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

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.

NOHPVmandateRI-featured

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.

piano-featured

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

mike-stenhouse-avatar

RI Foundation’s Sneak-Attack on Free-Speech

Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?

It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.

As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.

In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us – that we should just “stop complaining”.

Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it?

I don’t think so.

It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped.

Tivertonbanner-featured

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.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

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.

Budget-Banner-featured

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.
GrantsBanner-featured

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!

MD2013h

Rhode Islanders Killed Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

Sgt. Gregory A. Belanger
Sgt. Charles T. Caldwell
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara
Spc. Michael Andrade
CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth
Capt. Matthew J. August
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini
Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson
Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Serio
Lance Cpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV
Sgt. Christopher S. Potts
Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette
2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Cpl. Brian R. St. Germain
Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly
Sgt. Moises Jazmin
Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas
Sgt. Michael R. Weidemann
Spc. Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV
Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu
Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Oakley
Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino
Spc. Dennis C. Poulin
Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe
Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill
Master Sgt. David L. Poirier
1st Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna Jr.

MD2013g

Remember

 
 

MD2016a
 
Boots on the Ground Memorial
Roger Williams Park, Providence, Rhode Island; May 29, 2016

 
 

UberOSCbanner810x300-featured

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?

TransgenderOSC810x300-featured

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.

EthicsComOSC810x300-featured

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.

StateOfStateBanner2-051116-featured

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.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

UPDATED: A School Musical and Pushing the Envelope with Your Children

The focal story in this week’s Sakonnet Times begins by noting that Tiverton High School’s now-running student musical marks the first time any high school in the entire state has performed Hair in the half century since it was released.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same reason the school felt the need to put a disclaimer on its fliers, warning in bolded all caps: “FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.”

Younger brothers and sisters of the performers… sorry, you’re out of luck.  The public high school is apparently no place for children in Tiverton.

Drama director Gloria Crist notes that she modified the nudity scene, replacing the potential child pornography with something involving glow sticks.  She also notes that there won’t be any depictions of drug use actually on the stage.  As for the script’s profanity, Crist says she took some out, but “kept the rest in, with taste of course.”

Those familiar with the musical — and I had the soundtrack memorized at one point — might question the judgment of taste by somebody who would choose this play for a school production involving children as young as 14 or 15.  I’ve requested from the district a song list and the libretto but have not yet received any reply.

According to Crist, Tams-Witmark Music Library, which owns the rights to Hair, refused to let the school cut the nudity scene, but allowed the glow-stick creativity.  One wonders whether the school was permitted to cut some of the songs, like “Sodomy” (“Masturbation can be fun/Join the holy orgy Kama Sutra everyone”); “Initials,” in which LBJ takes the IRT and sees “the youth of America on LSD,” or “The Bed.”  If individual parents want to validate this sort of content for their own children, that’s one thing, but for a public high school to be giving it a seal of approval is wholly inappropriate.

No doubt much of the most objectionable content has been removed or softened, but even so, “clever work-arounds,” as the article puts it, for content that goes too far even for radicals have a tendency to invite curiosity, especially among children with access to the Internet wherever they go, carrying the implied approval of the public school system.

Even edited, there’s simply no way to tease out the glorification of sex and drug culture in Hair.  Rhode Island is the sixth-highest state in the nation for drug overdose deaths, according to the CDC.  Addressing the counterculture of the ’60s in an academic setting is appropriate, to be sure, but Hair revels in it, promotes it.  Indeed, Crist seems to intend the explicit propagandizing of the town’s children: “It has been so powerful to watch them get it. But they do. They understand what freedom of choice is, social justice…”

This sort of decision by the school department certainly affirms the decisions of many parents who choose private schools for their children, but parents who lack the resources are stuck.  Frankly, if public school is now about pushing the envelope in this way, the case is even stronger for allowing parents to use the funds set aside for their children to make better decisions.

UPDATE (5/19/16; 8:11 a.m.)

Given a resurgence of attention to this post, I should note that the school administration did send me a song list, and I have watched the performance (although the video on YouTube has since been switched to private).  Busy days and other priorities combined with indecision about whether it would be appropriate to publicize an unofficial video of the performance led to the delay of this update.

The songs “Sodomy” and “The Bed,” described above, were removed from the script, but “Initials” was kept, as were other inappropriate songs, like “Hashish,” which lists drugs and ends with “s-e-x, y-o-u” and a euphoric “wow.”  Much of the sexual content of the musical remained, the anti-Catholic parts were actually more aggressive than I would have expected.

SOSBanner1-050416-featured

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.

stenhouse-katz-042816-featured

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.

coolerandwarmer_Banner_featured

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.