Claims that $600,000 of revenue from the state to the Rhode Island Foundation was simply a “pass-through,” not a payment for services, appear to conflict with state documents related to the Chronic Care Sustainability Initiative.
The lede of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Daniel Henninger describes its point concisely: “Barack Obama’s presidency of moral condescension has produced an electoral backlash.” The notion of this condescension from our elite betters came immediately to mind when I opened up a Rhode Island Foundation email promoting this video, which is part of its “what’s next” initiative, and which is slap-in-your-face offensive:
The video opens with a blank screen and marching thrum before the following phrase appears: “Actual quotes, From actual Rhode Islanders.” The text doesn’t specify which Rhode Islanders, or where these phrases were found. It’s just us; things we’ve said as we’ve participated in public debate. (At least its those of us who don’t fit the obvious political profile of the people included in the RI Foundation’s “community contributions” section.)
The slap comes immediately and with deliberate offense, with video of a child being beeped for reading swear words from a notepad. Child 2 is beeped again, reading another quote from an “actual Rhode Islander.” Child 3 looks up in disbelief after reading his quote. A small girl offers the first commentary after hers: “Who says this?”
Next, our local elite betters put their own words in the kids’ mouths: “Stop! … Stop complaining. Stop blaming. Stop trolling.” We (“actual Rhode Islanders”) aren’t making things better; we’re making them worse. Not to worry, though, because these kids “are what’s next.” They’re going to solve the problems of the world when they’re adults, but in the meantime, they need us to “be nice or be quiet.”
That’s right. The message of the people promoting this slick video…
- who rope all of us broadly into the suspect category,
- who include the very act of complaining on the list of things that we should stop,
- who deliberately slap us with the shock of putting swears in the mouths of children,
- who tell us that we’re merely a hopeless generation occupying space until the saintly kids grow up
… is that we’re not being nice, that we’re being dismissive. That we should just shut our traps and not complain about the treatment to which the powerful in our state subject us or when they do things like impose new fees, take away our rights, and slush around money sucked from our economy in a corrupt whirlpool (or when they use non-profit organizations to push political agendas) or blame them when things continue to go wrong, year after year. We’re just “trolling.”
Who are the condescending people behind this message, hiding behind children?
Well, the Rhode Island Foundation we know. It’s interesting to note, though, the group behind this video, NAIL Communications, because it’s received almost $2.5 million from the state government through HealthSource RI, our ObamaCare health benefits exchange, over the past few years.
So, yes, shut up and pay your taxes, you nasty Rhode Islanders, so that people who think they’re better than us can get big paydays from government ventures that limit our freedoms as well as redistribute our money.
Skirting the edge of government agency with its hiring of the state’s chief innovation officer, the Rhode Island College Foundation may become subject to public rules and even risk its nonprofit status.
Rhode Islanders are already saddled with high energy costs, and a carbon tax would make that worse, without any guarantee that the environment will be helped at all.
Poking around the Family Prosperity Initiative data tool, I was struck again by how well Rhode Island does when it comes to violent crime. According to the last-published Rhode Island report, Rhode Island is fifth-best in the country by this measure. One could consider it to be counterintuitive or obviously correlative, but Rhode Island also has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the United States, as depicted in this slide from a presentation by David Safavian, an expert with the American Conservative Union Foundation, when he spoke at Bryant University at a Family Prosperity event:
While reviewing this information, I happened to be distracted by an “Economics 101” video by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (not the RI organization of a similar name) emphasizing the combination of stability and freedom that characterizes prosperous countries. The video is mainly concerned with financial stability, but overall stability is critical, too.
A safe state that doesn’t lock up large numbers of its residents should have an advantage economically. Indeed, add that advantage to all the rest — location, history, etcetera, etcetera — that ought to make Rhode Island the jewel of New England, rather than the armpit.
Unfortunately, we get other things terribly wrong, so our advantages go to waste, largely in the service of our insider system of centralized micromanagement and profiteering.
The seemingly separate commercial and non-profit activity of organizations involved with Rhode Island’s centralized economic development plan has markers of a pre-designed package that will make its salespeople rich… rather, make them richer.
The other day, the Providence Journal published an interesting map showing that, much like the country as a whole, Rhode Island’s presidential votes were split by region, with the coastal municipalities’ going to Hillary Clinton and the interior going to Donald Trump. The image oversimplifies, of course; several cities and towns in the northeast of the state don’t touch the coast, and Charlestown and Tiverton went to Clinton without her winning even half of the vote.
Reporter Paul Edward Parker touch on some of the nuance in the numbers:
Four of the five communities with the highest median household incomes voted for Clinton, as did seven of the eight communities with the lowest incomes.
