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Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

Thanks to Kate Nagle and GoLocalProv for inviting the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Mike Stenhouse on their new GoLocal LIVE program yesterday. They discussed, in part, Governor Raimondo’s recently announced manufacturing advisory council, which is comprised of lots of people but not a whole lot of economic diversity.

Meanwhile, congratulations and best wishes to Kate Nagle, Molly O’Brien and GoLocalProv on the launch of their cutting edge new program!

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The Left’s Intimidation Game

As usual, the content on this Prager University video — featuring Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel — won’t be new to readers of the Ocean State Current, but it’s well done and worth the reminder:

Progressives are in the intimidation game for the long haul; indeed, Strassel points out that Southern Democrats used the tactics progressives now focus on conservatives (or any non-progressives) to suppress blacks.  The strategies are:

  1. Harass, as with the IRS targeting Tea Party groups
  2. Investigate & prosecute, as with Wisconsin prosecutors raiding the homes of conservatives, or our own U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s attempts to criminalize opposing views and activities
  3. Blackmail, for which Strassel provides the example of threats made against corporate sponsors of ALEC
  4. Expose, by which progressive seek access to lists of donors and other supporters in order to apply the first three techniques

On the last count, Democrat Tiverton/Portsmouth Representative John “Jay” Edwards had a coup this latest legislative session with his legislation to harass with regulations any citizen who attempts to have a public say on any local ballot question and to open such local activists and their supporters to harassment by vicious groups like Tiverton 1st, which not only succeeded in making public office seem like a costly volunteerism, but also in driving some of its opponents clear out of the town and the state.

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What a Fair Tax System Would Look Like

In a recent Prager University video, historian Amity Shlaes articulates a pretty straightforward position for many of us on the right end of the political spectrum: In taxation, percentages are implicitly fair and inherently progressive.

Unfortunately, she also correctly points out the difficulty facing those who would return the tax code to fairness:

… reversing a century of progressivity won’t be easy. For when you cut taxes for all in a progressive rate structure, the rich necessarily get a larger tax break. That is so because they pay a greater share to begin with, and advocating “larger breaks for the rich” is not a popular political move, to put it mildly.

She then goes on to touch on a theme that’s popping up in a variety of contexts.  We need to stop attempting reform by addition and make it, well, reform.  In other words, adding more and more tax credits for this group or that group in an effort to get back to what’s fair, we should intelligently assess what we have and simply revise it.

Of course, talking about intelligence in policy and politics has become just about a sign of insanity in modern America.

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Testimony: DEM Must Consider Economics Before Buying Farmland

In this video, I speak out against a new scheme by the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management to acquire farmland at a public comment forum held at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography on September 7, 2016.

With government increasingly influencing and controlling the means of production through myriad tax-credit, loan, and direct-subsidy schemes in a multitude of industries, the DEM farmland acquisition scheme, which will actually acquire and resell private property, is not based on any legitimate economic analysis — or any economic consideration at all.

Despite the fact that the state’s own Commerce Corporation demanded a RhodeMap RI–related mandate be inserted into the DEM plan, no economic justification was provided. The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warned you about the dangers of RhodeMap RI; here is one place where the planners’ vision seems to be marching forward.

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Talking 38 Studios Scorecard on TV and Radio

Since the release of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s scorecard showing how legislators have voted when the 38 Studios scandal has been within their scope of office (as opposed to calling on the attorney general to release information), I’ve had a few media appearances.  The most extensive, also touching on the legal settlement just announced related to the bankruptcy, was on Dan Yorke’s State of Mind on WPRI’s digital station:

 

I also had my first appearance on Frank Coletta’s Business Lunch on WJAR, Channel 10:

 

And on the audio-only front, I spoke with John Loughlin on WPRO, in part 2 of the August 20th show.

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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.

[Advisory: In keeping with the original Nail Communications/RI Foundation video, the following contains bleeped swears.]

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What’s Really In Your Best Interests? Aimee Gardiner On The No HPV Mandate Movement

On this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interest?” I interview Aimee Gardiner, director of Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations, on the movement against the HPV Mandate in the Ocean State. Rhode Island parents deserve the freedom to make private family choices without government involvement. The mandate on the HPV vaccine for Rhode Island students is an important and symbolic violation of our rights.

Recently, the RI DOH undertook a marketing campaign directed at the children of our state. Do you think this is a proper use of taxpayer dollars? The government should include parents in the discussion when dealing with minors, not bypassing our families! This is a very disturbing trend. The #NOHPVmandateRI movement stands to reverse the HPV vaccine mandate in RI. Please watch the new videos of our interview now.

