Calling Aaron Regunberg an “overlord” (at least in intention) is not a dog whistle; it’s more like a game of name that tune.
One can have real debates about the wisdom of driving up housing prices. If you’re trying to get started in the state, high housing prices are a huge burden. On the other hand, if you own property in Rhode Island, making property more scarce should drive up its value… at least until the inability of people to move around easily strangles the economy even more and reduces the reasons for living here in the first place.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that this sort of thing certainly plays a role:
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that 17 projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland. The funding stems from the Green Economy Bond program, which was voters passed in 2016.
The initiative aims to invest $35 million to preserve open space, improve recreational facilities and clean up land and waterways.
So, taxpayers committed to spending money (with interest) on initiatives that will reduce the amount of buildable land, leaving hundreds of acres that do little for anybody who doesn’t have a lot of free time. Sure, it sounds like a nice thing to do, but it would be less of a concern if we could be confident that people understood the economics involved. The value of land is mainly helpful when one makes the decision to sell (and buy in a less-inflated market elsewhere); in the meantime, it primarily means higher property tax bills and pressure for more debt and state-level taxes to subsidize housing for those who can’t afford it.
One thing we can say for Rhode Island government: It’s great at creating tax traps that drag the economy down in ways that aren’t easily traceable back to them, while they buy votes from special interests.
Spot on @projo OpEd https://t.co/M5jrYrhvQ8 & exactly as Center warned last summer: “Progressive Energy Agenda Hurting RI Families in their Pocketbooks. Increased Natural Gas Pipeline Capacity Would Bring Rates Down”. How POLITICAL CORRECTNESS COSTS RIers! https://t.co/XJLQPEXCxq
— RI Center for Freedom⚓️ (@RICenterFreedom) February 9, 2018
Germany, a critic of U.S.’ decision to exit the Paris climate accord, is about to abandon its 2020 targets. Strong economic growth is a critical reason why Germany will miss its target – the latest domino to fall in a failed international climate policy. https://t.co/cTl51G9vpj
— RI Center for Freedom⚓️ (@RICenterFreedom) January 22, 2018
JUST IN: National Grid says it will cut its proposed RI rate hike by $25M, mostly thanks to savings from the new federal tax law. Hike would now be $45M, not $71M https://t.co/sOkCU3rg5Y
— Ted Nesi (@TedNesi) January 11, 2018
Paul Bedard reports in the Washington Examiner that National Grid won’t be alone if it reduces rates to reflect its lower tax burden, owing to the GOP-Trump tax cut that has just gone into effect:
On the heels of companies dishing bonuses of up to $3,000 to over one million workers due to the anticipated benefit of President Trump’s tax reform victory, several major utilities have announced plans to cut rates in a consumer payback related to the lower taxes.
Energy suppliers like Washington’s Pepco, Baltimore Gas and Light, Pacific Power, Rocky Mountain Power and Commonwealth Edison said they plan to give hundreds of thousands of customers a rate cut due to the tax reform.
Again, lowering the cost of doing business lowers the prices that companies have to charge to cover operating expenses and achieve whatever profits they need, which contrary to popular progressive delusion, they can’t just arbitrarily collect.
On the same topic, I asked Lt. Governor Dan McKee’s office whether his call for lower utility rates means he supports the tax reduction. Here’s the response:
Lt. Governor McKee has publicly voiced his concern with the tax bill. One of his major issues with the bill is that it gave the overwhelming amount of tax relief to a very small and select percentage of the population and particularly large corporations. Lt. Governor McKee will use the new law in any way possible to help Rhode Islanders. In that vein, he will continue to pursue the rollback of previously approved and pending National Grid rate increases and encourage others to do the same.
Political rhetoric notwithstanding, one suspects that the former mayor of Cumberland understands that tax cuts in a system in which a relatively small percentage of the population pays the majority of taxes will lead to disproportionate reductions for those who pay the most. One also hopes that the lieutenant governor is cognizant of the fact that his latest initiative plans to take advantage of the relief given to a “large corporation.”
We can only shake our heads, though, that a politician who actually seeks to draw advantage from the effects of legislation from the opposite party seems so moderate.
