Search results: government plantation
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Support for Lots of Immigration, Not Necessarily Altruistic

Funny how moral principle in politics seems so often to align with self interest.  Here’s Byron York in the Washington Examiner:

Why is Washington State mounting such a vigorous challenge to President Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending non-American entry from seven terrorism-plagued countries? Of course there are several lawsuits against the president, and there are lots of motives among the various litigants. But Washington State’s is the suit that stopped the order, at least temporarily. And a look at the state’s case suggests that, behind high-minded rhetoric about religious liberty and constitutional protections, there is a lot of money at stake.

Judging by the briefs filed by Washington State, as well as statements made by its representatives, some of the state’s top priorities in challenging Trump are: 1) To ensure an uninterrupted supply of relatively low-wage H-1B foreign workers for Microsoft and other state businesses; 2) To ensure a continuing flow of high-tuition-paying foreign student visa holders; and 3) To preserve the flow of tax revenues that results from those and other sources.

And don’t forget Medicaid, SNAP, public education, and other federally subsidized welfare programs available to legal and (probably) illegal immigrants on the government plantation.

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School Choice Makes Families Consumers, Not Commodities

A great short report for which I’ve done some research, but which I never manage to get to, would look at the effects of Vermont’s legacy school choice program.  Given the long-rural history of the state, some districts offer students actual school choice, including to private schools, and a key finding that Rhode Island homeowners should find interesting is that property values go up significantly in areas with choice.  Geoffrey Norman doesn’t offer more than a nod to that dynamic in a recent article in The Weekly Standard, but he does use the current debate in Vermont to make a key, fundamental point (emphasis added):

So, school choice is not—and could never be—supported by the education bureaucracy. It threatens not just their convictions but their livelihoods. Where parents can take their kids and the public money that is being spent on them out of one school and move them, and it, to another—well, this threatens the entire system.

Why it might even, in the dark vision of one of the prominent Vermont opponents of school choice, “turn children into commodities.”

Which of course stands the whole thing on its head. Commodities don’t make choices. They are manipulated, packaged, and bundled. As are students in the grip of the industrial-education complex.

What Norman is touching on, here, is the government plantation.  Attracting people to an area who are likely to need government assistance, binding them to their region with government dependency, and locking their children in government schools creates a captive audience with little power to affect the services their receiving.  Again, “commodities don’t make choices,” but when human beings are “manipulated, packaged, and bundled,” they lose the authority to do anything but sit on the shelf until they’re of use to some powerful consumer.

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Stop Putting Half Our Eggs in the Federal Basket

Hey, here’s a thought: Maybe the State of Rhode Island should stop acting like a subsidiary of the federal government and start acting like a sovereign state that thrives when its people thrive.  If this isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what could be:

While other states – including Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Montana and Kentucky – are more federal aid-heavy than Rhode Island, a newly-released analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, of 2014 census data, found Rhode Island 16th highest in the nation in terms of how much of its budget is financed by federal dollars. In that year, 34.7 percent.

Anyone worried? The answer: You betcha. But some more openly worried than others.

In large part, this is the government plantation, but it’s also indicative of the government’s crowding out the private sector as an economic competitor, too.

Any wise investor upon having a scare with a particular stock would figure out the importance of diversifying.  It’s time for Rhode Islanders to stop relying more on government as an economic driver and start relying on each other.

And don’t let fear of President Trump specifically be the end of your consideration of the matter.  Think about how vulnerable to real tyranny it makes us that our supposed leaders apparently have to make decisions about governance in order to keep the money flowing.  Everything else, from culture to global warfare, could easily take a back seat to that bottom line.

As individuals, families, and a state, being dependent makes us weak and vulnerable.

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RI Should Be Embarrassed of Federal Dependency

Morgan Scarboro of the Tax Foundation has taken a look at the states’ reliance on the federal government when it comes to taking money from other Americans and padding their own budgets:

In fiscal year 2014, over 60 percent of federal spending in the states went to benefits payments to individuals, including Social Security and Medicare. Aid is also given to states for education, transportation, housing, agriculture and more. Medicare is the largest grant program and continues to grow. Federal aid to states as a whole also grew 25 percent (adjusted for inflation) from 2005 to 2014.

Rhode Island is in the top group of states, with 34.7% of our state revenue transfered to us from the federal budget, more than any state this side of West Virginia other than Maine, which is poorer. This is the government plantation, and it ought to be an embarrassment to Rhode Islanders.