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Katz’s Kitchen Sink: But Bountiful Parody Song

As the fiscal year comes to a close for the State of Rhode Island and most municipalities in June, it’s ever more clear that civic life in Rhode Island revolves around government budgets.  For insiders, town, city, and state budgets represent their hopes and dreams — often their livelihoods.  For everybody else, though, they can be a time of dread, as the impossibility of real change is affirmed, cherished programs are threatened (if you’re on that side of the ledger), or more money is confiscated from your bank account (if you’re on the other side of the ledger).

Herewith, a parody song to the tune of “But Beautiful,” inaugurating a somewhat regular new video series, “Katz’s Kitchen Sink,” which will feature whatever sort of content I think might be useful to throw at the problems of the Ocean State — songs, short skits, commentary, or whatever.

Download an mp3 file of this song.

But Bountiful

A budget’s taxes, or it’s pay
Handouts are credits or giveaways
We’re investing, or we save
But bountiful

Bountiful, our industry’s bureaucracies we run
It’s a budget you have no choice but to fund

A budget appropriates, or it steals
Votes are traded in backroom deals
Nobody’s sure just what’s real
But bountiful

And I’m thinking if I had chips, I’d cash them in for gold
And take them to a more bountiful abode

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RI Foundation Tells Rhode Islanders to Shut Up and Take Their Medicine

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.

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What If Rhode Islanders Really Had a Say on Budgets, Like Tiverton?

In this video, I wonder what would happen if the people of the Ocean State had a say in the budgeting process. In Tiverton, electors in town have the ability to submit budgets directly to voters. For the third year in a row, a budget that I submitted for the financial town referendum to set Tiverton’s upcoming budget won a strong majority of votes. That makes three years with tax increases under 1%.

By design, Rhode Island politicians at the state level leave the public no time to digest the budget and express their preferences to their representatives, and most of their representatives have no intention of bucking legislative leaders anyway.

Imagine, though, if Rhode Islanders really did have a say, like we do in Tiverton. What do you suppose the result would be?

Watch this new video to learn more now.

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Going to the Heart of Costly Renewable Energy


In this podcast excerpt, I discuss with the Heartland Institute’s Donald Kendal and John Nothdurft the findings of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s new report on renewable energy that confirms a very poor cost-benefit return to Rhode Islanders of renewable energy. (Listen to the full podcast of our conversation here.)

Because 98% of Rhode Island’s energy is generated by natural gas, our state already has a comparatively small carbon footprint. Further reducing it to hit purely arbitrary renewable production targets would cost state ratepayers and taxpayers $141–190 million per year in production expenses alone – four to five times the EPA’s recommended cost standard.

Rhode Islanders also cannot afford the cost to the state economy in the form of lower employment levels or in the $670–893 million per year extracted in unnecessarily higher electricity rate payments by private sector businesses and families. When will the status quo learn?

Based on these findings, the Center has strongly recommended that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law. The EPA’s own cost standard highlighted in the Center renewable energy report demonstrates that state officials can set aside all renewable energy mandates with a clear conscience.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interests? CEO Stenhouse on the 2017 RI Budget

In this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?”, I talk about the 2017 RI Budget. There are better solutions than big spending in the RI State Budget. It is time to end the insider culture where the little guy is hurt. Only when the total relief package is bigger than new spending can we claim that Rhode Island is heading in the right direction.
The Ocean State must stop supporting special-interest spending policies. Instead, we must demand broad-based tax and regulatory cuts that benefit all. While we recognize the reductions in retiree income taxes, the corporate minimum tax, and trucker registration and beach parking fees, the Center notes that these cuts are themselves narrowly targeted and are more than offset by the increases in corporate welfare, new Uber and marijuana taxes, pre-K funding, and new special-interest bond initiatives.
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Good Advice: Don’t Follow Your Passion…

… bring it with you.  On a busy day, my lunchtime blogging slot is amply filled with a short video by Mike Rowe (via Instapundit):

Of course, one can always hedge, as I did.  Keep whatever long-shot activity about which you’re passionate firmly understood as a hobby and keep eyes open for an opportunity to turn it into a career.  The key is not to let that hedge dominate your decision making.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interest? Legislative Grants: Cheers to 10 Lawmakers, Shame on You.

In this episode of our debate series, “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I explore the recently publicized and controversial topic of legislative grants. Are lawmakers the only people at fault, or is there a larger, more fundamental problem at play? Legislative grants hand-out your taxpayer dollars to organizations in an arbitrary, yet highly politicized process.

Much of the media attention has focused on lawmakers who have applied for such grants in a corrupt process to gain favor with voters. In looking at the other side of the coin, however, I recognize the ten lawmakers in the General Assembly who have not applied for a single legislative grant this year in this video. Cheers to them!

