Written RSS feed for this section
justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Fear of the Unknown Beyond Big Government

If you follow Rhode Island politics at all, you’ve probably heard that independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo hit a rock while cruising his yacht very close to the shore in Westerly so beach-goers could see the campaign sign on its side when they looked up to see where the blaring marching band music was coming from.  In response to Trillo’s blaming of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for faulty maps, Rhode Island Ethics Commission Chairman and Brown professor Ross Cheit tweeted:

In the land of limited government, who produces the navigation charts?

I suggested in reply that Professor Cheit should ask his students about Google Maps and consider whether people who buy expensive boats would create a market for a similar product.  He pretended not to understand my meaning, but it’s pretty clear to me.  People who spend hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars on boats have a substantial interest in avoiding things that might damage them of leave them swimming for their lives.  Perhaps it wasn’t always true, but technology is such, now, that something like Google Maps for under the water would certainly be plausible.

It’s amazing how pervasive is this fear of the unknown, as if beyond Big Government there be dragons.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Progressive Red Tape Around Our Destinies

In harmony with my post, this morning, about the deadly incentives of socialized medicine, Dr. Bastiat has used the experience of a trip to the hair stylist for a compelling explainer of how progressive policies can win the political day, even as they suffocate people’s economic opportunity.  The woman cutting his hair told of how she’d wanted to go into business for herself, but the red tape and the costs it imposed transformed the start-up costs into too great of a gamble; the same was true for her husband, a mechanic.  Nonetheless, their attitude is that they can’t complain; “everything is ok.”

My Uncle Fred (Frederic Bastiat) described this as the seen versus the unseen. Progressives win elections because the benefits they provide are immediate and obvious. They give people free money with taxpayer dollars, or build highways with taxpayer dollars, or start new general assistance programs with taxpayer dollars. They’re working for you, and anyone with eyes can see it. The benefits provided by progressives are seen.

But the damage they cause is mostly unseen. In 30 years, Kaitlyn and her husband could have retired to a very nice community on the Gulf Coast and played golf for the rest of their lives. But they won’t. She’ll still be cutting hair for $12 an hour plus tips, and he’ll still be fixing lawn mowers for the city. Just like they are now.

They didn’t lose a fortune, because they never had the opportunity to earn one. Nothing happened. There they sit. And there they’ll stay.

Progressives may think they’re utopians who dream of a better tomorrow. But, in reality, they are the robotic defenders of the status quo. Everything stays the same because nothing happens. And when things don’t happen, those things don’t make the evening news. They didn’t happen at all, so there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is basically ok. And that’s the way it will stay.

Until it doesn’t.

One could also apply this principle across generations, as I did a bit with my late-Saturday post.  Maybe Kaitlyn and her husband would have been less interested in decades of golf and more interested in setting up their children for a better start than they’d had.  Either way, their children would have had the valuable experience of seeing their parents take control of their destinies, rather than depending on others to build their workplaces, as if “boss” were a separate class.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

A Predictable Scandal with Socialized Medicine

Anecdotes are generally unfair as markers of an entire system, but less so when they are in line with expectations.  Such is the case with Rupert Darwall’s Wall Street Journal commentary about fatalities in the British National Health Service (NHS).  Apparently, the latest scandalous report about parts of the system reveals one hospital’s “unlawful killing” of 650 patients and ensuing cover-up.

What makes this an indictment of the entire system is how precisely in line with the incentives of socialized medicine it is:

The report explains the almost identical dismissal of relatives’ concerns as a result of the “coincidence of interests” rather than conspiracy. When the state is a monopoly provider of health care, there is a political interest in suppressing bad news. In discussing whether to prosecute, one police officer noted the “perceived plight” of the NHS ahead of the 2001 general election. At a pivotal meeting of prosecutors closer to polling day, a government lawyer attacked Dr. Livesley and sabotaged the emerging prosecution case.

