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The State Police Catch the Diversity Virus

It would seem that progressive identity politics are now working their way up the scale of priorities of the state police:

In one of her first moves as the state’s top cop, Rhode Island State Police Col. Ann Assumpico has commissioned a study of recruitment practices aimed at retaining a “racially and gender-diverse department,” the state police announced Friday.

The project is expected to cost $225,000 and will be paid for from the state police’s remaining portion of funds secured in the federal settlement with Google.

Hopefully law enforcement remains the agency’s top priority, but two years of the Gina Raimondo in the governor’s chair haven’t been good for the institution’s once-impeccable reputation.  A diversity obsession can do a lot of damage.

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Anybody Buying the UHIP Spin?

Come on, now. This is like lie-detector 101:

“There was pressure [to launch UHIP despite its not being ready], no doubt about it,” Raimondo told reporters. “High ranking members of the General Assembly said, ‘Deliver this now.'” …

[Department of Human Services Director Eric] Beane, called to testify about his month-long probe of UHIP, tempered his answer, saying employees he spoke with at DHS and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services talked about pressure from former House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond Gallison and former Rep. Eileen Naughton, who chaired the finance subcommittee on health and human services.

So, the governor tried to deflect some blame, and the administration realized it was starting a political fight, so a flunky ostensibly testifying with a neutral assessment of what went wrong implied (indirectly, notice) that the blame should fall on two legislators whom a governor would hardly take seriously as directing the administration’s actions and who, conveniently, are no longer in office (one because he was jammed up with criminal investigations).

This is cover-up land. The governor can’t be trusted.  As I suggested in my “Last Impressions” podcast this week, it appears that Raimondo has invested in the tagline that she’s the “governor who gets things done,” and sliding down the UHIP wormhole had to be a major concern.

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Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

Thanks to Kate Nagle and GoLocalProv for inviting the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Mike Stenhouse on their new GoLocal LIVE program yesterday. They discussed, in part, Governor Raimondo’s recently announced manufacturing advisory council, which is comprised of lots of people but not a whole lot of economic diversity.

Meanwhile, congratulations and best wishes to Kate Nagle, Molly O’Brien and GoLocalProv on the launch of their cutting edge new program!

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Resisting the Push to Make College Degrees More Useless Paper from the Government

Given debate in Rhode Island about taking more money from already-overburdened taxpayers in order to allow politicians to buy votes by giving away college tuition, the headline of Jeffrey Selingo’s article in The Washington Post catches the eye: “Is a college degree the new high school diploma? Here’s why your degree’s worth is stagnant.“:

… a new study of the degree premium, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that its growth has flattened in recent years. While the premium grew rapidly in the 1980s — mostly because of the decline of manufacturing jobs that required just a high school diploma — its growth slowed in the 1990s, followed by a small uptick in the first decade of the new millennium.

Since 2010, however, the premium has largely remained unchanged, said the report’s author, Robert G. Valletta of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The “patterns indicate that the factors propelling earlier increases in the returns to higher education have dissipated,” Valletta wrote.

As I’ve been saying.  People should question the promises of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free-college grab and ponder whether it’s really just the government trying to give itself two or four more years of taxpayer subsidization to accomplish the task of educating students whom it has failed for the first thirteen (or more) years of their education.

The “value of a degree” will fluctuate depending not only on the job market, but also on the purposes to which it is put.  If employers are just using degrees as they might once have used self-administered literacy tests, then the education itself is next to useless.

We should question, too, whether it’s proper to assign value to the piece of paper rather than the holder.  Selingo’s article includes a chart that does indeed show that people with higher-level degrees tend to cluster at higher income levels, but one can’t leave the reasons people seek degrees out of the equation.  A better phrasing might be that people who achieve high pay tend to seek higher degrees.  Those who get the degrees because they’re free or cheap won’t have the same results.

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So, Free Tuition to a College with “Deficiencies” Training Teachers Whose Students Aren’t Proficient?

