Jobs and employment data allow different interpretations and come back (as every issue around here seems to do) to competing political philosophies.
Scott Rasmussen makes a clear and (I’d say) undeniable point about reportage about federal budget numbers:
It was just about impossible, though, to find any media story mentioning some basic numbers that belong in any story about a new federal budget. How much money is the federal government spending this year? How does that compare to what it spent last year, or expects to spend next year? …
It’s hard to write that the president’s budget is cutting spending by $600 billion while also reporting numbers showing spending going in the opposite direction. …
The absurdity is that while annual spending will be a trillion dollars higher in a few years, the political world is trying to claim that the budget is filled with spending cuts.
The reason for this disconnect, Rasmussen explains, is that journalists start with the government spin that it’s a “cut” when they spend less than they were thinking of spending. We saw this recently in Rhode Island, when the headlines were that Medicaid was being cut in the state, even though the program increases by hundreds of millions of dollars in the governor’s budget.
The objectionable result is that the government could increase public assistance (for example), but if it did so by shifting some into a new program, it would very possibly be reported in the news as a cut.
It’s a matter of differing opinions whether this is evidence that the media is ideologically tuned to prefer government spin or just doesn’t have the time or expertise to contradict it. Either way, resolving a cognitive dissonance by reporting a third-order number (the decrease of the increase) rather than the straight numbers serves the American electorate poorly.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) spent February releasing research findings that showed the flaws of progressive policies.
The proposed “settlement” of Rhode Island’s 2011 pension reform law (has anyone explained yet how a law can be mediated?) is currently in the hands of rank and file union members. If they give the green light (has anyone explained yet how a non-ballot can equal a “yes” vote?), it goes to the General Assembly for consideration.
But let’s go back to the 2011 pension reform itself. First, look at this three page PDF, compiled by the state of Rhode Island, which lists “Locally Administered Pension Plans in Critical Status”; i.e., municipal pension systems. See the note in the box on the bottom left of each page?
I’m not sure what the right word is to describe today’s press release from the Rhode Island Dept. of Labor and Training (DLT). Cheeky? Audacious? Banal? It could go any direction. Take a look (emphasis added):
The RI Department of Labor and Training announced today that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2014 dropped to 9.2 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the revised December 2013 rate and down four-tenths of a percentage point from the January 2013 rate. This is the lowest unemployment rate since November 2008.
Now take a look at the corresponding press release from last April (emphasis added):
The RI Department of Labor and Training announced today that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2013 dropped to 8.8 percent, down three-tenths of a percentage point from the March 2013 rate and 1.8 percentage points from the April 2012 rate. This represents the 10th consecutive over-the-month drop in the state’s unemployment rate, and is the lowest unemployment rate for Rhode Island since October 2008.
If you’re confused about how a 9.2% unemployment rate could in fact be lower than an 8.8% unemployment rate, then you haven’t heard about the big revision that significantly darkened the 2013 employment picture. You’d think the DLT press office might have hesitated to proclaim a historical low.
Circumspection is especially called for considering that the latest numbers show a 6,500-person drop in employment, since last year, and a 9,700 drop in labor force. The complacency within our state government and the adviser class that orbits it is unconscionable.
Maybe it’s just that the NBC 10 Wingmen segment is sitting me face to face with one on a weekly basis, but it has seemed like a certain refrain has become more common in the responses of Rhode Island progressives to conservative ideas: “The people of Rhode Island disagree with you.”
By way of evidence, they cite the makeup of the state’s legislative and executive branches, 90% and 100% Democrat, respectively. Throw in the federal delegation for another 100% blue block (not to be confused with Blu Blockers).
There are two obvious problems with this bit of non-argument. First, it confuses ideology and principle with partisanship. The majority in Rhode Island disagrees with conservatives on some things and agrees with us on others, yet somehow, that mixture doesn’t translate into a mixed-party State House. Rather, there are progressive Democrats, and there are conservative Democrats.
Second, it treats popularity as an argument. Even if every Rhode Islander disagreed with a person’s policy suggestions, that doesn’t mean that those suggestions are wrong or are not the wisest thing that the state could do, in a particular instance.