Proponents of socialized medicine condemn profit in health care, but a for-profit hospital does not have a financial interest in killing its patients. In the NHS, patients are a cost and troublesome ones can be put on a syringe driver, something a nurse told the police happened at Gosport.

When our society shifts responsibility to government, it tends to focus on the possible up-sides and assume that everybody involved will make genuinely selfless decisions, but what we really ought to watch is the change in incentives. Human beings find it all too easy to determine that something in their own interest is in the interest of everybody, by way of “the system” of which they are a part, even deceiving families while killing their loved ones.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Cardinal’s Remark Revealing of a Missing Role

A Catholic News Agency article by Ed Condon conveys various responses to this comment from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, explaining why “priests are not the best people to train others for marriage”:

“They have no credibility; they have never lived the experience; they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day….they don’t have the experience,” the cardinal added.

I can’t help but feel like the thing that Cardinal Farrell appears to miss is also missing in important ways throughout our culture.  In the life of a church, a priest should have a unique view of people throughout their lives, having helped to train children in the faith, helped couples through their marital challenges, and been with them in times of loss at the ends of their lives.  And don’t forget their experience taking believers’ confessions and then being able to observe them in their lives.

Sure, the extent to which this idealized image applies may be fading.  Fewer priests overseeing smaller parishes with more managerial responsibilities in a less-personally-connected world are not in the same position in which their predecessors may have been, and we shouldn’t shy from acknowledging that in order to save impressions.  My disagreement with the cardinal’s comment, however, is that he seems to be suggesting not that this is a problem to reverse, but that it’s a permanent change to which to adjust.

And so we drift further into isolation, turning to one-off quacks and clinicians who have financial incentive to tell us what we want to hear and professional incentives to advance a secular, materialist worldview, while we increasingly behave as if people with real experience have nothing to tell us and politicians have some keen insight into what our behavior ought to be.

I’d promote religious leaders as particularly well suited to play this role, but the heart of the loss is a figure who is expected to have the good of a community in central focus based on transcendent principles.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

A Plank in the Moderate Platform

Although one can’t really claim it to be a “moderate” idea, a policy pledge that Bill Gilbert sent out as a Moderate Party press release would be really fun to watch:

The Moderate Party’s candidate for RI Governor is advocating a tit-for-tat response to the current administration’s inappropriate use of eminent domain to seize private property for construction of a new PawSox stadium. “If elected I will work with the State Properties Committee to acquire Raimondo’s and Mattiello’s real estate for the public use and public good. I will convert these areas to public parks and open space forever named after each of them,” said Bill Gilbert.

Raimondo and Mattiello have threatened the rights of every tax-paying property owner in RI by passing a law that says they can use money never appropriated by the voters to confiscate a person’s land and give it away to billionaires, so they can build a PawSox stadium. Gilbert stated, “It’s governmental thuggery at its worst!”

Of course, if Gilbert were to win, Raimondo would simply be a private citizen, making the plan feel less appropriate, not to mention pointing to the reality that best way to impose a consequence and improve the function of government (and its respect for our rights) is to knock bad actors out of office.  In that regard, Gilbert’s candidacy is arguably at cross purposes with his intentions, creating the possibility that he’ll deprive a non-Raimondo candidate of victory by bleeding votes.

Indeed, the Moderate Party has arguably been one of the leading causes of Rhode Island’s inability to impose accountability on governors for two election cycles, now.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Massachusetts’s Education Warning Signs

I’ve been pointing out that Massachusetts took a turn away from the success of its education reform in the mid-2000s.  As in Rhode Island, reforms that sought to fix the education system in cooperation with the interests that had helped to undermine it produced political pressure to end the reforms, even though they were working.  This creates an educational ceiling.  Massachusetts started earlier and hit its ceiling in 2007, while Rhode Island’s slower and less-enthusiastic move hit its ceiling in 2011, as aggregated scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test show:

RIMA-allaverage-2000-2017

People in Massachusetts are starting to notice, too, as evidenced by Thomas Birmingham and William Weld’s op-ed in the Boston Globe:

In 2010, the Commonwealth replaced its best-in-the-nation English and math standards with national versions that cut the amount of classic literature and poetry that students learn by more than half and extends the time it takes to reach Algebra I, which is the key to higher math study.

