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Rhode Island Leads New England in STDs

Coming in at 36th, clearly Rhode Island could be doing worse when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, although the map that Trent Wilson provides for his post on BackgroundChecks.org has the Ocean State as a darker spot in the midst of the rest of New England, all of which are in the best 10.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Wilson finds that Rhode Island improved by two spots from last year’s iteration, although it appears the cause is that other states’ rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased at a higher rate.

One notable factor is that rates of STDs appear to correlate most significantly with wealth.  At least in New England, one could suggest that it isn’t even just wealth, but the broader assessment of economic health and freedom from dependence captured by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  The northern New England states are leading the region (in the good way), with a gap to Massachusetts and Connecticut and then another gap to Rhode Island.

The picture is worse for Rhode Island, too, if we go beyond the two diseases that Wilson used for his score.  According to the CDC’s 2016 data, Rhode Island may be 27th and 44th in the country for chlamydia and gonorrhea, respectively (with 1 being the worst), but we’re 12th in the country for primary and secondary syphilis.  D.C. McAllister points out on PJ Media that the lion’s share of these cases nationwide are found among men who have sex with men.

The relative rankings of New England states drive home the interacting responses of culture and economics, with Rhode Island lagging.  Reorienting our policy toward healthy families, away from special interests, would have broadly beneficial effects without having to be judgmental in a negative way about alternative lifestyles.  Without this positive component, public policy runs the risk of encouraging harmful behavior by alleviating its consequences.  We can and should help people who are suffering, no matter the cause, but dragging down those who’ve avoided suffering and burdening families shrinks the contrast.

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Moving the Goal Posts and Dropping the Ball on 195

Old claim that government made to push debt for bonds on the land freed up by moving I-195:

The commission, and ultimately the state, is expected to use proceeds from the sale of individual parcels to pay back the principal and interest on those bonds.

New claim that government is making, as it prepares for the bond payments to escalate with not a single parcel of land having been sold, rather than given away:

[Peter McNally, executive director of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission,] expects the Wexford project to be done sometime in 2019. By that time, he thinks developers will be clamoring for a piece of the land where the highway once stood.

We all know the next step.  The Wexford project sucked up some free land and millions of dollars in concessions to the company with the argument that it would spark additional development.  Instead, every developer who comes to the commission interested in land will want it for free as a bare minimum of the government’s concession in negotiations.  More likely, buyers will want tax gifts, too.

Remember this moment, though, so we’ll have grounds to complain when an “unexpectedly” slow start to the Wexford-driven economic explosion can’t be denied.  At that time, we’ll once again have reason to restate the simple principle that government shouldn’t impose “a very specific vision” for development, as Kim Kalunian puts it in her article (second link above).

Let the land sell as the market values it.  If the government wants to take action to make it more valuable, it should make all land in Rhode Island more valuable by reducing taxes and eliminating regulations.  Instead, we get this toxic mix of crony deals and the vanity of central planners who want to experiment on a statewide scale with our money and our lives.

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The Hidden Government Budget

Clyde Wayne Crews reminds us on Forbes.com that taxes aren’t the only costly burden governments place on the societies that they are supposedly serving:

Congress is moving forward on the 2018 federal Budget Resolution, and maybe the promised tax system overhaul. Of course, the $4 trillion a year the federal government spends — and the realization that fiscal year 2017 ended with a $666 billion deficit — are only part of the story.

Apart from its own spending, Washington directs the private sector to spend and re-purpose vast resources, too. All that red tape and regulatory overreach led to President Trump’s proposals for speeding up project permitting, and for eliminating two regulations for every one enacted.

And we’re not talking small amounts, here:

… we need to slice up the elephant for digestion by employing separate cost allocations for economic, safety, health, social, environmental, transportation, and tech policy categories, and of course paperwork . These days, government paperwork chews up 9.778 billion hours, the annual equivalent of 13,953 full human lifetimes.

As Iain Murray notes on Instapundit, that’s 4.7 million people doing nothing but helping private industry comply with government rules.  Some of that is unavoidable, but we should keep in mind that 4.7 million is a lot of people not growing the economy and not innovating… except, of course, when it comes to finding loopholes for those who can afford the investigation.