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Census Numbers and Replacement Rhode Islanders

New U.S. Census estimates of states’ populations are out, and Rhode Island just like last year, experienced a small increase in population.  And once again the details of the numbers give reason for concern.

For the second year in a row, total population increased by a smaller number.  That is, 2014’s increase was 1,447, 2015’s was 1,127, and 2016’s is 819.  The natural population increase resulting from having more births than deaths was the smallest since 2010.

Of more concern, though, is that more Rhode Islanders continue to leave for other states than to head in the other direction, but those departures are over-compensated with immigration from other countries.  This year, we lost 3,784 Rhode Islanders to other states but gained 4,203 from other countries.  (Illegal immigrants would be included in these numbers.)  According to the Census, Rhode Island lost 28,565 residents to other states but imported 25,406 residents from other countries.

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Putting aside the fact that people who arrived from other countries may have later left for other states, Rhode Island has, roughly speaking, swapped out 2.4% of its population for people from other countries.  One needn’t be xenophobic to worry that this trend might not be ideal.

As the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index report suggests, the Ocean State’s policy decisions are pushing our neighbors to leave.  Meanwhile, the government plantation model of the state’s major industry (government) creates incentive for elected officials and bureaucrats to seek to import clients who’ll require their services (and provide them votes).

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Family Prosperity: A Needed Change for Rhode Island

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today issued the Ocean State’s iteration of the American Conservative Union’s Family Prosperity Index report, making Rhode Island the second state explored in detail.  An associated Web site for the state is also up now.

The index incorporates a broad variety of demographic and economic data to compare how well states are performing for the families who live within their borders, and not surprisingly, Rhode Island ranks an abysmal 48th.  From the report:

… the FPI research suggests that economic hardship can often lead to adverse personal or social consequences, and vice versa. The issue of drug abuse, which has long been a concern for families and for the business community in Rhode Island, provides a clear example of this linkage. As we will discuss later, Rhode Island ranks worst in the nation in terms of illicit drug use. To its credit, in 2016, Rhode Island took action to address this disturbing trend.

With the Ocean State ranking nationally in the bottom 10 on the FPI Economics index, as well as the entrepreneurship and unemployment sub-indexes, it isn’t a surprise that the associated personal fnancial distress has an impact on its residents’ personal behavior.

An introductory report is obviously just a starting point, and the initiative’s data for the whole country is online already in interactive format.  We’ve already been making use of it, in this space, noting for example evidence that Rhode Island’s economic and civic reality is actually spurring two conflicting reactions among its people: one to retrench toward healthy behavior and one to compensate for difficulties with unhealthy behavior.  Unfortunately, our elected officials seem more inclined to implement policies that favor the unhealthy behavior and impede the healthy (arguably to fertilize the government plantation).

To help make the case that Rhode Island needs a new direction, the Rhode Island site is encouraging Rhode Islanders to tell their own stories, whether negative or positive, and is hosting a leadership forum in cooperation with the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University on January 17 (RSVP at the link).

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Using Smartphones to Access Public Welfare Benefits

Yes, it’s arguably unfair to react to the phrase I’ve italicized in the following quotation from a recent article by Christine Dunn in the Providence Journal without the context of a longer, more subtle conversation, but it did jump out at me:

More than 13,000 people applied for housing vouchers in less than a week in November, when Rhode Island Housing and the Providence Housing Authority jointly opened their waiting lists, the Rhode Island Housing Board of Commissioners was told Thursday morning.

The online application process was a success, and most people were able to apply on their mobile telephones.

It’s a truism of the welfare state that, no matter what the government is technically subsidizing, taxpayers are actually subsidizing the least-necessary goods and services the recipient purchases.

Of course, used properly, smartphones and the related data plans can be valuable tools helping people to advance in their lives.  Absent some structural incentive, though — or even just a little bit of stigma to being on the public dole — the public must wonder whether we’re subsidizing technology mainly for entertainment and so that beneficiaries can better access more public benefits.

Treating welfare recipients as consumers of packages of public products leads to the government plantation.

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Public-Options-Only School Choice Relies on Irrational Prejudice

Notice anything about the recent op-ed from RI Education Commissioner Ken Wagner?

Some claim that charters take money that is owed to district schools. In my view, the money is not “owed” to district schools or any other education provider. Local, state and national taxpayers raised this money for a specific purpose: to educate the youth of a community. We have an obligation to ensure the money serves the children rather than simply maintains the current system.