Today Massachusetts has essentially the same English and math standards as Arkansas and Louisiana. Students in those states can’t possibly match Massachusetts’ performance, so the political reality is that the bar gets lowered so more can clear it.

The results of this change in education policy have been swift. After years of improvement, our progress has come to a halt. Massachusetts is among a minority of states whose NAEP scores have fallen since 2011 and others are catching up.

Backsliding isn’t the result of any one policy change, but a change in attitude that leads to multiple, related changes:  Accountability measures, charter schools, broader school choice, and higher standards all interact.  More importantly, all of them have opposing incentives for families/students and the entrenched interests like teachers unions.

As in this morning’s post on patriotism, the solutions all build on each other.  Reforming union policy to reduce the power of special interests will make accountability measures more plausible, while giving families high standards and alternatives will increase the resilience of the reform in the face of political pressure.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Business That Pickets Clients When They Choose Competitors

A number of policy questions come into play with GoLocalProv’s coverage of a labor union’s picketing a project receiving Commerce RI tax credits.

As a result of the investigation on 4/24/18 it has been substantiated that JS Interior Construction has misclassified 27 employees as independent contractors and has failed to pay wages to the employees in violation of R.I. General Law 28-14-19. Misclassification of Employees — (a) The misclassification of a worker whether performing work as a natural person, business, corporation or entity of any kind, as an independent contractor when the worker should be considered and paid as an employee shall be considered a violation of this chapter.

If I’m interpreting the story correctly, a builder hired workers as subcontractors in order to avoid burdensome laws that prevent workers from agreeing to work for less than an arbitrary level set by government.  Labor unions push for these laws in order to make their competition less competitive, and politicians agree to these laws in order to secure financial and boots-on-the-ground support from labor unions.

The first issue is that the state government shouldn’t be subsidizing private-sector projects in the state because bureaucrats have judged them worthy.  The second issue is that the state government shouldn’t be restricting the rights of Rhode Islanders to agree to pay rates agreeable to both parties, especially as a systemic subsidy to private labor unions.

But the eye catcher of this issue is the labor union picketing a project ultimately (I’d suggest) because a non-union shop got the job.  What would you think of a company that sent its employees to picket another business that was out-competing it — or, more accurately, to picket a client because he or she chose a different contractor?

That’s obviously offensive, but labor unions fit the progressive narrative and (more importantly) the progressive money-flow scheme, so it’s not only tolerated, but lauded.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

On Immigration, May We Reason in the Face of Emotion?

Richard August recently sent a letter to the editor of the Newport Daily News expressing a view that I’m not sure is permitted in Rhode Island:

The Border Patrol separates children under four conditions:

  • There is a suspicion that the adult is not the child’s parent.
  • There are indications of child abuse.
  • The adult has a record or is wanted for a felony here or in another country.
  • The parent(s) claiming political asylum.

To most rational people this seems reasonable. To the emotional left, it is horrific that there are about 2,500 kids separated from the adult who entered this country illegally with them.

I wonder how many people could put a number of children who’ve fallen into each group.  The news coverage and the subsequent political rhetoric absolutely gives the impression that almost all are in the last, which is the one in which separation is more a side-effect than a first order policy.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Having to Win the Culture War to Allow Pluralism

Rod Dreher posted a great comment from one of his readers that captures something important in what I would propose as the pretty typical conservative view:

In a weird way, I’m kind of angry on behalf of liberals, if that makes any sense, because it pisses me off that such fundamental questions can be decided by presidential elections or judicial nominations. Which goes back to why I’m a conservative: I don’t think many of these issues belong in the political realm in the first place, and when they do, I’d prefer they be dealt with at the lowest, most local level of government where it’s practical to do so.

