Longer Twitter RSS feed for this section
justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Pluses and a Minus to Interstate Licensure Compact

My first reaction to this information in a Wall Street Journal editorial is that Rhode Island should rush to get on board:

This week South Dakota will introduce legislation to establish a Compact for the Temporary Licensure of Professionals—a multistate agreement that would change the presumption of occupational licensing from a roadblock to an open door. The compact would allow individuals who have been licensed in any profession or occupation in other participating states to receive, upon request within 30 days, an in-state temporary license. That would allow professionals from compacting states to start working immediately.

In fact, I’d go one step farther:  If the rationale for occupational licensing is to ensure the safety of consumers, there’s no reason state government couldn’t review the requirements of other states and simply affirm that their requirements are adequate.  Then Rhode Island could simply accept out-of-state licenses as a matter of course.  We want it to be as easy as possible for people to work, for their own sake and for the sake of consumers.

The downside of the compact idea — particularly with states that actually have jobs on offer — is that it will make it easier for Rhode Island’s professionals to leave.  The key to an open door policy is giving people reasons to come into your space.  That’s the area in which Rhode Island needs the most work.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Left’s Vision Versus the Right’s Philosophy

This argument, from a Des Moines Register editorial betrays an intellectual tic one catches from time to time among those who tend to support the growth of government:

Cutting taxes and reducing the size of government is not a vision for the future. It is a philosophy, and one that has devastated other Republican-controlled states like Kansas and Louisiana. Instead of economic growth, those states realized canceled college graduations, abused children sleeping in government offices, depleted trust funds and abrupt tax increases to rescue the state from total fiscal disaster.

Interestingly, one doesn’t get the sense that the editorial writers are dogmatically in support of bigger, more-expansive government for its own sake.  Although they complain that state government in Iowa is giving up too much potential revenue, they also want to reform occupational licensing, for example.

But the implications of the quotation above are telling, and it brings to mind a dispute I’ve had in Tiverton.  Those on the Left will ask for “the vision” of those on the Right, but they won’t accept as visionary a community that isn’t guided by a central plan.  Vision, to them, implicitly means describing what you want your town or state to look like in the future and therefore excludes a preference for an undesigned future in which neighborhoods develop according to the unique interests and personalities of the people who live in them.

That goes hand in hand with progressives’ favored presumption that growing government is just a practical conclusion from the facts.  The editorial writers proclaim a “vision,” which leaves only practical discussions about how to achieve the desired future (somebody’s desired future, anyway).  In that view, philosophy is only important insofar as it might inform acceptable routes; it never supersedes vision by declaring some future beyond the legitimate scope of the visionaries.

But if one’s philosophy is that it is inappropriate to impose a vision, well, then, that’s just adherence to irrational abstractions, proving that one can’t possibly care about goodness and justice in the world.  In this distinction, one can see how the seeds of totalitarianism are present in even moderate expressions of a left-wing philosophy.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Regunberg’s Drug Innovation Disincentive Act

Barely out of the gate in the new legislative session, progressive Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence is proving exactly how dangerous he is to the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders:

The bill (2018-H 7042), which Representative Regunberg introduced Jan. 3, would establish a board of pharmacy to examine how prescription drug manufactures set the price for certain prescriptions, and give it the authority to set a maximum allowable price to protect the Rhode Island consumers.

The price-fixing scheme would give nine unelected board members, most of them pharmacists with a financial interest in the industry, deep access to the private information of drug companies and the power to set prices for drugs — particularly those that are among the most innovative and life changing — below the level that companies believe necessary to make it worthwhile to develop more.

There is no reason to expect pharmacists to understand every aspect of drugs’ production and sale generally, let alone the internal operations of a particular company.  If companies are forced to justify pricing decisions to Rhode Island’s socialist-nine board members and beg their indulgence, the potential for corruption is immense.  If the members are cycled out every three-year term, then they’ll lack a long-term perspective, but if they’re kept on the board for much longer, they’ll become less accountable.

The minimum price for a drug in the state will always be zero… in the sense of being unavailable.

Given the critical nature of its products, our health care market does need controls against price gouging, but we should go the route of reform and competition, not the philosophy that has brought Venezuelans into the gutter.  Reform patent laws, giving generic drug manufacturers more opportunity.  Take the thumb off of insurance companies so they’ll have more leverage against drug companies.  Take the restrictions off of health care providers and consumers so they’ll have leverage to shop around for drugs, insurers, and types of treatments.

