Content Types

Analysis

The 2016 Rhode Island General Assembly Freedom Index

It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 47th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November. This trend is exemplified by continued deeply negative overall General Assembly scores on our 2016 Freedom Index.

Loaded with information that will be useful to voters this fall, the Freedom Index is part of our larger transparency initiative. The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the freedom in the Ocean State.


Private Actions and Public Good

Even when the actions of other people have no immediate affect on us, their being permitted to take them does affect us, as does the process by which we change what we allow and don’t allow.


The Gradual Imposition of Free Speech Restrictions

Throughout law and regulation, one can spot a creeping attempt to enshrine the worldview of the Left and restrict the ability of those with traditional values to affect the culture; here’s an example.


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Research

August 2016 Employment: Getting in the Increases Before the Revision

As usual this time of year, the story of Rhode Island’s employment picture depends greatly on whether one expects a large downward revision. For the moment, the employment picture looks brighter than it’s been, although not by much.


July 2016 Employment: Two-Month Spurt Only Seems Unusual

For the first time in a while, Rhode Island’s employment picture looks to be on the upswing, although similar results in prior years have tended to be revised away.


June 2016 Employment: Not Sinking Isn’t Really Great News

When it comes to Rhode Island employment, we’ve reached the point that not losing ground is the good news.


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Opinion

Using Climate Change to Bring in a Tide of Activism

Three Brown faculty members traffic in questionable statistics in an apparent push to end the deadly scourge of days that are “merely warm.”


The Entertainment-Information-Government Complex

Natural human incentives are drawing the news media into the government complex, and the only solution is to shrink government.


What Is There to Write on 9/11 15.0?

Fifteen years out, the unity following 9/11 seems to have been squandered, but it may simply have been exposed as an illusion of political necessity.


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Investigative Report

Article 18: Another Insider “Deepwater” Scam in the Making? (Corrected)

Despite disturbing new revelations and renewed public criticism about insider legislative grants, cronyism appears to be alive and well at the Rhode Island State House. And once again, Ocean State families and businesses would be asked to foot the bill.

In the budget that got voted out of the Finance Committee early Wednesday morning, alert observers spotted and brought to the attention of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity as well as the Ocean State Current on Friday an extensive revision to Article 18.

They are correct to loudly ring warning bells about it. If it stays in, state electric ratepayers are in for even higher electric rates than they currently pay.


Cooler & Warmer Time Line and the Commerce Corp.’s Promotional Focus

The Commerce Corp. is being vague about the time line of the development of the failed “Cooler & Warmer” brand, which raises questions about what it’s hiding and whom it’s promoting.


Was Final RhodeWorks Vote Scheduled Before the Bill Was Submitted?

Correspondence related to the removal of the toll gantries on the Sakonnet River Bridge on Super Bowl Sunday suggests that the date was no surprise, that the state paid a premium for the timing, and that government officials had the schedule for RhodeWorks legislation planned out well in advance.


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Liveblog

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Longer Twitter

Markets Judging Central Plan, Not Economy; Fed Stuck

I wonder if analysts of the future will look to our era and find one of the most telling dynamics to be that the investment markets don’t seem to be reacting positively or negatively to good or bad economic news in the way one would expect.  Instead of making decisions based on the likelihood that the economy will expand, investors seem most intent on watching the Federal Reserve and federal government for signs that the forced inflation of their assets will come to an end.

Even those who aren’t directly tapped into the government-corporate money flow take comfort in the idea that smart people with access to data and power can ensure that the economy hums along… sometimes slowing, sometimes bucking, but going forward as smoothly as reality will allow.  As comforting as it may be, that’s a fool’s belief.  Ultimately, the economy depends on your actions and mine and those of your neighbors and those of people around the world whom you will never even know exist.  People who could accurately predict the course of all of those decisions wouldn’t be government functionaries or even central bankers. They’d be quadrillionaires.

Take a moment to ponder this Washington Post article, as it appeared in the Providence Journal:

Two years ago, top officials at the Federal Reserve mapped out a strategy for withdrawing the central bank’s unprecedented support for the American economy.  

The official communiqué was titled “Policy Normalization Principles and Plans,” and it was supposed to serve as a rough outline for the tenure of newly installed Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen. Essentially, it consisted of two basic parts: Raise interest rates and shrink the central bank’s massive balance sheet.  