In a country as large, diverse and populous as the United States, it is INSANE for one part of the country to dictate to another, vastly different part of the country how it shall conduct its affairs. I have absolutely no interest in telling people in San Francisco how to live their lives or govern themselves, but it feels like I have no choice because if I don’t, they’ll turn around and impose THEIR will on ME, and I have NO desire to live like San Franciscans. It’s crazy.

Conservatives come to these battles reluctantly, because outside some basic constitutional guarantees, we think all of the difficult questions that the country faces should be answered at the state… if not at the local or community… level.  In the past, I’ve presented the three basic freedoms that ought to be guaranteed at the federal level as the right to speak your mind, the right to work to change the government, and the right to leave.

Progressive zealots can’t abide anything like that.  Progressive non-zealots (what we used to think of as liberals) used to be able to do so, but it seems less and less feasible.  More and more, it seems, those on the Left can’t even differentiate between believing that somebody ought to have the right to do something and believing that it ought to be done.  How do we move forward as a pluralistic society if that isn’t a possibility?  Conservatives are beginning to come to the realization that we can’t.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Culturally Appropriating the Other’s Victim Status

The other day Republican Rhode Island Senator Elaine Morgan tweeted out the following, from her political competition for District 34:

I’m white. I have privilege. But today and for the next four years, I’m Muslim. Put me on a list.

In all honestly, I’m not inclined attack somebody for a show of solidarity.  The “I’m white. I have privilege.” thing is kind of silly, but if there is genuine persecution going on, there’s nothing wrong with an “I am Spartacus” movement.

That said, I’d like to know the rules.  Wouldn’t it be cultural appropriation for a privileged white person to usurp the victim status of a minority group, particularly in a society that places such a high value on victim status?  Evidence that the appropriator, in this case, places value on victim status arises in the thread of replies to her tweet, which includes her further explanation that she’s “never been given a hand up because [she’s] a woman.”

I’d request a clear guide on all of these matters, but I suspect not having clear rules is key to their value to progressives.  A fine appreciation of the ever-changing rules illustrates a deeper conformity than simple pronouncements of agreement and solidarity.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Whitewashing the Radicals to Make Them Representative

The headline to John Hill’s Providence Journal article alerts readers to the bias: “R.I. joins voices against separating families.”  In the view of the state’s major daily, these few hundred protesters represent the state.

With that as the underlying assumption, I suppose it isn’t surprising that Hill sanitizes the event so to make it palatable for those who aren’t as radical.  The only hint comes with this:

[Aarish Rojiani, of AMOR, the Alliance to Mobilize our Resistance,] added that it was no coincidence that the demonstration was held across the street from the ACI: Law-enforcement policies also separate families, he said.

For the real story, turn to comprehensive coverage from the progressive UpriseRI.  What Rojiani really meant when talking to the Providence Journal is that they want to end incarceration — that is, prisons.  Not only that, but these supposed representatives of Rhode Island want to get rid of borders and nations altogether.  That wasn’t just the view of fringe sign makers; a cheat sheet of chants that the organizers handed out puts “No borders, no nations! Stop attacking migration” as the very first one.  (Note that it’s not “immigration,” even though the rhythm begs for the extra syllable; they think our borders are illegitimate.)

And so it goes.  When conservatives rally, the mainstream narrative presents us as strange, extremist creatures.  When radicals rally, the mainstream narrative whitewashes their extremity to make them seem like the voice of goodness.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Trusting Each Other to Keep the Economic Ship Right

Yesterday, the Newport Daily News ran an op-ed of mine

Lots of smart people think [about the social upheaval on the horizon when technology makes work obsolete], so I hesitate to admit that my opinion is that this really shouldn’t be such a difficult or scary topic. I’d humbly suggest that, in the excitement of prognostication, those smart people are missing a central economic principle — namely, that the free market itself is the greatest form of wealth redistribution. …

Locally, Rhode Islanders should contemplate the possibility that our location and size could make us a leading innovator in this healthy form of wealth distribution — once more a global powerhouse. All it would take is enough trust in each other to break the hold of insiders who sell the promise of economically protecting us from one another.