A third problem emerges with a poll that Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute released, this week, finding that 82% of Rhode Islanders would grade their legislators negatively for effectiveness. It should be noted, of course, that “effectiveness” doesn’t necessarily mean a difference of opinions. After all, RI progressives still manage to keep a straight face when calling the legislators “conservative.”
Still, the results suggest it’s mistaken to equate the output of the legislature, or even the elections, with the views of the population. In that respect, the poll results only reinforce what could be inferred from the low turnout for elections.
The emerging question — which is beginning to cross the threshold from private conversations to public speculation — is whether we’re living under a legitimate representative democracy. It sure does seem as if the public is tuned out and hopeless, sensing that nothing can be changed through civic processes.
That’s a dangerous place to be, if so, and reaffirming the rule of law and promise of democracy should be the very highest priority.
The poll results put out by the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University are unsurprising and really don’t tell us anything new.
Justin and Bob Plain discuss legislation to force utilities to maintain customer service centers within the state, and Bob illustrates that applying economics really isn’t a priority for the Left.
On March 29th, from 9 am to 1 pm, the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, Roger Williams School of Law, League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and Common Cause Rhode Island will be hosting a symposium about Constitutional Conventions.
1. H7314: Requires a photo ID when using a food stamp benefits card. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Mar 5)
2. H7100 raises the amount of time served to be eligible for parole from 20 to 30 years in cases of 1st or 2nd degree murder life sentences, and from 10 to 20 years in cases of life sentences for other crimes. It also requires convicts serving consecutive sentences to serve their minimums consecutively. H7101 requires that 50% of any non-life sentence for 1st or 2nd degree murder to be served, before eligibility for parole. (H Judiciary; Wed, Mar 5)
3. S2335: Eliminates tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, replacing the anticipated revenue with a multi-part Rube Goldberg formula requiring that fixed percentages of the total state budget be annually appropriated to a “transportation infrastructure fund”. Also, adds a temporary HAHAHAHAHAHAHA 5% surcharge to motor vehicle fees to help initially seed the infrastructure fund. Also, if a Federal internet sales tax is adopted, instead of the RI sales tax dropping from 7% to 6.5%, as is specified in current law (but which the governor would like to change as part of his budget, see #14), the sales tax would only drop to 6.625%, with the 0.125% difference going to the infrastructure fund. Also, creates a study commission to look at eliminating the gas tax. (S Finance; Thu, Mar 6)
4. H7463: “Except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds, neither the state nor any municipality shall require an employer to use an electronic employment verification system…as a condition of receiving a government contract or applying for or maintaining a business license”. (H Labor; Tue, Mar 4)
5A. H7189: “The information contained in a portable electronic device shall not be subject to search by a law enforcement officer incident to a lawful custodial arrest except pursuant to a warrant”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 4) The same bill was vetoed by Governor Chafee two years ago, which was a little surprising, since it seems like a reasonable extension of privacy law and something you’d expect a reflexive liberal like our current Governor to immediately support. This year, I’ve come across a similar bill from New Hampshire that’s been described as part of an anti-NSA surveillance movement. Is the Rhode Island version also consciously associated with NSA-related issues?
5B. H7190: Prohibits the state (or any political subdivisions thereof) from obtaining location information transmitted by a cellphone without a warrant. The bill includes procedures for obtaining the necessary warrant and a list of “emergency situation exceptions”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 4)
The specialists in ad hominem fallacies on the Rhode Island Left are joining their peers nationally in behaving as if the sorts of things I’ve been writing out of conviction for over a decade must now be considered suspect because I’ve found a way not to have to write them for free. As I’ve written before, they don’t start from the investigation of things I write that would otherwise be inexplicable; they begin with the assumption that I’m evil and request that I disprove my lack of integrity by sacrificing the people who support me, offering them up to progressives’ predictable subversive attacks.
One progressive group in the state has actively campaigned behind the scenes in an effort to prevent the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity from working with anybody on the Left on explicitly balanced projects designed to better inform Rhode Islanders of both sides. Clearly, balanced debate is a sly tactic of the conservative conspiracy.
