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Two Non-Tax Reasons to Vote Against the Bonds on March 2

Yes, yes, we should probably expect that all of the bonds on the ballot for Tuesday, March 2, in Rhode Island will pass.  The deck is just too thoroughly stacked in their favor.  The special interests who benefit by these hundreds of millions in borrowed dollars have incentive to pay for get-out-the-vote campaigns, while the rest of us have only a relatively small hit to the pocket-book down the road.

Of course, that’s not how it happens.  Rather, as debt service takes up an increasing portion of our budget, government moderates the tax increase by reducing the reliability of other services.  Meanwhile, all the other pressures on the budget (regular inflation, labor union premiums, waste, fraud, and abuse) make the whole thing one glob of expensive government of which bonds are only one cause.

But if you’re looking for some reason to motivate yourself to go out and vote against the bonds only because it’s the right thing to do, here are two.

They aren’t even all capital expenses.

A case can (maybe, kinda, sorta) be made that debt is appropriate when government spends on something that people in the future will enjoy.  If you build a bridge or something, people will be driving on it decades from now, so it almost becomes a usage tax to spread out the payment for that bridge over decades.

However, not all of these bonds are broad-based capital.

For instance, the $65,000,000 in “affordable housing” will certainly benefit the companies that build the houses and the people who are able to live there, but by definition, they aren’t paying the full costs.  You are.  Depending on your politics, maybe you’re fine with that, but the justification for spacing out the payments with debt goes away.  The same is true of the early childhood, arts, and cultural facilities.  These are all simply handouts.

They are just wasteful.

The state is estimating 5% interest on these bonds.  The first thing to note is how outlandish that is if you understand how investment works.  These bonds — backed by the full faith and credit of every taxpayer in Rhode Island now and until the end of the state — are about as sure an investment as can be.  The investors, therefore, aren’t really taking a risk.  They’re just letting us use their money for a while.  The high interest rate therefore looks a bit like a giveaway to another special interest: the investment firms that dabble in these things.

That being the case, it really doesn’t make sense to pay $241,940,697 to borrow $400,000,000.  That’s 60%!

Think about this.  If the state just found the $15,000,000 for the early childhood expense in its budget, it would save all of the money for the arts and preservation grants and then some.  Pay for the higher education facilities out of the budget, and you don’t have to borrow for the affordable housing project.  And so on.

This is the sort of thing that government officials do when the people paying the bills are last in the line of their concerns.

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RI Education Insiders Lack Incentive to Succeed

Whether one is discussing the inexplicable wars initiated throughout human history or (conversely) the genius of the American Constitution or the policy declarations of modern constituencies, the concept of incentives should be front and center.  Apply that principle to this “ad hoc roundtable”:

The members of the group – convened by the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership – includes the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, the National Education Association Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Foundation – believe the highest priority must be given to a multifaceted program to curb the loss and accelerate student learning.

“We convened virtually toward the end of 2020 aware that preparations must be initiated as soon as possible in order to create space to address disrupted learning opportunities for Rhode Island’s students,” said Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership Founding Director Gary S. Sasse. “The importance of this moment for Rhode Island requires all hands on deck, from all sectors, to engage in building a comprehensive summer-and-beyond program that will focus on learning loss – primarily on the critical concepts of literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional learning in elementary and transition grades.”

I bolded two key lines in that summary from GoLocalProv because they highlight an important contrast:  The call is for “all hands on deck,” meaning (from most) little more than the contribution of additional money to education, yet the participants in the group are all conspicuously self-interested parties in the asserted solution.

They admit their program will come at a cost, yet no mention is made of a willingness to forgo any of the profit they’ve made from services that they were unable (or unwilling) to provide, which amplified the problem they hope to solve.  Their demand for additional programs somehow doesn’t extend to creating new opportunities through school choice, whether education savings accounts (ESAs) to help families choose private schools or expansion of charter school options.

To offer translucent window dressing to their cynical efforts, these “groups” have teamed with the supposedly disinterested (but increasingly political) non-profit Rhode Island Foundation and the singularly misnamed Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership.  The first brings the illusion of good motives, and the second the impression of objective expertise.