Always remember that it is in the interests of a lot of powerful forces to frighten us into over-correcting the ship in the direction they want us to go.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Rules Against Bigotry Can’t Be a One-Way Door

The principle of “turnabout is fair play” applies to a story Glenn Reynolds noticed, of a University of Michigan-Flint economics professor who has asked Northeastern University, in Boston, to investigate whether one of its Women’s, Gender and Sexual Studies professors violated Title IX by publicly expressing hatred for all men:

“She has not only publically demonized and belittled all males at Northeastern University, she called out publically for the universal hatred of all men, including all men at your university,” [Mark Perry] wrote. “That makes Ms. Walters a confirmed sexist and bigot in violation of Title IX and your university’s own stated policies that prohibit such discrimination.”

Perry suggested that Northeastern should prevent [Suzanna] Walters from teaching male students, or have sway on decisions relating to male colleagues in her department, and be forced to partake in diversity training/anger management courses to address her sexism.

The humor of Professor Perry’s request (and the poignancy, even if we see no humor) resides in the fact that the door of bigotry is only supposed to swing one way.  As we see every year in Rhode Island, when Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo discriminates against school boys in her “governor for a day” contest, progressives really don’t believe that rules and mores against discrimination apply to their own beliefs.  By definition, in their minds, they are free of such taints.  To wit: “I am not a bigot.  Therefore, my beliefs cannot be bigoted.”

But the double standard cannot hold, and those of us who maintain that the entire scheme of political correctness and the punishment of speech and beliefs is wrongheaded shouldn’t be shy about challenging it in its own terms, as Perry has done.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Assumptions in the Elimination of Parental Rights

An advocacy-as-news article from Megan Mitchell, a reporter/anchor for WLWT in Ohio, inadvertently brings into stark relief a flawed assumption and deadly blind spot in the promotion of transgenderism among children.  Teresa Schrader supports the decision of her daughter, Riggins, to present as a boy:

“I know my transition was easier because of my family and friends, but I also know that other kids like me don’t have it as easy because they don’t have the support,” said Riggins.

The new bill, proposed by Ohio Rep. Thomas Brinkman (R), from Mt. Lookout, would require school and hospital staff to inform a parent if a child indicates they aren’t sure about their gender.

Transgender advocates say the bill can create an unsafe environment for transgender children who aren’t supported by their family.

“The suicide rate for transgender kids is around 40%. So who wants their kid to possibly commit suicide because they’re not feeling comfortable with who they are or their not feeling supported?” said Schrader.

In an argument over legislation that would require teachers and therapists to inform parents of their children’s gender dysphoria, the party asking what parent wants his or her child to commit suicide should be the one insisting that parents have a right to know what’s going on with their children.  Schrader is assuming not only that satisfying the transgender impulse can be the right answer, but that it should be assumed always to be the right answer if the child with the dysphoria thinks it is, and that some parents might actually be willing to risk his or her suicide to disagree.

The more dreadful point, though, is the one less remarked upon.  The implicit argument is that schools and therapists should help to push children — children in a group that is more prone to suicide — into a situation in which they’re deceiving their parents about something supposedly central to their identities, possibly changing their own biology behind their parents’ backs.

A reasonable argument might exist that the legislation should be amended to account for those extreme and rare circumstances in which a parent can be excluded from the notice, but even getting that far is apparently beyond consideration.  Parents are villains until proven woke.