This news, reported in an early-January article by G. Wayne Miller in the Providence Journal kind of disappeared with the governor’s announcement of free tuition, but it’s relevant at the front and back ends:

A Rhode Island Department of Education review of Rhode Island College has found multiple deficiencies in educator programs at the school, which graduates a majority of the state’s elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators.

Problems at two master’s-level programs were judged so severe that RIDE declined to renew them. Seven other programs were conditionally approved. A tenth was approved “with distinction.”

As the article states, this college is graduating “a majority” of the “teachers and administrators,” and the schools at which those graduates are going on to teach are often leaving students to graduate without being proficient in math and reading.  So Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is proposing to give free-to-the-student (paid by taxpayers) tuition to students who often aren’t adequately prepared for college, some of whom will enroll in programs for which the state has reason for concern and then go on to teach at the schools that aren’t offering adequate college preparation.

That sounds very Rhode Island, but it doesn’t sound like a winning formula for the people who live here.

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Line Item Veto – Please Shoot An E-Mail To Your Elected Officials

The line item veto is one of several good government measures that need to come to Rhode Island. It would impart some – though certainly not excessive – balance between Rhode Island’s executive and legislative branches. (Rhode Island is notorious for a weak executive branch.) Please visit this website to quickly and easily communicate your support to our state elected officials.

More reasons to do so from the blast sent out by Ken Block, who is leading the charge on this, a couple of weeks ago.

The momentum keeps building for getting a line-item veto in RI. 2017 could be the year we get this major reform done – especially if you help.

Governor Raimondo has expressed support for the line-item veto, as has Senate President Paiva-Weed. Pressure, created by people like you sending emails like the one I am asking you to send below, is 100% responsible for putting Rhode Island on the cusp of a major government reform.

Let’s get the job done!

In less than 60 seconds, you can send an email to our elected leaders asking them to give voters a chance to say YES to the line-item veto on the 2018 ballot.

In less than 60 seconds, you can add to the pressure which will certainly yield what we all want – a better functioning government.

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Governor Pitches Free College at High School 98% Not Proficient in Math

Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio noted, yesterday, that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo continues her inappropriate exploitation of government schools’ access to young Rhode Islanders for political purposes today.

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At Central Falls High School, a jaw-dropping 98% of students are not proficient in math and 93% are not proficient in reading, and Gina Raimondo is going there to pitch taking money from taxpayers to give away two years of free-to-students college.  She should be embarrassed, and if the public were adequately informed, she would meet an enraged auditorium rather than a laudatory one.

Will any journalists ask her about the apparent disconnect?

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Sleazy Raimondo Political Pitches to Under-Prepared Students Continue

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo brought her gross pitching-politics-to-public-schoolers road show to Johnston Senior High School this week:

Gov. Gina Raimondo is out on the campaign trail, taking her pitch to high schools.

“You go from kindergarten to twelfth grade with public education. Why should it stop at twelfth grade?” Raimondo asked an auditorium of students at Johnston High School on Tuesday.

Afterward, she told reporters it is indeed a campaign to rally support for her plan to offer two free years of college tuition to Rhode Island high school graduates.

One wonders whether she believes it’s a positive or negative that the school has left her audience poorly equipped to assess the wisdom of her proposal.  More than 82% of Johnston Senior High School students are not proficient in math, and two-thirds miss the mark in reading.

Sadly, it isn’t clear that Rhode Island adults are very proficient in government ethics and simple good political taste.  Whether or not the governor’s political visits to government-run schools violate any campaign finance or ethics laws, this whole campaign is just unseemly.  The governor is using public schools to lobby our children on a politically charged policy proposal.  Just… yuck.

Shame on the school districts for allowing her to take advantage of their access like this, and shame on the parents for taking the abuse quietly.