Thus, we see clearly that having Rhode Island so thoroughly under their command, insider special interests have little incentive to perform.  No matter how central their role in some failure, they can be assured that they will gain by the supposed solution.

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No on All Bond Questions But Especially on the Black Hole, #4

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has released a video by the production company of Center Chairman, Dr. Stephen Skoly, making the succinct, by-the-numbers case against all of the bond referenda.

Start with the total of these bonds to repay: $642,000,000 including interest, not just the already eye-popping $400,000,000 face value. Add, as the Center notes, that at the third highest per capita bonded debt of $10,215, Rhode Islanders are already on the hook for a very heavy burden.  And voters need to remember that a Bond Question is not simply an opinion survey about the recipient project but a loan that taxpayers must repay.  So the Center is spot on to highlight that bonding is a delayed tax.  The state’s economy, tax base and corresponding ability to repay borrowing were already in bad shape before the lockdown.  They have only worsened with the inexplicable prolonging of a destructive, completely ineffective lockdown.

Focusing now on Bond Question #4, “Transportation Infrastructure State Match”.  It’s just a match, see.  Federal dollars will fund 80% of the infrastructure project.  What a bargain!

Except it’s not a bargain.  State taxpayers would be repaying a cool $115,067,870 including interest.

Worse, Rhode Island’s infrastructure costs have been the opposite of a bargain.  Even before toll revenue – remember truck only (wink) tolls? – started coming in, Rhode Island had the 6th highest per mile “Total Disbursements per State-Controlled Lane-Mile” at $194,769/mile.  This is more per lane-mile than the first eight states on the list with the lowest per mile disbursements COMBINED.  In fact, Rhode Island, along with New Jersey and Hawaii, has the worst performing, least cost-efficient state highway system in the country.

Sixth highest spending per mile, before tolls.  Yet the state has some of the worst roads and bridges in the country. Something is very wrong with this picture.  Infrastructure spending in Rhode Island has turned into a black hole.  Hard earned dollars spiral out of taxpayers’ wallets but good infrastructure never comes out.

No for sure on #4.  Time to stop dumping money into the black hole.

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Rhody Reporter: Charter Schools Bill 2

Down with charter schools! Is the Rhode Island state legislature waging war on the growing number of charter schools here in the Ocean State? If it is, could the reason be to aid their friends in the state teachers’ unions, even if at the expense of the constituents who elected all its members? You be the judge. Mark Zaccaria lays out the case and makes a summation.

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The Cost of Pandemic Field Hospitals

WPRI’s Melanie DaSilva and Shiina LoSciuto report that COVID-19 field hospitals in Cranston and at the Convention center are being taken offline due to the waning pandemic:

The last day of patient care at the Rhode Island Convention Center will be Friday, Feb. 26, according to the Health Department, while the Cranston site is expected to shut down within the next two to three weeks. …

Health officials say since the field hospitals opened, they’ve treated a total of 516 patients.

That officials feel able to close these two hospitals is certainly good news, but WPRI leaves unreported the context of their cost.  For that, we have to turn to Brian Crandall of WJAR:

The state is paying nearly $1 million per month in leases for the two facilities.

Plus, the state paid nearly $22 million to build the field hospitals, including one in Quonset that was never used. …

The Rhode Island Department of Administration figures monthly operating costs of the field hospitals at $3.6 million a month with patients and $1.25 million if they were ready but not seeing patients.

That figure does not include health care costs.

So let’s do the math.  The hospitals opened at the end of November, so they’ve been open for three months with patients.  That’s $3 million in lease payments plus $10.8 million in operating costs plus $22 million to build them.  That totals $35.8 million, which equates to $69,380 per patient.

Granted, according to Crandall, federal stimulus money covered those expenses through 2020.  Moreover, government officials should not become reluctant to prepare based on undue political risks should things turn out better than feared and the preparations look wasteful in retrospect.

That said, in an environment where fear has arguably been promoted beyond what the pandemic justified, the costs of preparation for the worst have to be added to the tally.

 

Featured image by Tonic.