Above all, Regunberg’s bill illustrates how close we are to the end game of government control, and that’s an extremely unhealthy place to be.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Utilities Reducing Rates Around the Country Due to Tax Cut

Paul Bedard reports in the Washington Examiner that National Grid won’t be alone if it reduces rates to reflect its lower tax burden, owing to the GOP-Trump tax cut that has just gone into effect:

On the heels of companies dishing bonuses of up to $3,000 to over one million workers due to the anticipated benefit of President Trump’s tax reform victory, several major utilities have announced plans to cut rates in a consumer payback related to the lower taxes.

Energy suppliers like Washington’s Pepco, Baltimore Gas and Light, Pacific Power, Rocky Mountain Power and Commonwealth Edison said they plan to give hundreds of thousands of customers a rate cut due to the tax reform.

Again, lowering the cost of doing business lowers the prices that companies have to charge to cover operating expenses and achieve whatever profits they need, which contrary to popular progressive delusion, they can’t just arbitrarily collect.

On the same topic, I asked Lt. Governor Dan McKee’s office whether his call for lower utility rates means he supports the tax reduction.  Here’s the response:

Lt. Governor McKee has publicly voiced his concern with the tax bill. One of his major issues with the bill is that it gave the overwhelming amount of tax relief to a very small and select percentage of the population and particularly large corporations. Lt. Governor McKee will use the new law in any way possible to help Rhode Islanders. In that vein, he will continue to pursue the rollback of previously approved and pending National Grid rate increases and encourage others to do the same.

Political rhetoric notwithstanding, one suspects that the former mayor of Cumberland understands that tax cuts in a system in which a relatively small percentage of the population pays the majority of taxes will lead to disproportionate reductions for those who pay the most.  One also hopes that the lieutenant governor is cognizant of the fact that his latest initiative plans to take advantage of the relief given to a “large corporation.”

We can only shake our heads, though, that a politician who actually seeks to draw advantage from the effects of legislation from the opposite party seems so moderate.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Wrong Mindset on School Repairs

Somehow, I don’t expect Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s “bold plan” increased school construction funding to emphasize a change in priorities that leads to spending reductions elsewhere.  The quote in Shiina LoSciuto and Sarah Doiron’s WPRI article is better seen as a cause for alarm:

Raimondo said she plans to unveil a proposal next week for funding the rebuilding of schools across the state.“I plan to present a bold plan to the legislature, to make a once in a generation investment in rebuilding our schools,” Raimondo said.

This is entirely the wrong mentality.  We don’t want to repair schools once a generation.  We don’t need “an investment” as much as we need reform.

Maintenance and repair should be ongoing.  The problem is that the incentive in state and local government is to spend as much money as taxpayers will tolerate on ongoing operations and then hit us with a crisis in order to ratchet up the revenue.  One photograph of a flooded classroom suddenly makes disappear the consequences for three decades of letting maintenance slide while spending on other priorities.

And then moving forward, this “once in a generation investment” will be built into our state and local tax bills, which won’t go down when all the work is done and all debt is paid off.  Instead, as the cost of the emergency subsides, the government will find ways to spend the money elsewhere and let the schools deteriorate again.  Meanwhile, whatever mental space Rhode Islanders allocate toward thinking about education will be distracted by the excuse that children can’t learn in crumbling schools and then palliated by the fancy new buildings, even as the level of education continues to be substandard.

We have to stop falling for this ploy.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Linking Poverty and Licensing in a Comprehensive Philosophy

An editorial in the Orange County Register makes the important connection between poverty, welfare, and occupational licensing:

Following the critical passage of tax reform, congressional Republicans and President Trump might now turn their attention to reforming at least some of the nation’s vast, too often ineffective social safety net. …

Ultimately, of course, the best way to combat poverty is to ensure America’s economy continues to grow and jobs remain accessible to as many Americans as possible. Tax reform and Trump’s halt on excessive new regulations are important steps toward that. But the White House and Congress shouldn’t be content with that. Other areas are ripe for improvement as well, like occupational licensing reform to remove artificial barriers to work.

