situation that George Will describes in Illinois and across the country:

Illinois is a leading indicator of increasing national childishness — an unwillingness to will the means for the ends that it wills. Nationally, state and local governments’ pensions have somewhere between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, depending on, among other things, assumptions about returns on pension funds’ investments. The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2001, the 20-year median return was 12.3 percent, and every percentage-point decline in returns increases liabilities by 12 percent. Last year, the largest fund, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which assumes 7.5 percent returns, instead gained 0.6 percent. This, in the sixth year of the recovery from the 2008–09 crisis, was the worst performance since then — and another recession will surely happen.

Nationally, neither party is eager to talk about the rickety structure of the entitlement state, although the Democratic platform promises to make matters worse. Although scheduled Social Security benefits vastly exceed the value of worker and employer contributions plus interest, the platform, a case study in reactionary liberalism, opposes even raising the retirement age. This, even though benefits are available at 62, three years younger than when the system was created in 1935, when life expectancy at 65 was 12.5 years. Today, it is 19.3 years for men and 21.6 for women. If in 1935 Congress had indexed the age of Social Security eligibility to life expectancy, the age today would be 72.

The council of big-government mice has concluded that the brilliant solution for maintaining the support of powerful labor unions and for gathering the votes of the older citizens who are most inclined to head to the polls and the poor who not only may be driven to the polls, but also make for compelling guilt-trip propaganda, is simply to proclaim payments to them.  So far, they’ve gotten away with pretending that these unsustainable systems will continue to work indefinitely, but they do not wish to acknowledge fiscal reality, much less bell the American people with more taxes.

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Providence Journal Gives Up on Objectivity

I’ve long harbored the hope that journalists with integrity at the Providence Journal were quietly embarrassed by their paper’s dabbling in PolitiFact.  In the past, I charted PolitiFact’s bias, and I even wrote a parody song about it.  In PolitiFact, the mainstream media has the perfect representation of the pretense of objectivity being used as a partisan political weapon.

With its coverage of this year’s partisan conventions, the Projo appeared to have committed the entire paper to the PolitiFact aesthetic.  With today’s front page, it appears to have taken up its method, too:

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The “news” of this story is that Donald Trump, (sadly) the Republican nominee for president, is habitually dishonest.  Disliking Trump, myself, I’m not inclined to object to such investigation, but I still find it shocking to see it as such a prominent report in the Providence Journal, partly because it is inconceivable that the paper would give similar treatment to the similarly dishonest Hillary Clinton.

In fact, take the analysis a bit farther and open the paper to its “Campaign 2016″ coverage.  The headlines are:

Pay special attention to the bullet in the middle, because it may indicate why the editors felt it necessary to land so hard on Trump’s honesty today.  The “lack of filter” story is used as an envelope around an inset about the latest Clinton-related revelations, which I mentioned this morning, and that story is couched in terms of “Trump pounces.”

A search of the last fifteen days of the Providence Journal turns up no other news reports including the words “Clinton Foundation email.”  In other words, for the paper’s only reporting of emails that raise ethical questions about the Democrat nominee for president, it minimized the find (excluding, notably, the Obama Justice Department’s killing of FBI requests to investigate the foundation further), presented it in terms of Trump’s response, surrounded by a story about Trump’s wild speaking habits, next to a story about a U.S. senator calling him a kook, within an issue fronted with bold declarations of Trump’s habitual lies.

This is a newspaper attempting to affect the outcome of an election along predictable party lines, pure and simple.  Few remain so naive as to believe in mainstream objectivity in the post-Bush era, and I personally think we need less regulation of speech, not more.  Nonetheless, while this may do little more than show my age, I’m still shocked by the tabloid-esque brazenness.

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Clinton and the Rule of Law

It sure does seem that Hillary Clinton has been almost daring the federal bureaucracy to uphold the rule of law, and the Obama Administration has casually refused to take the bait.  From CNN:

Early this year as the investigation into Clinton’s private email server was in full swing, several FBI field offices approached the Justice Department asking to open a case regarding the relationship between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, according to a law enforcement official. At the time, DOJ declined because it had looked into allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation around a year earlier and found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to open a case.

This sure looks like a cover-up.  Wouldn’t it behoove the federal government to be absolutely thorough and transparent in putting to rest any suspicions — particularly considering that the suspicions originated through “several FBI field offices,” not the vast right-wing conspiracy that Clinton has long offered her supporters as an excuse to ignore reality?  After all, this is a person likely to be the President of the United States, and it can’t be good for the country to have open questions about uninvestigated suspicions.

We can only fear what sort of damage a Clinton presidency would do to the rule of law should she win the office, just as we can only fear what sort of damage an unpredictable and apparently ignorant Donald Trump would do in the same position.  The more important conclusion, though, is that the federal government is already illegitimately exercising power because it is acting outside the bounds of the rule of law, which the citizenry should consider to be a violation of the contract that binds us to following the law ourselves.

As I’ve written before, our country has reached the point that we should follow the law to avoid prison or other consequences — and insofar as the law happens to correspond with moral principles — but should feel no moral responsibility to obey an illegitimate government.

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