Content Types

Analysis

Two Conventions Portrayed in One Newspaper

Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton disagrees that his paper has been promoting Clinton’s convention more than Trumps. Here’s a day-by-day comparison.


For Equal Treatment of Political Activity

The July 27 Providence Journal might as well be a deliberate example of the hypocrisy of progressives when it comes to advancing partisan ends.


Hints of Life Independent from Government

Getting “the rest of the story” on a young lady making her way in the world of welding in Rhode Island points to another path for government and economic development.


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Research

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.


May 2016 Employment: Stagnation Becoming Undeniable

With Rhode Island’s employment on the downside of stagnation, jobs disappearing, and other states’ pulling away, it’s only a matter of time until it’s absolutely impossible for politicians to find positive spin.


April 2016 Employment: The Rut of April Mud

Whatever politicians may say, Rhode Island’s employment situation is stuck, which means losing ground against its Southern New England neighbors and the country as a whole.


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Opinion

Katz’s Kitchen Sink: #WeKnowBetterRI

As part of its 100-year anniversary self-promotion, the Rhode Island Foundation has been spreading around a video by Nail Communications that is slap-in-the-face offensive.  It begins by putting swear words in the mouths of children reading statements from (quote) actual Rhode Islanders; it tells Rhode Islanders to (quote) stop complaining and if they don’t have anything nice to say, well, be quiet.

Let’s be blunt, here.  Given Rhode Island’s parade of corrupt officials and its stagnant economy, we would be shirking our responsibility as citizens if we didn’t complain.  Now, if Nail Communications were to make another video about the view of Rhode Island’s insiders, it might go something like this.


Matthew H. Young: Doing Better by Rhode Island Children

The state of Rhode Island could almost immediately give disadvantaged students a leg up with school choice.


The Party of Trump, Which I Cannot Support

Maggie Gallagher succinctly describes the Trump policy platform, inasmuch as it is possible to discern and predict:

Here is the new Party of Trump that we saw in this convention: liberal in expanding entitlements, pro-business in terms of tax and regulations, non-interventionist in foreign policy, socially center-left (with the possible, but only possible, exception of abortion).

Americans who pay attention to politics and policy tend to err, I think, in allowing themselves to be drawn toward the exchange of discrete, independent policies as a form of compromise.  I give you this social policy; you give me that regulatory reform.  That’s how we end up with a worst-of-all-possibilities mix of policies that, for example, encourages dependency while socializing the losses of major corporations, all to the benefit of the inside players who are well positioned to manipulate the system to serve their interests.

Broadly speaking, policies are components of a machine that have to work together, with a basic operating principle.  As the most-charitable interpretation, the machine that Gallagher describes is designed to drive corporations forward in order to generate enough wealth for government to redistribute as a means of providing comfort and accommodating the consequences of an anything-goes society, with the world blocked out at the borders and not engaged in socio-political terms so as to avoid bleeding of the wealth.  (The only difference between that vision and a fully progressive one is that progressives don’t want the machine to be independent, but to be plugged in as a component of a bigger, international machine.)

Put that way (again, most charitably), Trumpian nationalism doesn’t sound too bad.  Unfortunately, the lesson of the past few decades (at least) is that the machine doesn’t work.  The corporations recalculate to the reality that the politicians’ plan makes them (not the people) the engine of the whole machine, while the value of promising entitlements leads politicians to over-promise and the people to over-demand, particularly in response to the consequences of loose culture, while the world outside the borders erodes the supports of our society and allows implacable enemies to rally.

Now add in the stated intention of Donald Trump to actively agitate against members of his own political party because they show insufficient fealty, and the policy mix points toward disaster.  The aphorism that “success is the best revenge” is apparently not good enough for Trump.  More than that, though, from his late-night tweets about the pope to this planned attack on Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and some unnamed foe, Trump shows no realization that these leaders have supporters.  Trump is free not to respect Pope Francis, but his behavior shows that he has little concern for the vast world of Roman Catholics.  His own supporters Trump loves, and he’s happy to condescend to them; those who aren’t his supporters are either enemies or inconsequential.

Nobody should have any trust that they’ll continue to have Trump’s support starting the moment their interests conflict with his, and that has implications for the instructions he’ll attempt to give the machine.

Yes, one of the very few arguments in favor of a Trump presidency is that he may remind certain sectors of American civic society about the importance of the checks and balances designed into our system.  However, Trump’s behavior has also proven that we should not assume he’ll moderate or react well to the reinstated rules of the game.

This isn’t to say that our electoral alternative is any better.  As I’ve written before, more than any I’ve ever seen, this election hinges on the timing of oscillating disgust with the two major candidates.  The wise move may very well be not to invest much wealth, energy, or emotion in the outcome, devoting personal resources instead to battening down the hatches.


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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

Stop Expecting Corrupt Government to Prosecute Corruption

Not to be contrarian or anything, but really, what more of relevance did we expect to learn about the 38 Studios debacle?  The whole thing is outrageous from ignominius start to Friday news dump end, but State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell has a point when he says, “A bad deal does not always equate to an indictment.”  Neither does corrupt government.