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Putting a Smiley Face on Desperation

The tone of a recent Public’s Radiiiiio article by Joe Tasca is strange.  The headline is “2020 was a record year for new businesses in Rhode Island,” with a lede of: “Rhode Island saw an unprecedented number of business closures in 2020, but it was also a record year for new business filings in the state.”  A reader might wonder: so what’s the point?

Put aside the questionable pretense that Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has anything in her background that would justify turning to her for business advice.  Read carefully the voice of wisdom in URI business Professor Edward Mazze, and you’ll pick up the thread that should be most relevant to Rhode Islanders:

New business owners like Brinton are doing their best to adapt to a changing business climate, but URI professor Ed Mazze says most of the businesses established in 2020 won’t survive long-term.

“Easily 50% of them will probably fail because of one of three reasons: there’s no market for what they’re doing, or they lack capital, or that they go back to a job that they may have been working at before the pandemic began.”

The reality is that people are starting businesses because the path of least resistance (working for somebody else), which has long been difficult owing to Rhode Island’s terrible business climate, has closed due to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  People are desperate, so they’re doing whatever they can think of to make money.  (True, those with resources may see it as an opportunity, but that’s arguably a privileged version of the same dynamic.)

This is nothing new in Rhode Island.  I looked at the question at some length in 2015, and my conclusion was that people were starting businesses in Rhode Island to make money, but as soon as they began to reach the point that they had to begin making things official — dealing with regulations, labor laws, and so on — Rhode Island simply makes it too difficult.

If the Public’s Radiiiiio wants to serve the public, its reporters can begin by digging into that story, although it’s one where the Secretary of State and the rest of Rhode Island’s political establishment will have to be challenged rather than simply cited as if they’re experts by virtue of their political success.

 

Featured image by Tim Mossholder.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: No Face on Vaccine, Blackface on Block Island

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 22, included talk about:

  • Gina/McKee tension
  • Health director in the wind
  • The call for a clear governor from mayors
  • Partyless blackface story from Block Island
  • Picking a lieutenant governor

I’ll be on again Monday, March 1, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Redhanded: Radical Environmentalists Want to “Break Your Will” To Pass TCI

The shocking words they admit they can’t say publicly… were just made public. They say, if YOU heat your homes or drive passenger cars, YOU are the “bad guys.”

Whether it is “you,” “the person up the street,” or “the senior on fixed income”… the radical environmentalists who support TCI say it is you who they want to “turn the screws on” and “point the finger at,” so they can “break your will” to force you to “stop emitting.”

See the alarming video of the MA Undersecretary for Climate Change talking about the abusive TCI scheme: https://youtu.be/muxVGmgykA4

Learn more by clicking here now to read about how the TCI Gas Tax is bad for Rhode Island families.

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Can the COVID Education Wasteland Change the Political Dynamic?

A friend of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is probably indicative of a growing feeling out there in the population:

A friend writes: “Speaking as a parent who had to drastically reduce his own work hours (and earnings) to substitute-teach for free all year while the school system sat largely unused and teachers and administrators still drew a salary funded by the reduced earnings of families statewide; i’m sure I speak for many parents when I say: they can shove this summer school idea up their nonessential asses.”

Some number of those who feel that way will recognize the money-grab component.  The initial demand is borrowed federal money to pay states and municipalities to pay public school teachers to spend a portion of their paid summer vacations providing services they weren’t able (or willing) to provide during their working months.  In the private sector, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a business to offer that supplemental product free of charge, especially for reliable customers with whom they’re likely to have very profitable relationships for more than a decade.

Maybe the number of voters who are sufficiently aware to spot this will grow through our pandemic experience.

But let’s turn to Reynolds’s great advice at the end of his post:

Public schools have gone a long way to convince parents that they’re (1) nonessential, and (2) composed of and run by people who have contempt for parents and taxpayers. This is a huge opportunity for Republicans. If they’re smart, that is.