I mention this all to illustrate why questions of funding are on my mind, making it catch my attention that the R.I. Foundation is having banner years for revenue, recently, despite the state’s stagnant economy. In the same article, it caught my attention that the Foundation gave $75,000 to the left-wing Economic Progress Institute (formerly the Poverty Institute).
Turning to the vendor payment module on RIOpenGov.org, I see Rhode Island taxpayers gave the R.I. Foundation $300,000 in 2013, through the Dept. of Business Regulation. We also gave $15,000 to the Economic Progress Institute as a grant through the Dept. of Human Services.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rhode Island’s ruling class is little more than a scheme by which insiders take money from everybody else, pretending to have our best interests in mind, and then shuffle it around among themselves. I say this completely independently of the policies for which they advocate, which almost universally fall of their own merits, no matter where the money comes from.
Right. A bill is being submitted in the General Assembly to force Cox Communications to keep an RI call center open, and force cable companies to provide service to one RI town.
Representative Raymond Hull’s legislation to make business decisions for Cox Communications is a fine example of why Rhode Islanders are suffering.
The Brett Smiley 10%-tax-on-firearms bill has been introduced at the Rhode Island Senate, with Providence State Senator Gayle Goldin as the lead sponsor. Money collected from the tax will be used as follows:
(b) All sums received by the division of taxation under this section as taxes, penalties or forfeitures, interest, costs of suit and fines shall be distributed at least quarterly, credited and paid by the state treasurer into a special fund designated for allocation to the various police departments throughout the state. If a city or town does not have a municipal police department, disbursements pursuant to this section shall be made to the highest ranking municipal official.
(c) Allocation of the funds to the various police departments or city or town officials pursuant to subsection (b) shall be made yearly and based proportionally on the number of “total offenses” occurring in said city or town as set forth in the prior year’s uniform crime report published by the Rhode Island state police.
(d) Any money distributed to the various police departments or city or town officials shall be used only for grants to nonprofit organizations whose mission includes a commitment to the reduction of crime and violence in the community. The local police chief and/or highest ranking municipal official of each city or town shall have discretion as to the amount of money allocated and the groups who shall receive said funds.
Since funds collected through this tax will be used exclusively to make local appropriations to private organizations, in accordance with Article VI section 11 of the Rhode Island Constitution, this bill cannot become law without the approval of a 2/3 majority of both houses of the Rhode Island General Assembly…
Vote required to pass local or private appropriations. — The assent of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the general assembly shall be required to every bill appropriating the public money or property for local or private purposes.
Want some explanation for my general frame of mind and occasional testiness about things Rhode Island? Step 1: Read this article by Sandy Seoane and Ethan Shorey in the Valley Breeze:
Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis has a message for those traversing the state’s shoddy and weatherworn roads: Get used to it.
Crumbling roads and bridges across the state, Lewis told The Breeze, aren’t likely to get fixed anytime soon because the department’s funding sources are drying up …
Step 2: Read through the entirety of Governor Chafee’s proposed budget for FY15. I won’t steal the thunder from a wasteful spending report on which I’m working (to be released in a few weeks), but when you review the priorities for which we somehow have money and weigh them against an upwardly revised unemployment rate and the fact that there’s no money left over for the infrastructure that we all use and need for everything else to happen, it’s tough not to think some folks deserve a good talking to around here.
Wait, look! A social issue in Arizona we can argue about!
Rhode Island’s revised employment picture for 2013 is now one of decline, and Rhode Islanders have to stop allowing that to be acceptable.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has released some interesting poll results regarding people’s impressions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka ObamaCare; aka destroyer of American healthcare; aka stepping stone to socialized medicine). The Providence Journal‘s Felice Freyer tweeted the poll by highlighting the suggestion that “those most likely to enroll in Obamacare don’t mind limited choice of providers, latest Kaiser poll finds.”
By “those most likely,” she means people who are “uninsured or purchase own insurance,” and I think it layers in an erroneous assumption about their emotions to say that they “don’t mind limited choice.” What they actually say is that they would “rather have… a plan that costs less money but has a more limited range of doctors and hospitals” than one “that costs more money but allows [them] to see a broader range of doctors and hospitals.”