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Serving One Another Through Innovation

There are bills being considered by the RI General Assembly, H8044 &S2864, which may kill the efficient transportation network services like Uber & lyft in the Ocean State.

In this video, I give commentary on testimony given by Rhode Islander to the RI State Senate on the role of Uber in his life. Nick Zammarelli, a blind Coventry school teacher, testified to RI State Senators: “As a totally blind school teacher, prior to Uber’s arrival in Rhode Island, I had to think about how got from point A to point B every single day. ”

Watch my commentary on the compelling testimony now. For my money, the most important part of the testimony had nothing to do with Uber, per se. It had everything to do with innovation and everything to do with the way in which Rhode Island government prevents us from finding the most effective ways to serve one another. Why do we tolerate elected officials to kill the innovation that will help the disadvantage among us?

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What’s Really In Your Best Interests? Overreach in Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Directive

On this episode of, “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I discuss President Obama’s recent transgender bathroom directive. The administration’s directive regarding transgender access to bathrooms in public schools can only be viewed as a blatant threat and yet another assault against the cherished American cornerstones of federalism, local governance, individual rights, and transparent government. Rhode Islanders should speak out against this growing federal intrusion.

Regardless of how you feel about transgender access to facilities, the process by which this executive action will be implemented is nothing short of pure corruption.

If ever there was a time for school choice, to empower parents with the choice to escape schools that do not respect their personal values, that time is now. This increasing trend of arbitrary and unconstitutional government by activist and elitist executives, often a direct affront to the values of the very people they claim to represent – is dangerous to the cornerstones of our great American democracy.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interests? John Marion of Common Cause RI on the Ethics Commission

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I sit down with John Marion of Common Cause RI to discuss the Ethics Commission. We talk about the growing coalition to restore the Ethics Commission in Rhode Island. The resolution being proposed will put forward a change to the RI Constitution to be approved by voters. With recent examples of bad behavior by the RI General Assembly, Rhode Islanders should ask themselves if a restored ethics commission is really in their best interests.

The Clean RI coalition is composed of almost two-dozen groups. This resolution does, in fact, restore the full jurisdiction of the ethics commission despite the speech and debate clause. Common Cause argues that the controversial moratorium should be set aside and placed into a separate statute. This is an important piece of the puzzle of good government in the Ocean State. We encourage you to speak out on the issues affecting your family in Rhode Island.

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A Status Quo of Elitism


In this short video, I sit down for State of the State with John Carlevale to discuss the elitist attitude of the status quo in Rhode Island. When will the political class listen to the people of our state? For too long, the public policy debate has been one sided, and denied Rhode Islanders opportunity. The insiders want to keep increasing their big government policy, and refuse to hear other ideas. During the RhodeMap RI battle, the insiders refused to listen to citizens and put our homes at risk. Policy should be decided with many voices giving their input into the process. When many opinions are considered, we are able to craft more effective public policy. Rhode Island will have to change if our state is ever to become a place where people are free to achieve their dreams.

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Why Freedom & Prosperity? CEO Stenhouse on State of the State

The people of Rhode Island want a government that works for every citizen of our state, not just the insiders and the special interests. With the recent challenges faced by RI’s political class, it is important to remember that there are real alternatives than the culture of big government here in Rhode Island. Recently, I appeared on the State of the State and discussed the work being done by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The mission of the Center is to return government to you, the people, by opposing special interest public policy and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives through economic competitiveness, educational opportunity and individual freedom. Your family deserves more than the worn out ideas of ever increasing state revenue and big spending.

Our vision is to see Rhode Island as a destination of choice to raise a family and build a career, with a thriving business climate, abundant jobs, and a world-class education system. The Ocean State will only achieve this mission by changing the status quo. You can be a part of that by speaking out often on the issues that effect your family. Please watch the new three minute video now.

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What’s Really in Your Best Interest? Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI)

This week on “What’s Really in Your Best Interest?”, we examine the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s new Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI.) (RIFreedom.org/JOI)

My guest this week is Justin Katz, the Research Director for the Center and Managing Editor of the Ocean State Current. Justin is the creator of the JOI measure, a new tool designed to give lawmakers a broader view of Rhode Island’s economy than the traditional unemployment rate.

JOI is a national index of states that incorporates three major factors, comprised of over a dozen variables derived from government reported data:

1) A proper measure of employment as it relates to labor force,
2) A measure of job/employment levels as compared with public assistance rolls, and;
3) A measure of personal income as compared with government tax receipts collected

Please watch the video now and see this months post on JOI here.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interest — Cooler or Warmer?