Unfortunately, to my experience, Republicans have trouble with that sweet-spot of thinking of voters as constituencies to be courted, especially when their activist ranks have been beaten down by years or decades of hopelessness (like Rhode Island).  Depending what faction they’re from, Republicans and conservatives tend to concentrate on one of the following:

  1. Getting along with Democrats
  2. Proving that they’re different from other Republicans
  3. Or indulging in belligerence against Democrats and those other Republicans who want to be differentiated from them

In fairness to those who want to add a fourth category to the above list, school choice can be a heavy lift.  Basically, you have to get parents to see that they’ve been poorly serving their children by putting them under the thumb of political forces (mainly teachers unions).  That raises very strong emotions, and some of us active on the local front can attest that the politicos who control government and are friendly with the news media can turn those emotions against the people who are pointing out the problem.

You can convince parents that they’re being poorly served, and they’ll get angry, but then they’ll be offered a narrative that they’ll find much more comfortable:  They don’t have to do anything crazy like reorder their budgets to afford private schools or become rebel activists looking for school choice or a stronger voice against the teachers unions.  The blame, they’re told, actually belongs on those greedy neighbors of theirs who want to take money away from schools to save a few bucks on their taxes or on their own kids’ elite private schools.  If they’d just pony up for summer courses, all can be well, and without much friction or guilt.

Will this narrative vulnerability still hold in the face of the COVID response’s educational wasteland?  It would be nice if somebody would take some sort of action to help us find out.

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Green on the Grid:  Texas is a Huge Red Flag

Count me among those somewhat surprised to learn that the electric grid of the State of Texas, perhaps best known for oil production (and proud of it), incorporates wind turbines in its electric grid.  In fact,

… wind generation ranks as the second-largest source of energy in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies last year

But as you have probably seen, this “green energy” source has turned into a big Achilles heel for Texas’ electric grid in the cold front that has descended on that state and much of the country. As of yesterday,

Frozen wind turbines have caused almost half of Texas’s wind generation capacity to go offline in the midst of an “unprecedented storm”.

The Lone Star state is under a state of emergency after freezing conditions swept the region, causing dangerously icy roads and leaving nearly 3 million people without power.

In the latest, frozen wind turbines led to a drop in Texas’ wind power from thirty one gigawatts to six and there are currently 3.4 million power outages. [Update: Texas’ power woes are now attributed to a freezing of both frozen natural gas wells and frozen wind turbines.] The situation is getting worse, not better.

Texas, and other states, has resorted to rolling blackouts.  In below-freezing temperatures, this is literally a life-threatening situation for states like Texas which rely on electricity for heat (and lots of other critical activities).

A small but vocal group of advocates, promoted by many gauzy-eyed members of the mainstream media, have for years been pushing to transition to green energy away from fossil fuel.  In Rhode Island,they have had some limited success.  Bills proposing to tax fossil fuels, purportedly to curb their use, have been filed again this session at the Rhode Island General Assembly.  A couple of weeks ago, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse renewed his call for a tax … oh, excuse me, “carbon pricing”, at the federal level on fossil fuels.

One of Governor Gina Raimondo’s last official acts a couple of months ago, as she herself waltzes out of the state and away from the consequences of her own orders, was to commit Rhode Island to TCI (Transportation Climate Initiative), a proposed regional gas tax on Rhode Islanders designed to make transportation more “green” and move cars and trucks away from fossil fuel and towards green energy.

“Green” energy sounds good and conjures up images of green grass and flowers and butterflies flitting.  The problem is that, whether for the grid or transportation, green energy is not remotely realistic.

It is exorbitantly expensive.  Its production has a very large and intrusive footprint.  Perhaps most alarmingly, as Texas is experiencing, it is unreliable and intermittent and, accordingly, should absolutely not be incorporated into a grid’s baseload power capacity. Texas is not the only state to have made this mistake. In fact, California has led the way. And last summer, grid operators had to institute rolling blackouts due to the issue with “net demand peak”; when the sun went down, so did the power generation – but not the demand for power in the sweltering evening.

Coincidentally, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity just released the results of a poll it recently commissioned to gauge support for the financial cost of TCI in Rhode Island.  It found

… almost 20% more Rhode Islanders oppose than support the plan for a new TCI gas tax as a solution to reduce carbon emissions, after learning of its potential negative economic impacts on lower-income families and on their own financial security.