But now, both of those steps are being called into question as Fed officials grapple with an economy that appears to be stuck in first gear. Instead of executing its exit strategy, the Fed is confronting the possibility that the dramatic measures it took to safeguard the recovery will remain in place indefinitely.

When your plan consists entirely of backstopping and saturating the fortunes of financially powerful interests, you shouldn’t be surprised when those interests use their leverage to make it extremely difficult to turn off the spigot.  Once such a policy has been implemented, in the absence of a courageous will that central planners inevitably lack, it cannot be stopped, and it will not be stopped until the whole scheme collapses.

That collapse will take a huge amount of the wealth from these powerful interests, but it will most hurt everybody else, living much closer to the margin of survival.  Then, those in government and central banks will have another opportunity to decide whether to allow us to work out the economy’s problems through our individual decisions or to protect their wealthy friends again, as after the last crash.

I know which way I’ll continue to bet until America decides to decrease the power of the federal government and cut the strings that are pulling us toward central plans.


In Rhode Island, Nothing’s Certain but Death and Taxes

Well, the policies of the State of Rhode Island aren’t getting you to shop, earn, or do business as much as the government expected, but at least you’re dying!

According to an Office of Revenue Analysis report, sales and use taxes came in 0.9% lower than expected, personal income taxes came in 0.6% short, and business corporations taxes missed their estimate by a whopping 12.1%.  That’s $35 million you didn’t produce for your lords in Providence.

The good news is that you’re drinking, dying, and letting the state keep your unclaimed property more than expected, which more than made up the difference ($47 million).  But if that doesn’t sound like a healthy or sustainable way for a government to pay its bills, well, it isn’t.

Comparing the 2016 fiscal year to the year before, of the three sources of tax revenue that would indicate real economic health, only the sales tax went up.  (Patrick Anderson has the income tax wrong in today’s Providence Journal.)  Income taxes were down $10 million (0.8%); business corporation taxes were down $13 million (8.8%); and sales and use taxes were up only $8 million (0.9%).  The net change of all three was a decrease of $15 million.

If it weren’t for dying Rhode Islanders, the state government would have seen its revenue go down from one year to the next, and more than analysts had expected.  That doesn’t bode well for the deficits that the state estimates growing into the future.  The Providence Journal headline, “Rhode Island ends fiscal year with more money than expected,” does us a civic disservice.  We need to acknowledge that the current strategy of our state is not working so that we can change it.


“Customers” and the Government Business Model

Somehow, it always seems erroneous for articles discussing government services to use the term “customers” for the recipients.  Granted, the line has blurred, so as a purely semantic matter, it’s probably correct when it comes to HealthSource RI, as in Katherine Gregg’s article in today’s Providence Journal.  Subsidized or not, Rhode Islanders use to Web site to exchange money for a product.  Still, if we’re going to talk about government as if it were a business, we have to be very particular in acknowledging its business model.

That need came to mind the other day, when Mark Reynolds wrote in the same paper about the “success” of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT’s) Newport-Providence ferry service.  Consider:

The service’s operating costs were 100-percent federally funded. The service spent $500,000 in transit funds that are earmarked for specific types of projects such as the ferry service.

Thanks to this subsidization, a one-way ticket on the ferry was $10, or $5 for children, seniors, and the disabled.  Contrast that with a $25.50 fee for ferrying from Newport to Block Island, or $13.00 for children.  Granted, the rides are a bit different, but divided up evenly among the 33,221 passenger trips that RIDOT’s ferry made, the federal subsidy of $500,000 counts as $15 per ticket — more than doubling the adult price and quadrupling the lower-priced tickets.

How can we possibly characterize the ferry’s experience as a “success” without noting this fact?  Any given business might have a successful season if it offered every customer a 60-75% discount on every purchase, but it would only be a success to the extent the objective is to give stuff away.  In government’s case, of course, what it’s giving away is other people’s money.


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Interviews & Profiles

Arthur Christopher Schaper: Cicilline’s “Grand Theft Auto” Sanctuary City

Arthur Christopher Schaper asks illegal immigration expert Jessica Vaughn about the consequences of sanctuary city policies under former Providence Mayor David Cicilline.


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 45 (Secretary of State Debate)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss a debate between candidates for RI Secretary of State and related topics.


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