That’s quite a different statement than reported, and it ought to raise questions about the presumptions underlying ObamaCare. When it became obvious that President Obama brazenly lied to the American people about being able to keep their plans and doctors, his partisans and progressives took up the talking point that just a few people on “substandard” plans were not being permitted to keep them.
But to people who chose those plans out of the available options — who determined that at this particular time in their lives, having money for other purposes outweighed having more-comprehensive insurance — the plans weren’t “substandard.” It looks like a majority of health-exchange users are inclined to make the same decision, to the degree that the government allows it.
This conclusion ties in with the chart that I think actually ought to be the headline about the poll. About two-thirds of the way down the page, we find that the uninsureds’ opinion of the ACA has swung dramatically since November, from 39% unfavorable and 36% favorable to 56% unfavorable and 22% favorable.
For some of them, at least, the government is not allowing the options that they would want, which might be cheaper plans that fall below the “standards” of our incompetent superstar president.
Former Central Falls mayor Charles Moreau is about to be set free “after serving half his two-year sentence” on corruption charges (background available from Michelle Smith of the Associated Press, here), as a result of a First Circuit Court of Appeals opinion from June of last year. Two key factors made the decision in USA vs. Fernandez directly relevant to the Moreau case.
1. Moreau was apparently convicted of accepting not a “bribe” but a “gratuity”. What’s the difference? The First Circuit quotes a 1999 Supreme Court opinion to explain…
[F]or bribery there must be a quid pro quo — a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act. An illegal gratuity, on the other hand, may constitute merely a reward for some future act that the public official will take (and may already have determined to take), or for a past act that he has already taken.
2. The court then notes the structure of Federal statute…
§ 201(b) targets (primarily) federal officials, while § 666 targets non-federal officials who happen to have a connection to federal funds. It is reasonable to assume that the federal government viewed corrupt federal officials involved in the receipt of bribes as more culpable.
…where § 201(b) makes “bribes” and “gratuities” illegal, while § 666 (yes, that’s really the number) makes only “bribes” illegal.
According to Ms. Smith’s report, with the gratuity conviction no longer valid in the First Circuit because Moreau was a local and not a Federal official, Moreau and the prosecutors have made a deal where he will plead guilty to a bribery charge, in return for a sentence of time served.
If you need one sentence to explain to your friends and neighbors the law that led to this outcome, this should do: While it’s illegal to engage in a la carte bribery of state or local officials in the US, you’re OK under Federal law if you’re able to buy them off on a retainer basis.
Three clicks starting here will bring you to a very disturbing video shot by an Oklahoma woman as she stood a few yards away from her motionless husband while the police officers who apparently killed him accidentally based on a misunderstanding pretend he’s fine. From her distance she continues to try to draw some response from him. “Please, somebody tell me he’s alive.”
At this link is the latest development in the case of Justina Pelletier. What the public knows, it discovers in pieces, around a court-imposed gag order, but it appears that when a young teenage girl who’d been receiving successful treatment at Tufts hospital in Connecticut for a debilitating, even deadly, disorder followed her doctor to Boston Children’s Hospital, some other doctor decided her problem was psychological, and the State of Massachusetts decided that her parents’ following Tufts’ advice amounted to child abuse. The parents have had only brief visits with their daughter for a year, and the child is now going into foster care, not receiving the treatment that she needs.
Last week, I came across an account by a San Francisco techie who called 911 on behalf of somebody he passed in the street and found himself naked in solitary confinement overnight after a series of (let’s call them) aggressive misunderstandings by police and corrections officers.
I don’t relate these anecdotes to argue that government employees are necessarily any more prone to error and overreach than anybody else. But three lessons should be drawn.
- Working in government certainly doesn’t make people any less prone to error, overreach, and affronts. For a stark indication, consider the suggestion that “the physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”
- The nature of government, with its powers to confiscate property, imprison or even kill people, or otherwise render them helpless, is such that a wise society would severely limit its activities.
- It’s reasonable to fear that access to such powers will attract people who want the ability to render others helpless, for one reason or another.
Ocean State Current-Anchor Rising contacted the office of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras with regard to the prospect of the City of Providence giving a city building (246 Prairie Avenue) to a private organization …