Smart people.  Funny, by the way, how those who push for and mandate green energy never, ever talk about its impact on everyone’s electric bill, HVAC costs or their cost of transportation.

In addition to committing the state to the pointlessly higher gasoline and diesel taxes of TCI (if it even happens; some states have wisely opted out or are re-considering participation), Governor Raimondo had, a year ago, signed a flat out delusional Executive Order that the entire state shall be able to only purchase “100% renewable electricity”.  Noticeably missing from the order is any guidance as to how to possibly carry this out, much less how residents and businesses would be able to afford the astronomical spike in their electric bill if this impossibility were accomplished.

The Center’s poll focused on the high financial cost of green energy.  As we are seeing in Texas, the cost goes way beyond financial.

We are all watching with dismay the suffering, serious damage and deaths that a grid comprised of “only” 23% green energy generates. [Update: Texas’ power woes are now attributed to a freezing of both frozen natural gas wells and frozen wind turbines.] Governor Raimondo has commanded that Rhode Island’s grid realize the vision of extremist green advocates: 100% green energy.  100% green would mean 100% unreliability.  100% rolling blackouts.  Freezing in the winter, sweating in the summer and 100% dark everywhere when the sun goes down.

While a comparatively small portion of Texas and California’s grids derive power from green energy, their winter and summer ordeals have been huge red flags about the obvious weaknesses and fatal flaws of renewable energy.  We have now seen enough to reject the green vision that highly misguided, extremist advocates and political-resume building politicians are trying to inflict on us at huge costs on every level.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Politics In Between

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 15, included talk about:

  • Gina’s selective parking lot presser
  • Mayors’ call for the governor to end RI’s limbo
  • Last for vaccine rollout
  • Smileying out the door
  • Conservatives with guns
  • “Republicans” off the Lincoln hook

I’ll be on again Monday, February 22, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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The Lopsided Value of Voter Data

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is touting her office’s new tool for tracking early and mail-in votes down to the precinct level.

The data visualization allows users to easily track how many votes have been cast in every Rhode Island community, down to the precinct level. Users can also explore how many votes have been cast by mail ballot or early in-person in each community or precinct. This information will be updated each evening after early in-person voting locations close for the day.

This is certainly neat, and it will provide those of us who pay more attention to elections than is probably healthy to keep an eye on things and spot potential stories to write about.  We should be clear about one thing, though:  This data tool does nothing to prove “that Rhode Island’s elections are an open process that voters can absolutely trust.”  It merely tells us how many have voted, not whether the votes were legitimate.  Data on how each vote was verified would begin to do that — percentage rejected, type of ID used, an accuracy score for the signature match, and so on.

As it is, this tool is mainly a dream for people who are extremely organized.  Theoretically, groups will be able to figure out who has voted on a day to day basis.  Take Central Falls:  Each precinct has fewer than 100 mail ballots expected.  Upon a direct inquiry to the state, a well-organized (and probably well-funded) group could get the names of all of them, track them down, assess their views, help supporters, suppress opponents, and track the results as they roll in.

Naturally, one could say that this is a tool that cuts both ways, but who does it advantage?  In a lopsided state like Rhode Island, it mainly helps powerful insiders and special interests with the most to gain or lose and with the ability to do more to pressure voters than simply making an argument about what the right policy is.

One hesitates to suggest that less information should be available, but as citizens call for increased transparency from government, we have to be vigilant about what is transparent and what is not.

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Rhody Reporter: Seth Running

Diana Lozowski offers the opinion that RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is already running his 2022 campaign. Her only question is, “Running for What?”

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Smiley Out the Ethical Door

In fairness, it’s entirely possible this is just an elegant way for Brett Smiley to exit the executive branch of state government in the knowledge that he and incoming Governor Daniel McKee wouldn’t be a good fit (particularly if Smiley were to become a candidate for the boss’s job, or at least be in a competing arena).  Still, with the ethical cloud under which it is happening, something seems off about his announced departure from his job as the director of the state Department of Administration:

R.I. Department of Administration director Brett Smiley is resigning ahead of an expected run for Providence mayor, as his campaign has come under fire in recent weeks over controversial donations.