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interest? ” I discuss Rhode Island’s Cooler & Warmer fiasco. This rollout is yet another instance of government incompetence in the Ocean State. The arrogant response by Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration was perhaps even more telling; oozing contempt for those of us who honestly felt little connection with their marketing scheme. For years, our Center has been promoting family-friendly policies that directly benefit all Rhode Islanders, while opposing government-centric special interest deals for corporations, unions, and other insider groups. Rhode Island families deserve better than their elitist schemes.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interest? James Kennedy Moving Together 6/10 Boulevard

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interest?” I sit down with James Kennedy of Transport Providence and a member of Moving Together Providence to discuss the 6/10 Boulevard concept for Rhode Island. Kennedy weighs in on the numerous benefits of the boulevard concept including reconnecting the traditional city grid and savings for taxpayers. I raised concerns about the need for dedicated bus lanes. But, we both agree that there is a better option than the Green Gateway being proposed by the RI DOT. Has RhodeWorks become a bait-and-switch for the Ocean State?

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Testimony on Avoiding Tolls and Debt with a P3 PayGo Plan

Transcript:

Good evening. My name is Justin Katz. I’m the research director for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The amazing thing about infrastructure, and this whole issue, is that we’ve got roads that need repair, we’ve got workers who want to repair them, we’ve got a public that wants to pay to fix the roads — the problem is we’ve got special interests who already have the money we’re already paying to fix the roads that won’t let us do it. They’re holding that money hostage; they’re holding our roads hostage and holding the jobs hostage, saying, “You can’t do this unless you come up with new money somehow in your economy to fix this problem.

It brings to mind, actually, something a former chairman of this committee said recently, Steven Costantino, when somebody had suggested that he was in on the scandal of 38 Studios, and he said, “Well, look, I was just doing what I was tasked to do by my superiors,” meaning legislative leadership. That’s not how representative democracy works. The people upstairs are not your superiors; the people in Rhode Island are.

So, I’m basically here to give you the message that you have options. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to go out and say, “We had to fix the roads.” A lot of the benefits everybody agrees on: We need new infrastructure; we need repairs; we need maintenance. Don’t expect you’re going to be able to go out and say, “Well, we had to do it, and this was the only option,” because there are other options.

Continue reading on RIFreedom.org.

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Civility Deteriorates Further Under Mattiello and Raimondo

I’ve attended a lot of legislative hearings at the Rhode Island State House, and they’re often an exercise in endurance and almost always give one a sense that the plan is to dissuade the public from paying attention, as I described for WatchDog.org last May. Usually, though, the only real insult is the contempt and lack of serious that one would expect when the people conducting a long hearing know it’s just a dog and pony show.

House Finance under Raymond Gallison (D, Bristol, Portsmouth) has been particularly bad, though, and yesterday’s 9+ hour hearing on Governor Raimondo’s toll-and-borrow RhodeWorks plan was exacerbated by the attitude of Dept. of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, which drew multiple remarks on Twitter about his rudeness and arrogance from people present and watching on television. Goading his behavior, no doubt, was Gallison’s repeated practice of intervening on his behalf in exchanges with Republican committee members, even chastising Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) when Alviti had interrupted her. Also prodding Alviti on was the vocal backing of Michael Sabotini of the Laborers union (which recently employed Alviti) and a gaggle of other labor lobbyists in the audience.

Here’s a clip of the most egregious moment. The performance-art cackling you hear in the background is Sabotini and cronies:

Anybody who’s gone to a school committee or town council meeting during a labor dispute will recognize the bullying strategy of both Alviti and his backers. It’s rare at legislative hearings with executive-branch department heads, though, and it’s unfortunate to see us descending to this level. The governor and her transportation director should publicly apologize to Morgan and to the people of Rhode Island.

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James Cournoyer: Tolls – Resist the Urge to Create a Big Bang Wrapped in the Worn Flag of “Economic Growth” and “Creating Jobs”

Dear Members of the General Assembly,

Please vote against Governor Raimondo’s and Speaker Mattiello’s Rhodeworks plan that calls for Tolls and more Debt.

RI may have the worse roads and bridges, but we are also saddled with one of the highest Debt burdens in the nation – both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of Gross State Product. We simply do not need more debt.

The Governor explained to us in October that the RIDOT, which has a stunning $450+ million budget this year, was “dysfunctional” and that they “never produced start-to-finish budgets and schedules”. That is precisely the reason our roads are in such disrepair. It is NOT due to a lack of funding; rather, it is due to a lack of planning and oversight, and gross mismanagement.

Tolls will simply add to RI’s already notorious national reputation of being “anti-business”.

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