Last week, it turned out that $200,000 of the $64-100 million total that the Republican Policy Group proposed to reprioritize for road and bridge infrastructure might not be available from a Woonsocket museum. For those without a calculator near at hand, that’s between 0.2% and 0.3% of the whole proposal, which means it’s pretty much dispensable.
The correction, however, presents a lesson on the degree to which our system is tilted toward ever-greater government spending. Even taking actual news media bias out of the equation, a systemic bias exists. Each cut or restraint has people paid (usually by us) to advocate for their positions, and they have all sorts of direct information not readily available to the public. That means:
- Every fact will be checked and errors proclaimed.
- The likelihood of errors in proposed spending reductions is high, because even such facts — small in the grand scheme — can be time consuming to check thoroughly.
- Conversely, surprising excesses that are absolutely true will be downplayed.
One of the more stunning pieces of information in the Republicans’ proposal is also relatively small, although more than double the museum line item. Using numbers directly from the state Office of Energy Resources, it turns out that the surcharge that the state imposes on energy consumers to fund public support for renewable energy special interests costs taxpayers $526,000 indirectly through the cost of state government, including public higher education. That’s on top, obviously, of whatever we pay total for our own energy usage, which is probably much more.
With its being accurate, the incentive for Rhode Island insiders is to ignore that little fact, not to defend it, to keep it out of the public consciousness as much as possible. No green-industry lobbyists will come forward to tell Rhode Islanders what they’re getting for their half-million dollars. Bringing news media bias back into the equation, PolitiFact will not likely be analyzing the shocking number and finding it “True.”
So, the beat goes on. People who take our money do so quietly (and lie when they’re caught), while those who seek to stop the theft are constantly in the spotlight for any for any small error.