The Providence Democrat sent out a letter Wednesday announcing his resignation and expressing gratitude to the state, his employees and Gov. Gina Raimondo, who appointed him roughly a year ago to serve as director of administration.

One way to interpret the various facts is that Smiley intends to do things as part of his campaign that would violate the Code of Ethics if he were in office.  That possibility exposes one of the central conceits of ethics laws:  that favors can’t be bought and sold on an accounts payable basis.  If it is not ethical for somebody to take money from an interested party while he is a director, how is it ethical for him to take it when he may soon be a mayor or even a governor (depending how the political winds go)?

To state this conundrum is not to imply that a solution is obvious.  In general, however, we can file it with the evidence that our sense of ethics needs an update.  While it is worthwhile to know what lines are absolutely too far to cross, we too often treat those lines as the boundaries within which all play is fair play.  Add in an appointed and politically minded Ethics Commission granted the authority to declare officials ethical or unethical, and all you’ve done is create another power base by which to game the rules.

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The Fraud Begins Where the Fraud Ends

Quite reasonably, Jonathan Tobin attempts to chart a middle course between declaring the 2020 election fraudulent and denying that nothing was amiss, in an essay for the New York Post titled, “No, the 2020 election wasn’t stolen — but yes, it was underhandedly tilted“:

If you read the headline of a blockbuster, 6,000-word-plus story in Time magazine, you might think former President Donald Trump wasn’t so wrong about the election, after all. …

As the magazine reports, a secret alliance of left-wing activists, union leaders and corporate CEOs worked together to help craft unprecedented changes in the rules governing the way America votes. They did their best to encourage and facilitate mail-in voting on an unprecedented scale. …

That means the challenge facing the country is not what to do about Trump’s sore-loser tantrum, which resulted in a disgraceful riot (swollen into an “insurrection” by Democrats and media keen to discredit all Republicans). The real problem is whether Americans are prepared to let the same forces that tilted the 2020 election in Biden’s favor get away with it again.

Tobin’s analysis may be correct, but in striving not to throw in with conspiracy theorists, he avoids a relevant question:  If a national (nay, international) cabal went to these lengths, which are fraudulent at least in the sense of social expectations, why should we trust that they would draw the line at outright election fraud, if it was necessary to bring to fruition the arguably much more profound deceits that preceded it?

Of course, we shouldn’t.  Of course, they would have massive incentive to cheat so as not to be out on that limb of blatant disregard for fair play and still lose.  This is why it’s been impossible to find anybody on the anti-Trump side who will say that they actually care whether there was electoral fraud.  They’re happy to insist that there was not, but if there was, oh, well; all’s well that ends well.

This is also why — of course — they’ll do it again, even doubling down if they have to.  Cheating is an addiction; there is always some reason why it must be done, once it is accepted.  Even now, the cheaters are laying groundwork, banning and maligning people who question the election results, so that when they cheat again, they’ll be able to bully people who’ve gone this far with them lest they draw any lines against their brazenness.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Outgoing and Incoming

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 8, included talk about:

  • The Center’s poll on TCI
  • The outgoing governor’s farewell (but I won’t get out) address
  • The progressive legislator’s privilege
  • The incoming governor’s well-meaning bungles

I’ll be on again Monday, February 15, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Rhody Reporter: March Referenda

What’s so special about March 2nd? That’s the date of a Special Election in Rhode Island. Its only questions – seven of them – are for the approval of a wide spectrum of bond authority so more than six hundred million dollars worth of deficit spending can be undertaken. Mark Zaccaria says NO! You should, too.

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POLL: Rhode Islanders Say “No” to High Costs of TCI Gas Tax

Rhode Islanders clearly feel, after all we’ve been through, that now is not the time to punish people for driving their vehicles!

This week, the Center released a new poll that shows the initial conceptual support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) Gas Tax drops significantly when voters learn the policy will result in gas tax hikes, a significant projected loss of jobs, and a major reduction in the average family’s disposable income.

On the flip side, by not adopting this TCI scheme and keeping gas taxes where they are, our Ocean State would gain a competitive advantage over our Massachusetts and Connecticut neighbors.