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A More Holistic Path To Help Real Rhode Islanders

It is time to challenge the status quo insider mindset and to search for a more holistic path to help real Rhode Islanders improve their quality of life. This week, the Center held a forum at Bryant University that provided an ideal opportunity for community, religious, and political leaders to convene to begin the process. We brought together leaders on both the left and right to discuss the challenging questions, and the strongest voices stood in stark contrast to the corporate tax-credit policies that have been the center-piece of the Raimondo administration’s economic development agenda.

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Governor Takes Class Time from School with 10% Proficiency in Math to Pitch Free College

Not to belabor Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free-tuition vote-buying scheme, but doesn’t this seem presumptuous and out of line:

Gov. Gina Raimondo brought her proposal to provide free tuition to students attending Rhode Island’s public colleges to a cheering crowd of juniors, seniors and faculty at Cranston High School East on Wednesday morning.

In keeping with every other news report I’ve seen, Providence Journal reporter G. Wayne Miller doesn’t say whether the governor made her remarks while appearing at the school for some other reason, and she shared the stage with a bunch of like-minded politicians, so it seems as if class time was simply being used for a political event and photo op.  Republican Mayor Allan Fung — a past and possibly future contender for governor — had to offer his views via press release.

One could see allowing the governor to explain her proposal in the context of a debate in front of the students, but something so even-handed and educational is apparently beyond the ken of Rhode Island public schools.  Instead, Rhode Islanders receive the spectacle of their governor sounding like a candidate for class president, promising that all grades will be on a curve and the cafeteria will bring back decent food.

In case you’re wondering, only 30% of Cranston East students are proficient in reading and 10% in math, which makes the event just about a perfect representation of the governor’s political strategy.  Her policies are geared toward and presented to people who stand to benefit directly, who lack the context or experience to understand the likely consequences, and many of whom can’t legally vote.

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Money-Grubbing Company’s CEO Praises Politician Who Paid Him

It’s tempting to wonder whether Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo made a governor-praising op-ed by CEO Bob Baird a condition of the state government’s tax-dollar handout to pen-company A.T. Cross:

Enter Gov. Gina Raimondo. In 2014, soon after she was elected, Governor Raimondo called to tell us she loved our history in Rhode Island and looked forward to using a Cross pen to put her signature on official documents. Later, when the governor and her team learned we were talking to other states about pulling up our roots and beginning anew somewhere else, they made it clear they value Rhode Island companies that have been here all along. The governor, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and their team made a compelling case that our business is best served by staying in Rhode Island and that our employees will find everything they are looking for here at home.

Most likely, though, the CEO’s public promotion of the governor was more of a wink and nod affair than a contractual stipulation, or maybe it’s simple etiquette in the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours crowd.

I will say that I’ll never deliberately buy an A.T. Cross pen, now, although if the company decides to send a thank you gift to every Rhode Islander for our involuntary contribution to the company’s bottom line, I’ll take one.

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Raimondo Insults Your Intelligence with College Plan

This morning, I noted that legislators are the only people in Rhode Island who can promise workers a 10% increase in pay without worrying about where the money will come from.  It just magically appears in their imaginations.  At noon, I suggested that Rhode Islanders should be embarrassed that their state is so dependent on federal government welfare.

The state government’s latest revenue and caseload conference estimated that the government’s revenue will fall $52 million from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2018.  And during the budget process, last year, the state expected that deficits would climb $40-60 million per year, hitting $333 million by 2021.

So how in the world does Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo state the following — and get away with it in G. Wayne Miller’s Providence Journal article — while promising the new $30 million expense of giving all Rhode Islanders two free years of college at a state institution?

We have the money. This is affordable. It’s a smart solution.

It’s a vote-buying giveaway pure and simple that counts on Rhode Islanders’ not noticing that they’re paying the bill.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.

Moreover, we should expect that the estimated cost is laughably low.  Given free tuition, more families will use the colleges and university, and the institutions will surely increase their tuition rates once the cost to the decision makers (students and their families) is zilch (or half-price, for four-year degrees).  And this doesn’t even get into the governor’s assumptions that people who have no financial skin in the game for their degrees will actually take their studies seriously and apply themselves and that those who do will stay in the state rather than taking their subsidized degrees to states that actually have healthy economies.