Rhode Islanders should pay attention, because policies being promulgated at the state and local levels infringe on parents’ rights in exactly the way Representative Brinkman is striving to remedy in Ohio.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Hoping for a Janus Effect on the Cost of RI Government

Jason Richwine notes, on National Review’s Corner, that the Janus decision looks likely to help bring public-sector compensation back toward private-sector reality:

… there is indeed a correlation between compulsory union dues and public-sector compensation. Based on data from the report that Andrew and I wrote in 2014, state workers in compulsory states were paid 17.0 percent more on average than comparable private workers, while state workers in non-compulsory states were paid just 5.6 percent more.

Take a look at Rhode Island’s position on his related chart:

 

How much more economic activity would we be experiencing if it weren’t for this premium taxed out of our economy, and how much more work could we get done on government services and maintenance if it weren’t so expensive?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

In Rhode Island, Everything’s in a Name

The Rhode Island House Republicans’ Twitter account tweeted out a bit of deep insight from Mike O’Reilly of the Federal Communications Commission on C-SPAN:

“I was dealing with Rhode Island. They decided they were not going correct it, withstanding all the promises early in the year. They rename the program for the following year, thinking it’s going to fix the problem.” FCC Commissioner @mikeofcc

He’s talking about the 911 fee that the state government has come under scrutiny for misappropriating, but this is common in Rhode Island.  After 38 Studios, the General Assembly changed the name of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to the Commerce Corporation and, voila, all is right with Rhode Island policy.  In the season of education reform, Rhode Island shifted some names and org charts of state-level education boards around and all of a sudden children began a new educational voyage… I guess.

Once again the reminder:  Elected officials will keep doing this stuff until it stops working for them.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

“Real Compassion” Dispenses with Entitlement

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is right:

Carson told the story of a young woman who voiced her frustration at HUD for not finding her large family a government-subsidized apartment fast enough.

“In one group, a young lady stood up and she was very angry that it had taken the housing authority so long to find her a five-bedroom apartment because she had all these children and was even more angry because the dining room set had a scratch on the table. But as I was thinking about that, I said, this young woman probably has never known any other life. Her mother probably lived here and her grandmother probably lived here and she doesn’t even understand what is out there and what the American dream is all about,” Carson said at the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition “Road to Majority” conference.

“And that is one of the reasons that you will see from the new HUD, such an emphasis on self-sufficiency, because I think that is real compassion – getting people out of poverty and helping them to find the pathway. It is a double win because for each person you get out of that dependent situation, it is one less person you have to pay for and it’s one more taxpaying contributing member of society,” he added. “So this is the way we have to begin to think about these things.”

We’re altogether too comfortable with a sense of entitlement these days, and that’s across the board.  Yes, the woman in Carson’s anecdote was too comfortable with the notion that taxpayers should quickly supply her with whatever accommodations she might fill with children, but the social elite are too comfortable with the notion that they are entitled to whatever jobs they want and to have their worldview enacted into universal law.  Some established businesses are too comfortable with the notion that they are entitled to continue along without competition, and some entrepreneurs are too comfortable with the notion that taxpayers should help them rev up their endeavors.

Spiritually, we’re built for a world in which nothing is assured.  God told Adam that it would only be by the “sweat of your face” that he would eat,” and He told Cain that “you can be [sin’s] master,” “if you do well [and] can hold up your head.”  That gives us responsibility and possibility.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

In Search of “Agency Fee” Refunds

Here’s an interesting twist in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, yesterday:

Public-sector workers across the country are seeking to recover back wages they paid to labor organizations in the event the Supreme Court declares mandatory union fees unconstitutional.

Class action suits have been filed against eight unions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, California, and the state of Washington, accusing individual unions of violating workers’ rights by collecting mandatory dues payments. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on a groundbreaking case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which challenges the constitutionality of forcing public-sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The suits argue that any public-sector employee who participated in forced dues systems should receive financial “redress” from labor organizations.

Let’s stipulate that the number of public-sector employees in this category is probably pretty small in Rhode Island.  If not being in a union saves only a little bit of money or none at all because you have to pay an “agency fee” for the work the union does on your behalf anyway, you might as well be a member and get the full benefits, whatever they are.  One source puts the number of agency fee paying teachers under the National Education Association of Rhode Island at only 146, for instance.  I did some research on this a few years back, and although I can’t find my notes, that sounds about right.