Rhode Islanders oppose TCI when they learn about its high costs – including a $0.23 increase in the gas tax, an estimated 2,000 jobs lost, and a $1,200 reduction in disposable income for the average Rhode Island family.

Another false “feel good” narrative (from far-left Never Never Land) is not worth the loss of disposable income and jobs costs for virtually zero environmental impact. Learn more now by clicking here to see the full poll results!

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McKee’s RI-Same-Old COVID Task Force

While they shouldn’t give up hope, Rhode Islanders looking for signs of a changed focus from (all-but-certainly) incoming Governor Daniel McKee won’t obviously find it in his appointments to his COVID-19 advisory group.

By my count, he’s staffed the board of 20 with five members from the medical community, five from the union/progressive contingent, and ten whose role is defined by their jobs with government or the public health bureaucracy.  Among the government voices, one overlaps with the medical group and another is the only one with anything hinting at broader small-business/economic interests.

While nowhere near as offensive as (please-be-certainly) outgoing Governor Gina Raimondo’s sexist belittling of the effect of COVID on men in the state during her State of the State and Farewell Address, the gaps on McKee’s panel are  huge.  Really, if he’s going to create a panel of twenty people, why not make room for broader perspectives?  Maybe a conservative legislator.  Maybe somebody representing the interests of the students whose education is being ground into the dirt.  (Note: Teacher union leader Bob Walsh is more of an adverse party to these kids than an advocate for them.)  Throw in a few business folks from multiple industries.

With this panel, McKee seems to be sending a signal about who really matters in the state.  That may not be his intent, but it’s something upon which he’ll have to improve quickly now that he’s achieved the big chair.

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Rhody Reporter: Da Speakah 2021

Mark Zaccaria analyzes the recent race for Speaker of the RI House of Representatives. Outwardly it appeared to be a tranquil coronation of Rep Joe Shekarchi, the Guy everyone suddenly wants to Know. Below the placid surface of this Made-for-Capitol-TV love fest, however, there was a lot more going on. As you’ll see in this segment, the jury is still out on the final results.

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Congressional Democrats’ Exception to the Law

The discouraging conclusion that one cannot avoid is that legal arguments — even rational arguments — don’t much matter in today’s America.  All that matters is giving enough color of plausibility to an action to prevent deliberately ignorant supporters from feeling like there is no excuse for behavior they support.  And so, one sees arguments like this, from the House Democrats’ statement as they handed their latest impeachment over to the Senate:

“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” the Democrats argued. “The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.”

Of course there’s no “exception… that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office.”  Such an act would be a treasonous crime, however, and fall outside the auspices of a politically motivated legislative body.

The problem is that some politicians — Rhode Island’s Democrat Congressman David Cicilline prominent among them — think they are the exception when it comes to adhering to laws, standards, and basic good governance.  Of course, they would claim that President Trump led the way, but for good reason is it a cliché on the political right to observe that he is most notable for fighting them according to their own rules.

But even Trump didn’t come anywhere near the level of disregard for process and the rule of law that this second, purely political impeachment displays.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Flagging Leadership

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 1, included talk about:

  • Black Lives Matter flag in Barrington
  • The governor checks out
  • McKee shuffles in
  • Unplanned vaccines
  • The General Assembly back in the picture

I’ll be on again Monday, February 8, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Rhody Reporter: Marijuana Sales in RI

Rhody Reporter Diana Lozowski takes a look at how the State’s Bureaucracy has morphed what could have been a simple licensing process using existing procedures into yet another feast for connected insiders. In short, You Gotta Know a Guy. Too bad that kind of overhead drives up the price. Too bad that those in the most need have to overpay because of cost structures designed to feed insiders. The surprising conclusion: At least it’s available now to those in need.

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TCI Gas Tax: Hurting Families While Accomplishing Little

One parting gift that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo will be leaving Rhode Island as she pursues her ambition in Washington, D.C., is her decision to join the regional Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI).  Basically, the project offloads some of the state’s authority over its own energy policy onto a regional government that will impose a gas tax.