Readers may have caught wind of the push — led by Democrat Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee — to pressure or force National Grid to lower its requested energy rates in response to presumably significant savings due to the tax reform passed by the Republican Congress and President Trump. On WPRI, Ted Nesi reports that at least one Massachusetts energy provider is lowering rates “to pass along some of its millions of dollars in tax savings to customers”:
“Our neighbors in Massachusetts will be getting a break on their monthly electricity bills,” McKee said in a statement. “It’s time for Rhode Island to ask National Grid to use its corporate savings to lower rates in our state and provide much needed relief for local families and small businesses.”
Wherever one may fall on the spectrum of possibilities for pressuring or forcing companies to use their resources in certain ways, whether utilities or otherwise, doesn’t this episode pretty much reinforce the premise of corporate tax cuts? When government imposes costs on businesses, they are ultimately passed along to consumers and the economy overall.
And by the way, when we periodically hear politicians attacking companies — as McKee has attacked National Grid in the past — shouldn’t they simultaneously seek to mitigate the various ways in which they, the politicians, push the companies to higher prices? That would include not only taxes, but also regulations and other government programs, such as those proliferating in the name of environmentalism. Or is government the only area in which there are no trade-offs?
— gary sasse (@gssasse) January 5, 2018
Great news for all Rhode Islanders and small & big biz. But you keep fighting against us and FOR much higher heating & gasoline prices, Congressman! https://t.co/56XbZMdQ8Q
— Monique C (@MoniqAR) January 5, 2018
I try to be tactful. But not possible here. NY Gov is deluded fool to compel NY ratepayers to COMPLETELY UNNECESSARILY pay 3X-4X more for power. https://t.co/VbcX4Ljvvc
— Monique C (@MoniqAR) January 4, 2018
Making a massive profit on us. It was a bad deal under former gov Carciari, bad deal now. Taxpayers shdn't have had to pay for their profits and we have not even begun yet. Basic need is unaffordable. https://t.co/tDAzZ5VqTQ
— OSTPA (@OSTPA1) December 31, 2017
RI is an outlier based on EPA data when it comes to pollution emissions yet some members of the GA want to impose more unwarranted and expensive restrictions on businesses in the state.
— Ken Mendonça (@ElectKenRI) December 27, 2017
This is a true battle of visions. Their progressive vision would transform our home state into a liberal hell. Rhode Island could become a place where businesses face even higher legal risks and our citizens would be even less free to live their own lives.
The activists are going town by town pushing fruitless plastic bag bans, and in Tiverton the debate raises more disturbing beliefs:
Hilton apparently believes that government’s providing educational services creates an excellent opportunity to manipulate children into conflict with their parents to advance a cause whenever a handful of elected officials agree with activists that the cause is righteous. While one would have to research how much class time must be devoted to an issue in order to turn children into a government youth corps, Tiverton parents might rightly wonder whether the school district’s academic results illustrate available slack in the school day. Just 28% of Tiverton high school students are proficient in math and fewer than half in reading. Perhaps indoctrination can wait until those results improve.
On the other hand, perhaps the school department could seize on the issue to provide practical lessons in math, science, and critical thinking.
The town administrator is warning of big spending increases next year, and this is what elected officials are spending their time on?
I forget the specific issue, but some years ago, out of frustration at the one-sided nature of his reporting, I contacted the Providence Journal environment reporter to say I’d be happy to voice the other side if he ever felt inclined to include it. I think it was Alex Kuffner, but it might have been his predecessor. Whoever it was, the reply was that he didn’t believe there really was another side.
That exchange came to mind when I read Kuffner’s article about fishermen who aren’t happy that we’ve cleaned Narragansett Bay so thoroughly:
Lanny Dellinger, board member of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, put the blame on a tightening of restrictions on wastewater treatment plants after the historic Greenwich Bay.
We think of waste as waste, of course, but there’s a reason we put manure in soil to fertilize it. We do live in an ecosystem, in which creatures tend to have complementary roles.
The article does a good job highlighting the reality that, over time, different forms of life thrive and fade out. Some human modification or natural event changes the immediate environment, and the balance of life changes. People have to adapt, both in their diets and their industries.
Sometimes we adopt a hubris that hides that fact:
There are larger questions in play, said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
“Given the complexity of everything that’s going on, what are we trying to get to?” she asked.