This is the core of the argument that I’ve been proffering for total school choice.  Public dollars aren’t collected and expended for the maintenance of a government-branded school system, but for the cause of educating the public.  Whatever structure or method will accomplish that goal most effectively and economically is the proper one.

Indeed, just about every argument in Wagner’s essay would apply to education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, or any other school choice vehicle and could be added to the Bright Today list of myths.

It is only through the devotion of insiders to the status quo and their control of public information that this point remains sufficiently obscure that Wagner doesn’t feel he has to address it.  The people are starting to figure it out, though, and it is yet another area in which those of us who really wish to move Rhode Island forward for the benefit of its people need only guide their natural conclusions.

Consider Dan McGowan’s WPRI article on public testimony regarding the Achievement First charter school expansion proposal before the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.  The article is 17 paragraphs long.  Here’s the 13th:

But the majority of individuals who testified about Achievement First Tuesday encouraged the council to back the expansion.

That is, after 12 paragraphs — three-quarters of the article — conveying the points of view of insiders, who are in the minority, McGowan finally gets to what should arguably have been the headline of the article: that people want school choice.  When all is said, the only argument to prevent the people from using public funds for their preferred public policy is maintenance of the government plantation.

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Choosing Workers and Independence in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse often refers to the value of “a paycheck, not a welfare check.”  Rich Lowry suggests President-elect Donald Trump is on the same page:

Trump hammered away at the true bottom line of the economy for most people. Mike Konczal, a fellow with the liberal Roosevelt Institute, went back and listened to Trump stump speeches after the election to better understand how the mogul pulled off his upset. Konczal notes that Trump “never mentions poverty. And while he talks a lot about reducing taxes, he never talks about increasing transfers, redistribution, or access to core goods. He talks about wages, full stop.”

And that’s the key to Trump’s economics. If you squint just right, you can see a strategy. It is to increase growth through traditional Republican means (i.e., tax reform and deregulation) at the same time, he aims to directly create a tighter labor market through soaking up labor via an infrastructure program and reducing foreign competition by discouraging outsourcing and squeezing immigration.

Related principles applied to Rhode Island would focus on workers both by decreasing the incentive for them to enter into dependency on government programs and by increasing the resources and liberty at their disposal to expand their work and, if they choose, build their own businesses (that is, reducing taxes and regulations).  Instead, the champions of the status quo in the Ocean State are striving to make more of us  dependent on government (through, e.g., UHIP and continually expanding social welfare programs), to attract people to the state who will require government assistance (for the government plantation), and to give government-selected businesses an edge against their local competition by taxing others more to tax the favored companies less.

This is unambiguously the choice Rhode Islanders face, and it has to be made again and again.  For example, infrastructure projects to “soak up labor” are sorely needed, both for jobs and for public safety, but the choice is whether to increase the tax/toll/debt burden or to redirect funds that currently foster dependency to help independent workers.

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Monthly Tracking Will Be Welfare Boom

Pay attention to this tidbit from a Providence Journal article by Alisha Pina:

The majority, said Cindy Machado, chief human service policy and system specialist, were here because they want to know why their benefits were cut. Of the 97,000 receiving food assistance, 3,000 have been deemed ineligible or didn’t give the required paperwork in time to keep getting help.

Another 500 people on Thursday had their state health insurance cut for similar reasons. UHIP has a program that allows the state to check monthly if residents are still eligible for the insurance. Notices were sent to those in question, and time was given before benefits were ended. Officials had hoped that the program would save about $16 million this fiscal year, but delaying the launch by two months decreased the projected savings by $2.4 million.

Right now, it sounds like a money saver that 3,500 welfare beneficiaries were found to be ineligible, but we’re on an economic upswing, and all of the state’s welfare programs aren’t fully integrated, yet.  When the upswing stops and, more importantly, when all government programs are linked for this month-to-month assessment, UHIP will become a way to maximize payments, not minimize them.

Through a creepily invasive “program” that keeps a monthly profile of all Rhode Island residents — at least those below some income threshold that we might call the “dependence line” — the plan is for the government to actively sign up new “clients” as they become eligible, sucking a maximum number of people into the system.  Again, we’re all either potential produce or tax-money laborers for the government plantation.