The purpose is to make the use of motor fuel more expensive so people use less of it, while funneling the money that is confiscated to create the consumer pain to green-sounding slush funds in each state.  Working with the Beacon Hill Institute, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has released a report showing that this sort of gas tax would have a harmful effect on Rhode Island families and businesses while having a miniscule benefit to the environment, which (of course) is spread across the planet, not just to Rhode Islanders.

Using a carbon-tax bill submitted in the General Assembly in a recent session as an example, the report finds that:

The tax would also, in the first year, reduce business investment by $299 million, disposable income by $216 million, and private employment by 905 jobs. The total cost incurred by the average Rhode Island household would be $526 in 2022. As time passed and the carbon tax rose to $35, the tax would impose far more substantial economic harm. By 2026, investment would fall by $816 million, disposable income by $495 million, and private employment by 1,856 jobs. The cost imposed on the average Rhode Island household would total $1,205.

The total loss of output (measured in real GDP) due to the carbon tax would be $156 million in 2022 and rise to $420 million in 2026. The loss would be 0.3 percent of total Rhode Island real GDP in 2022 and would be 0.8 percent in 2026. This loss represents the total social cost of the carbon tax to Rhode Island. Of course, a carbon tax applied to all energy producing products would have far more severe economic consequences.

One doesn’t have to be a climate-change skeptic to wonder why our elected officials would pursue an agreement that hands over some of their authority in order to impose a significant burden on the people they represent for a small benefit to others… all just as Rhode Islanders struggle to regain their feet from the COVID lockdown that the same governor imposed through executive order.

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Rhody Reporter: Cares Money in the Wind

Mark Zaccaria scoffs at the RI Administration’s boast that it managed to distribute less than One Percent of the Federal Funds allocated for small business relief in the Ocean State last year. He points out that the tiny fraction was largely necessitated by the fact that almost One Billion Dollars worth of that federal stimulus money was diverted, instead, to the state’s operating budget. Zaccaria also notes that despite that usurpation of federal intent, Rhode Islanders will also be asked to authorize Four Hundred Million Dollars worth of Additional Deficit Spending – All so that the bureaucracy that brought businesses to their knees can be assured of every one of their paychecks. Huh?

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Moving Past the East Side Style

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 25, included talk about:

  • Raimondo’s East Side of Providence style versus McKee’s Blackstone Valley style
  • Central Falls as leading example of RI’s patronage system
  • Black Lives Matter flag in Barrington
  • Legislation against vaccine line-cutters
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, February 1, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Rhody Reporter: Mail Ballots in Nursing Homes

Rhody Reporter Diana Lozowski examines some of the exploitation that occurred last November as political operatives descended on Nursing Homes and other Congregant Care facilities around the Ocean State. Their aim was to enter mail ballot applications for as many Seniors as they could, whether or not the voter really understood what was going on. Diana lays out the problem and then offers practical solutions to insure fairness in upcoming elections.

By capitulating to progressive-union pressure, and despite disingenuous claims that no broad-based taxes were imposed, Ocean Staters will once again bear increased burdens to pay for new taxes and regulations, more spending, and more union giveaways. Lawmakers chose to appease, rather than resist, the progressives’ job-killing, big-spending agenda.

The Cost of the Pause: 6,300 RI Jobs

I can’t remember having seen the state’s monthly employment report making excuses like this, although I’m not sure “excuse” is the appropriate term:

Rhode Island implemented a three-week “pause” from Nov. 30 through Dec. 20, intended to reduce the community spread of COVID-19. These temporary restrictions led to a decrease of 6,300 jobs in December. The state’s revised November total nonfarm job count of 468,200 fell to 461,900 in December.

The number of jobs in the Accommodation & Food Sector fell by 3,300 in December, as restaurant capacity was limited to 33 percent of its total capacity. In addition, the two state casinos were closed during the three-week pause, resulting in hundreds of job losses.

Government employment dropped by 1,300 in December with most of those losses stemming from state and local government educational services.

We can hope most of these jobs are coming back as we speak, but it’s unlikely that all of them are.  The effects of the state’s COVID response is going to be massive and long-term.