For a while, it seems, the political right lost sight of the need for competing visions.  People’s political views tend to result from some sort of balance between freedom and security (not only for themselves, but as organizing principles for the benefit of others).  It isn’t sufficient, therefore, to combat the statist vision of tasking government with everybody’s well-being and simply (simplistically) making it so with simply cutting taxes and taking all limits off of the wealthy.

Of course, very few people really hold that second view, but the actual philosophy that it caricatures has to be better articulated.  Part of removing limits, for one, means removing them from the poor and working class, as well, which should place a market-driven pressure on the wealthy that is greater than the supposed pressure that government manages.  (I’m always mystified that the same people who warn that the rich control government think they can use government to limit the rich.)

Similarly, the case has to be made that the outcomes that the pro-license advocates claim to be protecting us against aren’t really a danger or don’t justify the heavy hand pushing down on individuals’ opportunity and our economic health.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

McKee Proves the Point on Corporate Tax Reform

Readers may have caught wind of the push — led by Democrat Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee — to pressure or force National Grid to lower its requested energy rates in response to presumably significant savings due to the tax reform passed by the Republican Congress and President Trump.  On WPRI, Ted Nesi reports that at least one Massachusetts energy provider is lowering rates “to pass along some of its millions of dollars in tax savings to customers”:

“Our neighbors in Massachusetts will be getting a break on their monthly electricity bills,” McKee said in a statement. “It’s time for Rhode Island to ask National Grid to use its corporate savings to lower rates in our state and provide much needed relief for local families and small businesses.”

Wherever one may fall on the spectrum of possibilities for pressuring or forcing companies to use their resources in certain ways, whether utilities or otherwise, doesn’t this episode pretty much reinforce the premise of corporate tax cuts?  When government imposes costs on businesses, they are ultimately passed along to consumers and the economy overall.

And by the way, when we periodically hear politicians attacking companies — as McKee has attacked National Grid in the past — shouldn’t they simultaneously seek to mitigate the various ways in which they, the politicians, push the companies to higher prices?  That would include not only taxes, but also regulations and other government programs, such as those proliferating in the name of environmentalism.  Or is government the only area in which there are no trade-offs?

carroll-andrew-morse-avatar

The Urge to Ban Books

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Another RI Icon Setting Sail; Act Now!

Well isn’t this enough to remind one of that scene in The Lorax when all the animals leave the barren landscape:

Rhode Island’s official tall ship is set to become a tourist attraction in Virginia.

A foundation in the waterfront city of Alexandria has purchased the 110-foot sloop-of-war Providence, a full-scale replica of the first warship in America’s Continental Navy, and is busy making repairs so it can be used for maritime educational programs.

Quick!  Surely we can put together an incentive packaged (backed by a moral obligation bond) to subsidize this ship’s continued use in Rhode Island.  The tourism will be so huge that it’ll never cost taxpayers a dime.  And we can put it in the Loughlin Marina.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Jobs Lost to Regulation

Katie Wendell’s article on occupational licensing in Ohio brings to mind questions about Rhode Island:

Ohio lawmakers are considering changes to some requirements amid concerns that over-regulation is keeping some people — including many from the generation most apt to leave the state — from gaining employment.

“Ohio’s licensing requirements have prevented more than 7,000 people between the ages of 25-45 from pursuing licensed occupations in the state,” says a new study by the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank.

I don’t think it’s so much a generation that might leave as a class, which I’ve called the “productive class.”  (Again, that description is meant to distinguish from, say, an “investor class” or “student class,” not a “lazy class” or something.)

I do wonder what the Buckeye Institute’s model would find Rhode Island’s job prevention number would be.  According to the Institute for Justice, Rhode Island has the 10th most burdensome licensing laws for low-to-middle-income occupations, compared with Ohio’s 38th.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Teacher Unionization Hurts Boys, Especially Minorities

Iain Murray highlights part the abstract from a new paper by Cornell researchers:

The earnings estimates for men indicate that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $149.6 billion in the US annually. Among men, we also find evidence of lower employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation. Exposure to collective bargaining laws leads to reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which male workers sort as well. Effects are largest among black and Hispanic men, although white and Asian men also experience sizable negative impacts of collective bargaining exposure. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining law exposure leads to reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults, and these effects are larger for men.

In other words, exposure to unionized teachers in one way or another tends to reduce boys’ exposure to the skills that men tend more often to need on the job and generally lower abilities, especially in minority populations.

That seems like a data point that ought to be part of the public discussion on education.

Quantcast