Essentially, Clinton drew her support from the wealthiest and poorest places, while Trump drew his from the middle.
Laying this out in more detail arguably tells the story of Rhode Island’s current condition in a single chart:
Refer back to this 2009 post on Anchor Rising, and you’ll see that the bottom of the U is almost exactly in line with the population that has been leaving Rhode Island throughout this millennium. As those Rhode Islanders flee the state, those who remain are increasingly part of the “company state” or “government plantations” model, wherein highly paid service providers in and around government have incentive to increase the number of clients requiring subsidized services as a pretense for taking money away from those above the line for subsidies.
This model harms the economy and drives people away because it reduces the incentive and opportunity to work. The “productive class” is characterized by the economic role of the people who tend to be within it. It’s the broad class of people whose main function in the economy is to turn their effort and ingenuity into money that they can use to support and advance their families.
This trend is terrible for a state for a multitude of reasons, but two stand out as particularly profound and overarching. The first is that the “productive class” is the group whose activities are the foundation of a thriving and advancing society. They are the dynamism and hope for the future.
The second is that the erosion of this tier of the economy as a source of balance eliminates political competition. A loss of political competition will inevitably lead to a political monolith that is not only incapable of correcting itself, but also susceptible to simple, wasteful, and demoralizing corruption.
Those who sympathize with the high points of the U really need to reevaluate the long-term good of their policies. The rest of us need to redouble our efforts to turn the tide.
Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?
It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.
As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.
In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us – that we should just “stop complaining”.
Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it?
I don’t think so.
It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped.
GoLocalProv’s Russell Moore had an article yesterday comparing property taxes around Rhode Island. One more data point is needed: how Rhode Island’s property taxes rank nationally. They are tenth highest.
In the article, the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Justin Katz identifies a major factor contributing to our too high property taxes.
One aspect that is central to the property tax question has to do with labor union influence and various regulations and mandates that drive up the cost of labor. We’ll be taking a specific, close look at those numbers within the next year, but we can already say that Rhode Island forces itself to pay a premium for insider, special-interest work.
One other, important related matter. If our officials could lower property taxes, would that decrease the need for affordable housing, which further exacerbates property tax rates? H’mmm …
Detroit’s condition has lessons that Rhode Islanders really should consider. The whole of Kevin Williamson’s recent essay on the topic is worth a read (it’s not that long), but this paragraph contains a few key points:
Like wicked old Samuel Ratchett on the Orient Express, Detroit had a dozen murderers. And an important one — important in that there is in it a lesson for us today — was a defective relationship between capital and politics. Just as short-sightedness leaves Arab oil emirates poorly prepared to weather declines in oil prices, civic and corporate myopia left Detroit dependent upon a handful of firms whose production undergirded the entire economic ecosystem of Detroit. A combination of factors deformed the economic foundations of Detroit, from governmental protectionism (which made managements thick and lazy) to union rapacity (which diverted potential investment capital into inflated pay and benefits, creating a lot of multimillionaire union bosses) to our national unwillingness to deal with the fact that Germany and Japan — smoking ruins at the end of World War II — would eventually rejoin the modern industrial economy. Rather than finding its way to its best uses through Schumpeterian creative destruction, capital was locked up in poorly performing enterprises such as Chrysler (executive hipster Lee Iacocca was into bailouts before bailouts were cool) and in malinvestments such as unsustainable pension funds.
Think of all the money that goes to well-paid union organizers who lobby the government and sit on various boards, directing resources to favored industries (including family members). Think of the disproportion between government pay and private-sector pay and the huge pension liability. Think of the demand that government pick industries rather than back off and let the people of Rhode Island find the hidden opportunities for themselves and their state.
Watching Ken Block debate various people on Twitter over legislation that would force every business in Rhode Island to follow an arduous scheduling plan and limit their ability to reward the most dedicated employees, I spotted one supporter of the legislation suggesting that a business that couldn’t accommodate such a law wasn’t a very good business. In other words, this person is perfectly fine with limiting Rhode Island’s economy just to those businesses that are able to thrive in the nation’s worst business climate. Smaller businesses (some of which would grow into hyper-innovative bigger businesses) and those that are trying to accomplish things at the edge of what’s easy need not apply.
The insider attitude that protects established players while tripping up new ones is economic lunacy. We’ve been doing things very wrong for a very long time, and it won’t end well.