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For Some, Driving Out Producers Is a Feature, Not a Bug

A father-and-son op-ed in the Wall Street Journal notes that California’s cap-and-trade energy scheme (like Rhode Island’s) misses the reality that companies can simply leave and, moreover, have incentive to do so:

Yet the law’s designers still have not confronted the central conundrum of trying to impose a state or regional climate policy: As firms compete for a limited supply of carbon permits, they are put at a disadvantage to out-of-state rivals. Production flees the state, taking jobs and tax revenues with it. Emissions “leak” outside California’s cap to other jurisdictions.

Of course, as we can readily observe in Rhode Island, this works out just fine for people who have jobs (often because they’re politically connected) and the wealth to tolerate higher energy prices.  They’re happy to pay more for energy… for everything… if they get to feel good about “being green” and never coming across any energy-production plants that don’t give them a thrill of self virtue, like wind turbines might.  Those to whom that doesn’t apply, however, find that they have incentive to leave the state, as well.

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A Lesson in How Not to Grow the Economy

I’m a bit more skeptical about claims of an American magic in economic growth than the conservative norm, believing that we’ve bought a great deal of our growth by surviving World War II intact and then by borrowing from the future with debt.  But that’s more of a downward adjustment than a contradiction of the power of the American engine.

My agreement with the standard conservative economic view is stronger in the negative:  Bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, and the entire socialist-progressive project harms the economy and hurts families (which hurts individuals).  These thoughts arise upon reading Peter Ferrara in The Observer (via Instapundit), about the effects of President Obama’s reversal of President Reagan’s pro-growth strategy:

This is why the economy never recovered from the 2008-09 financial crisis, and why instead we got the worst economic recovery from a Recession since the Great Depression, with only 2 percent economic growth. America’s historical record is that the worse the recession is the stronger the recovery, as the economy grows faster than normal for a couple of years to catch up to where it should be on the long-term trendline. That is why we should have come out of the financial crisis in a long-term economic boom, potentially stronger than even Reagan’s.

But to this day, eight years later, that still has not yet happened. Instead, we are still $2 to $3 trillion below where we should be.

This is why Democrats lost the 2016 election. Trump promised to restore Reagan’s pro-growth policies. Hillary promised more of the same Obama failure.

From our perch in Rhode Island, we can surmise that the national Democrats thought they’d achieved what Rhode Island Democrats have: Such complete dominance, with so thoroughly controlled a political system, that they couldn’t lose the electoral game on a scale large enough to cost them power, collectively.  Once a party has achieved that, it gains generations during which it only has to restrain its cronyism, greed, and totalitarian impulses sufficiently not to cause a civic revolution and coast.

But reality has gravity, so the ground will eventually be reached.  If only Rhode Islanders would realize what Americans more generally seem not to have forgotten:  It’s much more difficult to get back off the ground than to allow our fellow passengers to turn the engine back on.

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Bad Week for the Narrative: Big Revisions of Graduation Data

It wasn’t a good week for the narrative.  The number of jobs based in Rhode Island slipped back below the pre-recession peak, eroding the governor’s talking points about economic advancement.  And now Dan McGowan reports this on WPRI.com:

The R.I. Department of Education disclosed Thursday the state’s four-year graduation rate for the 2015-16 school year was 82.8%, lower than the 85.3% mark the department announced in February.

The change means the percentage of students who entered high school during the 2012-13 school year and completed it during the 2015-16 school year is lower than the 83.2% graduation rate announced in the previous school year. The revised number shows the rate actually dipped slightly in 2015-16, rather than rising.

Charles Murray’s book, Losing Ground, looked at the effects of government policy on families’ well-being.  It would seem Rhode Island could use a bit of that same thinking, emulating both the focus and the policy implications.

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As RI Implements Government-First Economic Strategy, JOI Drops

The Providence Journal has published an op-ed that I wrote about Rhode Island’s slip on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI):

When numbers that indicate economic health for families is up, a state’s score goes up. When the balance shifts toward reliance on and payments for government, a state’s score goes down. Nothing in the score should disadvantage Rhode Island in particular. The center’s goal with the index is to objectively measure states according to the principle that economic health means independence both from want and from government.