Still, being forced to pay a private organization in order to keep your public-sector job is a sufficiently egregious violation of an employee’s rights that those in this situation should seek a return of the money that was taken away from them unconstitutionally.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Thinking Through Trillo’s Campaign Finance Complaint

Billboards promoting Allan Fung’s candidacy may or may not violate campaign finance law, but Joe Trillo’s formal complaint about them raises questions that Rhode Islanders really should consider:

According to Trillo’s campaign, Fung is using several illuminated digital billboard signs in North Providence, which he did not report on his campaign finance reports.

“Allan Fung has been utilizing three corporate owned, illuminated digital billboard signs along major thoroughfares in North Providence, since December 3, 2017, but never officially reported paying for any such advertising on his past or present campaign finance reports. This is a violation of Rhode Island campaign finance laws, and yet another example of Allan Fung’s clear and intentional mismanagement of his campaign finances,” said Trillo.

Here is the current state of campaign finance law in the Ocean State, based on my own reading and experience dealing with the Board of Elections Campaign Finance Unit: If the candidate paid for the billboards, they would have to be listed as an expense on his reports.  If the owners of the billboards put them up without consulting with the candidate, the candidate should report them as an in-kind contribution, and the owners should possibly file reports as if they are political action committees (PACs).

That last situation is patently unconstitutional.  The state government of Rhode Island cannot regulate and limit residents’ free speech rights just because what they say supports a candidate for office.  That is true no matter the motivation or whether the person asked the candidate for input before expressing his support publicly.

This same logic transfers directly to the candidate.  If it falls under free speech rights to express support for another person, and it absolutely does, then it must fall under free speech rights to express support for one’s own candidacy.

In the abstract (although probably not under current law as adjudicated by the Supreme Court), one could possibly argue that states can regulate the money that people give to candidates and how they spend it, but restrictions on anything having to do with speech are clear infringements on our rights.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

It’s Wednesday; Do You Know Where Your Governor Is?

Rhode Islanders wondering where their governor is need only turn the news media… in California:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is set to hold fundraisers for her re-election campaign Wednesday in Hancock Park and Studio City.

The first fundraiser will be a noon lunch at the Hancock Park home of Cynthia Telles, the director of the Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is set to attend as a “special guest,” according to an invitation obtained by City News Service. …

The second fundraiser will be from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Studio City home of Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali.

Tickets for both fundraisers are $1,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed under Rhode Island law…

Telles is a big-time Democrat insider and enthusiastic board member of for- and non-profit organizations, like GM.  Naftali seems to be most notable as a fundraiser for Democrats, including, recently, Maxine Waters, who is currently under fire for encouraging mob action against Trump administration officials.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Casino Money May Go to Pay for Town Council’s Lawsuit Gambles

So, Tiverton has this big influx of revenue coming with the Twin River casino, and it sure does appear that the Town Council could lose a lot of it in court, as residents and local businesses win lawsuits related to reckless or poorly executed enforcement actions.  Here’s one instance, from Tiverton Fact Check:

The town approved an incorrect site plan for McLaughlin’s garage, allowing him to build it too close to his property lines, and later told him to take it down.  In February 2016, the town voted to hire a demolition crew one week after a court order allowed it to do so and knocked the garage down, even though litigation was ongoing.  Rather than wait for McLaughlin to exhaust all of his court appeals, the Town Council decided it was an urgent matter to remove the garage, which was, after all, still 16 feet from one property line and 22 from another.  It had to send a message to the people of Tiverton.

The problem was that the wrong town body brought the suit, and now McLaughlin is moving forward in search of millions of dollars in damages.  One wonders how much less likely an incompetent town government would be to insist on arrogant shows of power if it wouldn’t always be able to simply pass on the cost to taxpayers.

Quantcast