I’ve been saying that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s abuse of power, like Democrat President Barack Obama’s, relies on a level of audacity. To the extent this newer generation of politicians acknowledges that concerns about their behavior exist, the response is essentially, “Of course we can do this.” As illustration, consider an op-ed by William Hurt, the Chairman of the Board of the Rhode Island College Foundation, which hired Raimondo’s Chief Information Officer to a high-paying job that isn’t technically part of government at all.
From the text, published a couple of weeks ago in the Providence Journal:
It is important for Rhode Islanders to know that the board’s decision was based, fundamentally, on the following points:
-The proposal to create the Office of Innovation at RIC was brought to the foundation’s Board of Directors with the support and endorsement of senior officers of Rhode Island College, including the president and the college advancement staff.
-This new office will enrich the academic and career development experiences for students and provide new research opportunities for both students and faculty through hands-on experiences and other resources that no other college in Rhode Island currently has.
-While the foundation has identified sufficient unrestricted, undesignated and discretionary funds to provide the seed money to get the office started, the foundation expects and the new chief innovation officer is charged with securing funding sufficient to restore the foundation’s initial investment fully, as well as to create a self-sustaining office going forward.
-A considerable amount of due diligence was done to ensure that the new Office of Innovation fell within the parameters of the foundation’s mission and 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t address the basic question of this employee’s role within state government. That’s where the problem arises, and Hurt doesn’t bother to address it. The problem isn’t that the RIC Foundation has hired somebody to develop programs within the college, but that the job is actually to “partner with a multitude of stakeholders,” as Hurt puts it, on behalf of the state, all while trying to raise money for his own office at RIC. The conflicts of interest are so clear, here, the avoidance of ethics rules so obvious, that the only way it can possibly slip through is by the pure force of will and political power of the government insiders who are going along with it.
In the Daily Signal, Kevin Mooney, who used to write for the Ocean State Current, takes a look at the private Rhode Island Foundation’s role in advancing left-wing causes and exploiting legal loopholes to move sensitive government activities beyond the reach of voters and transparency laws:
With almost $1 billion in assets, the foundation bills itself as Rhode Island’s largest grant-maker, awarding more than $30 million a year, according to annual reports. Tax records show that the foundation concentrated its most recent donations on left-of-center organizations, with a particular emphasis on environmental causes.
These organizations include Earthjustice, EcoRI News, the Climate Action Network, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, and Grow Smart Rhode Island. Each has received tens of thousands in donations from the Rhode Island Foundation, according to the most recent tax forms.
Other left-leaning recipients of the foundation’s largess include Planned Parenthood branches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; Direct Action for Rights and Equality, an anti-capitalist “social justice” group; the Economic Progress Institute, a Rhode Island-based progressive research group; and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, which seeks new gun controls.
Rhode Islanders who express concern over the Rhode Island Foundation’s penchant for funding liberal causes have been particularly critical of the nonprofit’s support for environmental groups standing behind a project called RhodeMap Rhode Island.
The RI Foundation’s left-wing involvement spans just about every area of progressive social activism, and as Mooney notes, the organization has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state in the area of healthcare. (Cash is fungible, of course, so revenue is revenue.) In the past year, though, the Foundation has really taken additional steps toward helping to create and play a role in a shadow government.
As a tangential note, Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights Giovanni Cicione tells Mooney that some of this growing private-sector cabal should be registering as lobbyists. I’d argue that includes the state’s new chief innovation officer Richard Culatta, whom Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo helped hire through the Rhode Island College Foundation. He’s going to be part of the governor’s cabinet of advisers, but he’s not a government employee and will be giving suggestions and promoting them not only to the governor, but to agencies and bodies throughout government. As of this morning, he was not listed on the Secretary of State’s lobbyist tracker, and it’s reasonable to expect he never will be, becoming instead just another example of how there’s no rule of law in Rhode Island.
It isn’t mere coincidence that Rhode Island is simultaneously poorly run and uncharitable.
Why would it hurt healthcare in RI to have more providers using innovative delivery techniques? Because it would hinder wealth redistribution and government control, of course.
Among those who don’t tend to think that the state government of Rhode Island should be tasked with completely ordering the lives of the people who live within its borders, the conversation about the relationship of the recently announced Brookings Institution study and RhodeMap RI has already begun. Some think that RhodeMap was the framework to which Brookings will add specifics. I don’t think that’s quite right.
Consider these two disconcerting paragraphs from Ted Nesi’s WPRI article, yesterday, drawing out some details of the intentions:
“This is an opportunity that you don’t get that often, to take a shot at putting the state on a different trajectory,” [Mark Muro, director of policy for Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program] added. “It’s been a rough decade.” …
“I think in most parts of the U.S. it’s still, the government does this, the corporations do that, the universities are somewhere else,” [Bruce Katz, the nationally-known head of the Metropolitan Policy Program] said. “In the successful places around the world there’s a seamless interaction between all these different sectors, and if they’re all on the same page – then that’s when you get the bigger returns. So it’s not just the policy … it’s this foundation of collaboration.”