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The Story of Rhode Island in the Trump-Clinton Divide

The other day, the Providence Journal published an interesting map showing that, much like the country as a whole, Rhode Island’s presidential votes were split by region, with the coastal municipalities’ going to Hillary Clinton and the interior going to Donald Trump.  The image oversimplifies, of course; several cities and towns in the northeast of the state don’t touch the coast, and Charlestown and Tiverton went to Clinton without her winning even half of the vote.

Reporter Paul Edward Parker touch on some of the nuance in the numbers:

Four of the five communities with the highest median household incomes voted for Clinton, as did seven of the eight communities with the lowest incomes.

Essentially, Clinton drew her support from the wealthiest and poorest places, while Trump drew his from the middle.

Laying this out in more detail arguably tells the story of Rhode Island’s current condition in a single chart:

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In that red U, we see both the story of the “productive class” and the workings of the “company state.”

Refer back to this 2009 post on Anchor Rising, and you’ll see that the bottom of the U is almost exactly in line with the population that has been leaving Rhode Island throughout this millennium.  As those Rhode Islanders flee the state, those who remain are increasingly part of the “company state” or “government plantations” model, wherein highly paid service providers in and around government have incentive to increase the number of clients requiring subsidized services as a pretense for taking money away from those above the line for subsidies.

This model harms the economy and drives people away because it reduces the incentive and opportunity to work.  The “productive class” is characterized by the economic role of the people who tend to be within it.  It’s the broad class of people whose main function in the economy is to turn their effort and ingenuity into money that they can use to support and advance their families.

This trend is terrible for a state for a multitude of reasons, but two stand out as particularly profound and overarching.  The first is that the “productive class” is the group whose activities are the foundation of a thriving and advancing society.  They are the dynamism and hope for the future.

The second is that the erosion of this tier of the economy as a source of balance eliminates political competition. A loss of political competition will inevitably lead to a political monolith that is not only incapable of correcting itself, but also susceptible to simple, wasteful, and demoralizing corruption.

Those who sympathize with the high points of the U really need to reevaluate the long-term good of their policies.  The rest of us need to redouble our efforts to turn the tide.

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Decisions in Federal Cooperation and the Direction of Profit

Something occurred to me while reading about the City of Providence’s refusal to go along with the federal government’s decision to increase the extent to which it enforces immigration laws:

Commissioner Pare said Providence won’t join a program that trains local cops to work as immigration officers. …

“Local law enforcement should not be immigration officers nor an arm of ICE,” Pare told Eyewitness News. “We will not be involved in the investigation or enforcement of immigration laws. This requires comprehensive immigration reform and should not be the responsibility of local law enforcement.”

Fair enough, but would the city participate in, say, an entrapment scheme involving the federal government and other agencies to net tens of millions of dollars in corporate money outside of their regular budgets?  Or is the government profit in illegal immigration all in allowing it to go on?

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Influencing Elections for Personal Gain and Power

The Rhode Island Democrat Party and other left-wingers have been trying to make a big deal out of the fact that conservatives aren’t entirely sitting on their hands during this election cycle:

On Thursday, former Democratic party chairman William Lynch, now senior adviser, issued a news release calling on voters to “reject special interest money” from “outside right-wing organizations” trying to influence the election.

He pointed to $90,294 in combined independent expenditures from the Roosevelt Society, led by former Republican Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop, and the Gaspee Project, founded by activist Mike Stenhouse, and suggested they were being secretly funded by the trucking industry.

That’s two organizations spending on a range of candidates and issues.  A GoLocalProv article out today actually puts the groups’ combined spending at $60,850, but either way, the idea that this represents some invasion of voter sanctity by self-interested parties is absurd.  Just look through the bigger spenders on GoLocal’s list:

  • $335,000 from the URI Foundation and URI Alumni Association to push voters to put taxpayers in $72,937,126 of debt (principal and interest) for spending on URI programs
  • $175,000 from two individuals directly involved in ProvPort to push voters to put taxpayers in $112,210,962 of debt to expand their port and do work at the one in Quonset
  • $100,000 from United Way, as mentioned on this site yesterday, to push voters to put taxpayers in $80,150,687 of debt to fund the local affordable housing industry
  • $1,700,000 from Twin River to promote state and local ballot questions to allow a new casino in Tiverton
  • $146,500 from Alan Hassenfeld, partly to push for passage of ethics reform, but more to back candidates who’ll work to infringe on Rhode Islanders’s Second Amendment rights
  • And rounding out GoLocal’s top 10 list is Planned Parenthood, with $25,712 to promote politicians who’ll fight to continue allowing the killing of babies before every inch of them is clear of their mothers’ bodies

Anybody who’s concerned about the use of government to take away people’s property and rights should be much more concerned about money for debt and left-wing policies.  Voters should also be concerned about a party and ideology that tries to make it seem scandalous that those who disagree with them have the audacity to participate in the political process.  They’d rather be able to take your property and your rights without any opposition.