Look, 38 Studios is the brand of Rhode Island’s deepest corruption for a reason.  The General Assembly and the governor slipped through a big-money program with the promise of creating jobs, and a quasi-public agency put taxpayers on the line for a private company’s failure.  Partly because the politicians and bureaucrats involved have our electoral system locked up with a mix of handouts, demagoguery, insider advantages, and (some of us suspect) not a little outright cheating, there were no real consequences.  Moreover, the very same system that created the opportunity for corruption and failure in the first place is now the central economic development plan of our state.

It’s no good sitting around hoping that the corrupt will slip up and break the law so that the legal system can do what voters refuse to do.  We’ve seen all the way up to the White House that America’s legal system doesn’t do that anymore.  (A tweet that flitted across my screen this morning suggested that “the law is no longer working to protect us from the corrupt, but to protect the corrupt from us.)

More importantly, though, much of what we consider to be corruption is legal in Rhode Island, and that’s not necessarily wrong.  Expand the scope of activities that are illegal — to include bad decisions or working with people you know, for example — and you’ll find it becoming a weapon used by the corrupt against those who are not corrupt.  Look to Sheldon Whitehouse and various attorneys general for evidence or consider that, while the 38 Studios process may have been entirely legal, it is now illegal for people to spend almost any money advocating on local ballot questions without registering with the government.

The obvious solution is this:  Get off the sidelines.  Maybe run for office.  If that’s more effort than you can reasonably muster, then resolve to support those who will shake up the system, both in office and in organizations that strive to keep the pressure on politicians and government.  Perhaps reevaluate how much weight to give to different political issues (corruption and good government should maybe outweigh social issues in your decision-making for a decade or so).

That’s where change has to occur.  Otherwise, each investigation, indictment, and prosecution is just a bucket of water as we attempt to bail out a submarine a mile below the surface. The fact that these suggestions are nothing new doesn’t make them less true.


In Rhode Island, the Government Is Taking Away Our JOI

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released its Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report covering the month of June, and even with nine of the 13 underlying datapoints being updated, Rhode Island couldn’t budget out of 48th place.  Indeed, if more states than two trailed the Ocean State, we probably would have sunk a bit.

For this post, though, I’ll focus on a finding from within the calculations of the index.  The following charts show the ratio of personal income to local, state, and federal taxes for Rhode Island, New England, and the United States, first from 2005 to the latest-available month and then zooming in with a starting point of 2012.

RINEUS-prosperityfactor-2005-0616

RINEUS-prosperityfactor-2012-0616

The first takeaway from these charts, of course, is how much more Rhode Island takes from its people in taxes.  The Rhode Islanders’ income is around 10 times the total tax take.  For our region and our nation, however, the average is more like 13.5 times.  In the Ocean State, in other words, personal income is about 26% lower than it would be to support the same tax burden in the average state.  From the other direction, the state simply taxes its people too much given their income.

The second takeaway is that Rhode Island moves to increase its tax take as quickly or more quickly than people increase their income.  There’s no reason the government at any level must grow to reflect the income of the people.  Government provides a limited set of services, and they aren’t entirely income dependent.  Indeed, the wealthier a society is, the less it should need or want government to do.

After the income-to-tax ratio grew steadily from 2007/2008 to 2012, it dropped nationwide.  In the first six months of this year, anyway, the United States and, even more, New England have seen an uptick, while Rhode Island remains mired at its 10x.

We hear a great deal about fixing Rhode Island’s economy by giving money to government that it can give away to favored private interests.  The charts above illustrate one reason many of us believe that is exactly the wrong approach.


Projo Plays It (Relatively) Straight for Day 4

Following up yesterday’s post about the Providence Journal’s (ahem) different approaches to constructing its front-page coverage of the two presidential conventions, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised to see the paper offer comparable presentations of the final days.

projo-2016conventioncoverage-day4

Sure, “HILLARY” is a little higher on the page than “TRUMP:” (with the lack of a colon arguably making the insinuation of the subheads less indicative of “she said this.”  Yes, Clinton gets another subhead promoting the fact that she’s a woman woman (as opposed those types of women for whom gender is entirely a social construct), and she also gets a boost from another negative-for-Trump story connecting him to Putin.  Meanwhile, the pro-Trump talking point for his coverage came not in a sub-head but in a picture from a goofy-looking supporter, and a secondary story is another negative-for-Trump story about Republican division.

And, of course, one could do a closer analysis of the three main sub-heads at the top of the page.  Still, the candidates do set their own tones, and one could argue whether each of the three Trump and three Clinton talking points favor them or not, depending on one’s perspective.

I’m sure these comparable covers were largely the plan all along for the final day of convention coverage, but I find it amusing to imagine that there is, somewhere, a design for a celebratory day-four front page of Clinton now defunct in a folder on a computer on Fountain Street.


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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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