This study will be part of the same ideological program as RhodeMap, but they’re distinct pieces. RhodeMap is concerned with controlling where people live and how they structure their lives. Brookings is going to instruct the state government about what professional activities Rhode Islanders should be engaged in while they live here and how to bring the private sector into alignment with the central plan. (Whether they’ll go into detail about what laws to pass to force compliance, or just make friendly-sounding suggestions about how to create incentives to benefit special interests that are aligned with the program or are willing to adjust, we’ll have to wait and see.)
Consider this carefully, Rhode Island. Even in a small state of about one million people, you can’t have “seamless interaction.” Our entire government system is (or was) set up so that we can interact in a way to ensure the maximum freedom while allowing us to work together peacefully. That’s the central challenge of a free society; progressives can’t just ignore it away.
When they skip over that challenge, what they’re really assuming is that they will be able to pick people in non-government sectors — in business, in academia, and in cultural institutions — who will stand in as if they speak for their whole sector and who will agree to follow the plan. You may be able to live your life your own way, but it will become progressively more difficult to the extent that you want to do something of which the pointy heads at Brookings and the control fanatics who invited them in disapprove… or even that they don’t quite understand.
If what you want to do conflicts with the powerful people, well then, you’ll have to be banned.
I have to break into my Friday evening pre-reveling (“reveling” being something I’ve recently discovered to be illegal in Tiverton, if it disturbs somebody else) to note that this is one list on which I’m happy to find Rhode Island in the bottom 10 of states:
Tax treatment of beer varies widely across the U.S., ranging from a low of $0.02 per gallon in Wyoming to a high of $1.29 per gallon in Tennessee. Check out today’s map below to see where your state lies on the beer tax spectrum.
Although, the half-drunk libertarian in me (whom I’ve suspected to be half drunk even when I’m completely sober) can’t help but bristle at this:
The Beer Institute points out that “taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer, costing more than labor and raw materials combined.” They cite an economic analysis that found “if all the taxes levied on the production, distribution, and retailing of beer are added up, they amount to more than 40% of the retail price.”
I’ll put that on my list of injustices to battle, but noting that the list is long, so anybody inclined to rush forward is encouraged to do so.
At a public hearing to discuss the two budget options that would be on the ballot for local voters in the smallish town of Tiverton, Rhode Island, the town administrator shook his fist at me. “Every single account you cut needs to have the money in it,” hesaid.
I’d submitted an “elector petition” budget for the town government that would hold the total tax levy at a 0.9 percent increase, versus the 2.9 percent increase proposed by the government. The 0.9 percent budget, which voters ultimately chose with a 60:40 margin, meant a drop of the highest tax rate in the area, across two states, and savings for property owners of $39 per $100,000 of value on their home (about $100 on average). The previous year, my proposed 0.0 percent budget had won a smaller amount of savings.
In recent years, Tiverton has led the two nearest Rhode Island counties in foreclosures. The town’s total tax burden had doubled in about a decade. In that context, what struck me about administrator Matthew Wojcik’s speech — apart from the Republican’s Obamaesque threat to “get in [my] face”–was the insistence that local government could not possibly make cuts, paired with the assumption that residents of the town always can.
Property taxes are a problem in Rhode Island. According to the Competitiveness Report Card put out by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, based on data from the Tax Foundation, Rhode Island has the seventh-worst property tax burden in the country. In 2006, the state’s General Assembly passed a law phasing down a cap on each city and town’s property tax revenue increase, to 4 percent by 2013.
The interesting part of PolitiFact RI’s review of an income-inequality statement by labor heavyweight George Nee isn’t that the reporters gave him a Mostly False (or couldn’t bring themselves to give him a full-on False), but the line that it draws for the 1% in Rhode Island (emphasis added):
Nee also directed us to a Jan. 26, 2015, report and data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute, another Washington, D.C.-based liberal economic think tank. It compared each state’s highest earners — the top 1 percent — with everyone else.
The institute reports in Table 2 that in 2012, the average income of Rhode Island’s top 1 percent was $966,071 . That’s less than the $1.3 million U.S. average. …
(That report, by the way, concludes that your income needs to be at least $314,647 in Rhode Island to be in the top 1 percent.)