From this perspective, the strategies that elected officials advertise as steps forward are shown to be deeply flawed. Gov. Gina Raimondo has focused on bribing companies to move to the state in order to generate photo ops and claim that her administration is creating jobs. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has passed so-called tax reforms that were designed to game national indexes of business friendliness — lowering tax rates, for example, while increasing the amount of tax collected.

We need economic policies that unleash Rhode Islanders’ own potential and attract others who want to build opportunity for themselves and their employees.  Pitching a new Amazon headquarters, subsidizing a minor league baseball stadium, and building hotels aren’t going to do it.

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Memorial Hospital and Signs of Decline

Rhode Islanders may be getting used to the evidence of decline, but when a hospital closes, it carries with it an especial sense of foreboding.  Ted Nesi reports on WPRI.com:

Care New England’s board voted Monday night to close Memorial Hospital after a proposed takeover deal for the cash-strapped facility fell through, the company revealed Tuesday. …

Fanale said Memorial currently employs roughly 700 people, some of them part-time, and jobs are likely to be found for some of them at Care New England’s other facilities. “We’re not going to be able to save every one, but to the extent we’re able to [we will],” he said. He also emphasized that patient safety will be a priority as the hospital winds down. …

Memorial is licensed for 290 hospitals beds, but in recent months it has had just 15 to 20 inpatients a day. “It leaves you in a devastating situation,” Fanale said.

This is sad to see, but we live in a state in decline.  Add this story to other obvious warning signs, like the closure of Rhode Island retail staple Benny’s.   On a broader scale, recall that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) showed the Ocean State dropping to 49th in the country, from its five-year perch at 48th.  Even seemingly unconnected stories like the Warwick teacher sick outs are part of the story; after all, the underlying cause in that city (and most of the state) is plummeting enrollment.

These are the sorts of things you see when government attempts to structure society around government-heavy services provided to people who otherwise have no reason to live here.  The government plantation model doesn’t work; government can’t be a state’s core industry.

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RI Housing Regulation Serves Minorities Poorly

The opening paragraph of a Wendell Cox article in New Geography could apply to many, many more issues than housing:

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

When government makes something more expensive to achieve progressive goals, it inevitably puts that thing disproportionately beyond the reach beyond demographic groups that are disproportionately less wealthy.  This is a very simple concept.

Not surprisingly, the Providence metropolitan area does very poorly.  Cox’s metric is the ratio of the median house price to the median annual income — basically, the number of years the household at the exact middle of the area’s income distribution would have to save all of its income in order to buy the house at the exact middle of the area’s real estate market.  He then provides tables showing how many more years black and Hispanic households would have to save than the average.

Black families in the Providence area have to save for an extra 2.12 years (above an average of 4.26 years).  That’s 19th worst out of 52 metro areas reviewed.  For Hispanics, the Ocean State’s ranking is even worse, at 4th worst out of 53.

The obvious thing to do with housing, as with all economic activity, is to ease up government’s thumb so that it can become more affordable.  That strategy works on the other side of the scale, too, loosening government’s stranglehold on the economy so that opportunity can flourish and incomes rise.

The difficulty, here, is that progressives want to impose burdens, in this case on the housing market, based on their ideological preferences.  When those proclamations have adverse consequences, they blame external, often fictitious factors like institutional racism and avaricious landlords.  As a remedy, they then propose to alleviate the consequences in a way that gives them power and makes the subjects of their condescension dependent on their good political graces.

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Sheldon Whitehouse, Man of the People

Here’s another interesting item that Dan McGowan found for Nesi’s Notes this weekend:

So what did Senator Whitehouse think of his big dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump earlier this month? “They live well,” Whitehouse told reporters this week. “Really big house. Very fancy food.”

Ah, yes.  Sheldon Whitehouse, man of the people, with his $535,000 annual income and  $2.7 million Newport mansion.

I’ve heard it said that there is no class difference so confounding as that between the rich and extremely rich.  The appropriate response of the rest of us, though, should probably be to laugh at them all… and insist that they implement policies that empower us to take their money through commerce and competition, not government redistribution that buys them a dependent underclass.

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