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Press Conference & Request By Concerned Citizen, Bill Murphy, to Testify about Unfairness of Pension Settlement

[The following was received via e-mail this afternoon.]

Concerned Citizen Seeks to Testify about Unfairness of Pension Settlement to Taxpayers at Court Hearing Tuesday, Schedules Press Conference to Explain Request to the Public

Concerned citizen Dr. William J. Murphy will hold a press conference in front of the Frank Licht Judicial Complex at 250 Benefit Street in Providence at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 to explain to the public the reasons for his request to testify about the unfairness of the pension settlement to taxpayers at the ongoing fairness hearings in Superior Court. Dr. Murphy will deliver a statement emphasizing that the terms of the settlement itself as well as the impropriety of the court-supervised secret negotiation process that produced it have significantly harmed the financial welfare of taxpayers, violated the political rights of citizens, and severely damaged the public interest.

(EAST PROVIDENCE, RI – May 25, 2015) – Dr. William J. Murphy, a concerned resident of East Providence, has petitioned the Rhode Island Superior Court to testify at the ongoing pension settlement fairness hearing Tuesday. He held a press conference at Superior Court in Providence on Tuesday to issue a statement explaining the reasons for his request.

Dr. Murphy opened his remarks by saying that, “The pension settlement is grossly unfair to good citizens of Rhode Island because it adds over $290 million to the unfunded pension debt that the state’s already overburdened taxpayers cannot afford. Even more troubling, the terms of the settlement itself as well as everything about the nature of the process itself fail to demonstrate appropriate sensitivity to the economic hardships this increased tax burden would impose on elderly citizens living on fixed incomes as well as low-income younger taxpayers and their families who remain deprived of adequate economic opportunities in part because of the unaffordable state pension system, the high rates of taxation imposed to feed it, and the resulting negative consequences for the Ocean State’s economic competitiveness.

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Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Four Sets of Bills Plus One Ceremonial Resolution Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, April 8 – April 10


1. S2091: Repeal of the master-lever, i.e. the option of using a single mark to vote for all of the candidates from one party (while ignoring non-partisan races, and creating general confusion in elect more-than-one races), from RI General election ballots (S Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8)

2A. H7944/S2778: Adds fire districts to the “fiscal stabilization law”, the law that allows the state to displace the elected local governments of financially distressed communities and supersede them with budget commissions and receivers. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 8 & S Finance; Tue, Apr 8) This is pretty obviously directed at the Central Coventry Fire district. It’s a single-sponsor bill — but the single sponsor is Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, though it had submitted by then-Rep Mattiello before all heck broke loose at the statehouse. Also worth noting is the simultaneous-hearing fast-track the bill appears to be on.

2B. H7943: Replaces the town/city council president on a budget commission of a town/city that’s under one, with a member chosen by a vote of the town/city council. (H Municipal Government; Thu, Apr 10) This bill could also be described as “replaces Albert Brien on the Woonsocket Budget Commission with someone yet to be determined (at least as far as the public knows)”. People have a better case for taking to the streets shouting “It’s a coup! It’s a coup!” in response to this bill (though it would still be a stretch) than they do in response to Gordon Fox’s resignation.

3A. H7939: Provides for information related to mental-health related involuntarily commitments to be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) database used for conducting firearms purchase background checks. The records sent to database will be from cases where there has been a demonstration of “clear and convincing evidence that the subject of the hearing is in need of care and treatment in a facility, and…continued unsupervised presence in the community would, by reason of mental disability, create a likelihood of serious harm”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8)

3B. H7587: Changes firearms permitting by local law enforcement agencies from a “shall issue” process, to a “may issue” process requiring an applicant to show a “good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property” or another “proper showing of need”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8) As noted previously on this blog, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that issuing permits allowing the carrying of firearms off of private private on an exclusively “may issue” basis is violates the Constitutional right to bear arms.

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