One wonders what sort of people make up this group of roughly 10,000 Rhode Islanders. Investment types, successful business owners, lawyers, doctors, and so on, probably. According to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s RIOpenGov payroll application, it also includes the University of Rhode Island’s basketball coach and university president. One surprising member of the 1%, apparently, is Neil Steinberg, the President of the Rhode Island Foundation.
Most folks think of the RI Foundation as a mainly charitable organization, but it’s also been investing in socialistic enterprises, like RhodeMap RI, and other political manipulations of the state’s economy. It’s odd to find that effort headed by somebody with (in the Economic Policy Institute’s words) “outsized” income.
It isn’t clear from the liberal think tank’s report whether it’s measuring household income or individual income. If it’s the former, of course, Rhode Island’s government and its satellites would account for many, many more members of the 1%. I mean, even some retired state workers have pensions that would suffice as half of a 1% income level.
The planner’s dream of a Greenhouse Compact went down in flames in 1984, but RhodeMap RI proves that government central planners take seriously Yogi Berra’s suggestion that when you come to a fork in the road, you should take it.
An article by Lynn Arditi in today’s Providence Journal, “Report: Too many teens in state care,” looks likely to be one of those dry, bureaucratic-process-related matters that many readers probably skip over. That would be a mistake:
In her testimony, Field described a system where overloaded caseworkers who don’t have the time or resources to help families are increasingly removing teenagers from their homes and sending them to live in group homes. And group homes are paid only by the numbers of beds filled, so “you’ve got incentives for providers to keep kids to keep those beds filled,” [Tracey Field, director of the child welfare strategy group at the Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation in Baltimore] said.
To summarize in one sentence what appears to be going on: The state government of Rhode Island is taking children away from their parents in order to maintain a government program, in part because its priorities have led the state government not to adequately fund a responsibility that it arrogated to itself.
That’s a long sentence, and the second half of it goes into the process stuff on which politicians like to focus because they can muddy the water. It’s the first part of the sentence, though, that’s important: “The state government of Rhode Island is taking children away from their parents in order to maintain a government program.”
You don’t get much more ghoulish than that, and you don’t get a much better representation of the progressive style of governance.
Countering Aaron Renn’s central planning in Rhode Island. Part 3: What’s unemployment insurance have to do with the price of gasoline in Seekonk?
Tax Foundation rankings and RI-STAMP projections show that the RI House’s budget might game some rankings a little, but legislators still aren’t willing to make substantive changes to improve the lives of workaday Rhode Islanders.
Ever go to some event in Rhode Island that was supposed to provide a balanced discussion between people of differing views? When I have, more often than not, it has seemed that the points I would have thought were obvious failed to be articulated. “Balanced” tends to be a lot like the “balance” in Rhode Island’s legislature — far left to center left (maybe hard center, on a good day).
This Saturday, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will be presenting actual balance — meaning people who actually disagree on fundamental questions — with its first UnleashRI Debate at the University of Rhode Island:
- STEVE MOORE (Heritage Foundation, FOX News) vs. TOM SGOUROS (RI Policy Analyst)
- RICH BENJAMIN (Demos, MSNBC) vs. DON WATKINS (Ayn Rand Institute)
You can register here. It’d be great for this event to be a success for multiple reasons. The largest is simply that these big questions actually do matter, and the answers cannot simply be assumed by people who happened to win office amidst an apathetic electorate.
My favorite reason to want a big turnout is that the progressives in Rhode Island to whom we initially reached out, in order to ensure that the representation of their side actually was fair and compelling, actively worked to prevent the debate from happening. It’d be nice if the opposite of that behavior were actually rewarded in the Ocean State.
Employees of the RI Hospitality Education Foundation came to the defense of the Governor’s Workforce Board, which the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity recommended eliminating, and which supplies one-third or more of the foundation’s funding.
Results from a school choice survey suggest that Rhode Islanders are aware of the state’s problems and can grasp the common sense solutions; we just need to realize that we have a right to change things.
A sudden end to Sovereign Bank’s relationship with Bullseye Shooting Supplies in Woonsocket may be part of a politically motivated national push to make the sale of firearms more difficult.
Entrepreneurialism appears to correlate with down economies, except in Rhode Island, which seems to be averse to changes in economic realities.
As the governor embarks on a two-year search for “equitable” and “green” economic development, an index by the Fraser Institute suggests RI could grow its economy 15% faster just by matching the economic freedom in CT.
Mitt Romney has found himself under fire for referencing the number of Americans who he says are dependent on government. Rhode Island’s health benefits exchange is arguably a pathway toward even larger dependency.
State executives have made the decision to implement the Medicaid Expansion detailed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).