What’s the right level of nutrients in Narragansett Bay?
“Right” by whose lights? In some ways, environmentalists are just reactionaries. The thing that they value in the status quo (or the past) must be preserved or even enhanced without regard to some unseen cost.
There shouldn’t be something that we’re “trying to get to” as a permanent condition. We should set some controls for outright pollution guidelines for resolving differences and then let life happen.
One begins to get the sense that National Grid energy prices are becoming a bit of a representation of Rhode Island’s business climate generally, which makes this sort of rhetoric from the Raimondo administration a bit hard to take, from Alex Kuffner’s article on rate increase requests for the Providence Journal:
Rhode Island families and small business owners — especially manufacturing businesses — are already challenged by high energy costs,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “The Public Utilities Commission needs to open up National Grid’s books and stand up for Rhode Island ratepayers.”
Macky McCleary, administrator of the state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers — sister agency to the PUC — said Rhode Islanders deserve better value in their utility services.
“What we received today appears to be a proposal that continues business as usual and presumes the willingness of Rhode Islanders to bear an ever‐increasing burden of higher costs,” he said.
Read through the article and what you’ll find is a list of complaints that touch on government mandates on energy and on business in general:
- Labor costs, including health care
- New hires to connect green energy sources to the grid
- Wealth redistribution through a low-income discount
- Electric vehicle charging stations
How can the governor play defender of the people when it comes to these expenses and then allow things like mandatory paid sick time, new health care mandates, and expanded green energy programs? Whether these costs filter through the energy company or not, they ultimately all come from the same household incomes.
As we hear rumors that the municipal fad of plastic bag bans may move up to the state level, Glenn Reynolds points to a Daily Mail article reporting that up to 95% of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans comes from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa:
Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world’s oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.
The top 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia – accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste.
About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources – such as the Yangtze and the Ganges – could almost halve it, scientists claim.
When your neighbors attempt to impose these sorts of environmentalist restrictions on you, what they’re really doing is imposing useless drags on our lives and economy in order to feel good about themselves. Naturally, the most vulnerable in our community will ultimately feel the effects most acutely, but that’s of little concern when you’re saving the world from a phantom non-Asian bag menace.
That statement may seem a little harsh, but in all the articles I’ve read about these bans, I don’t think I’ve ever seen mention of the actual source of plastic in the oceans or a discussion of the economics. I have, however, seen stories about people getting sick from reusable grocery bags.
Portsmouth good government activist John Vit released these drone photos of new @RIDOTNews facility in Portsmouth (notice proximity to wetlands) violating RIDEM Rules by not protecting salt piles. @TedNesi @kathyprojo pic.twitter.com/pcHUcHdPmr
— John Pagliarini, Jr. (@SenJPag) November 21, 2017
— OSTPA (@OSTPA1) November 5, 2017
To be fair, this is the sort of thing one expects a governor to say when an institution, particularly a public utility, falls short of expectations at a time during which people are relying on it, as Shaun Towne reports for WPRI:
[Democrat Governor Gina] Raimondo’s office on Wednesday said the governor has directed the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) Administrator Macky McCleary to assess National Grid’s storm preparedness and restoration efforts.
To ensure National Grid’s attention is focused on the ongoing restoration, Raimondo’s office said the review will begin once all homes and businesses are back online.
“Rhode Islanders should expect the lights to come on when the switch is flipped. National Grid owes Rhode Island families and businesses a swift response when power goes out and thoughtful planning to prevent outages when storms are forecasted,” Raimondo said in a statement Wednesday.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for a politician to position herself in opposition to inadequate services when this is also news, as reported by Susan Campbell, also on WPRI:
On the first day of open enrollment for health insurance, a glitch prevented hundreds of customers from reaching HealthSource RI.
About 300 calls were routed incorrectly, due to a change that was made to the agency’s phone menu Tuesday night, according to Brenna McCabe, a spokesperson for the agency.
Add the following to the list of reasons government should remain small enough that it’s actually possible for politicians to run it well: It doesn’t help when the people’s elected representatives have less than zero credibility for complaining about the disappointing performance of other organizations.
— Andrew Morse (@CAndrewMorse) October 24, 2017
— Steve Goddard (@SteveSGoddard) October 23, 2017