One can only hope that Rhode Islanders aren’t so far gone, at this point, that they fall for the governor’s snake oil sale.

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Corporate Welfare – Are We Being Played?

For years, the insiders have conspired to create the cronyism rampant in the Ocean State. In their zeal for headlines, does the political class ever question the value of these corporate welfare deals? Just this week, we saw the results in questions surrounding the Governor’s claims in the Wexford deal. The tone-deaf Brookings report lays the ground work by recommending that we can achieve better results if, instead of taking the arbitrary approach to 38 Studios-style corporate cronyism that has dominated Rhode Island public policy for decades, we take the same approach in a more targeted and strategic manner. Nonsense.

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No More Blind Eye – General Assembly Must End Corporate Welfare Scam

In light of GoLocalProv’s blockbuster expose Friday that the Wexford job creation claim is off by nine hundred, the General Assembly needs to immediately defund all corporate welfare – and request that the Governor claw back much if not all of the taxpayer subsidies currently earmarked for Wexford.

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Big Wexford Deal, Big Exaggeration on Jobs

Kate Nagle and the GoLocalProv news team have dipped into a topic that has likely nagged at a lot of Rhode Islanders who follow the news:

Governor Gina Raimondo has repeatedly claimed that the $32 plus million in public subsidies will create 1,000 new permanent jobs in Rhode Island [at the I-195 Wexford development]. After weeks of requesting information about tenants, rents, and job creation, GoLocal was finally able to secure actual job numbers for the project and then fact check those claims.

In fact, actual jobs created will be closer to 80 to 90, at a cost of more than $32 million.

The two tricks of the higher estimate (which might even make the 80-90 projection high) are:

  1. The jobs are estimated based on square footage, and a key tenant, Cambridge Innovation Center (CICO), will actually just be renting out space to start ups, which may or may not utilize the space in accordance with the rule-of-thumb guest.
  2. Many of the claimed jobs, from Brown University and CIC, would have been created whether or not taxpayers gave Wexford such heavy subsidies, simply in other spaces.

I recently described how the Wexford-Brookings-CIC package is being sold for taxpayer handouts around the country.  GoLocal’s review of the jobs claims certainly advances the impression that Rhode Island has merely bought into a pitch.  If that’s the case, the next question is whether progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo was duped or is in on the scam.

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About Those “Jobs for Rhode Islanders”

While “roasting” the news of 2016 on WPRO, one of the guys joked that Rhode Island politicians constantly talk about “jobs for Rhode Islanders,” but whenever they’ve got an actual job to fill, they look to out-of-state individuals and firms.  Even more broadly than that, though, journalists oughtn’t let this particular talking point slide by as easily as it does.

The point was emphasized, for me, when shortly after hearing progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo use the phrase on Newsmakers, I caught the panel on RIPR’s Bottom Line emphasizing how these companies have people commuting down from Boston, and how that’s a recruiting tool.  Here’s Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy:

The companies that really are in the information technology business, they employ people who live in Boston and take the train down, take Amtrak down.  (They’re not taking the MBTA; they’re taking Amtrak down.)  And it’s actually a recruiting point.

So the question: Was GE, for example, wooed into Rhode Island by the governor’s sales pitch, or did the massive company simply maximize its taxpayer subsidies — adding Rhode Island’s handouts to those already secured in Boston — by breaking off a piece of its business to put in Providence, with the expectation that it wouldn’t change much for business or employees except the direction in which they headed when they left their Massachusetts homes?  Some of them might even work from home, or even “telecommute” from a Boston office.

If so, yeah, maybe RI gets a cut of the income taxes, but that’s about all the benefit we get from those employees.  Meanwhile, we’re taking money out of the pockets of Rhode Islanders that we could otherwise use to advance and improve our own lives and communities.

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Rhode Island “Company of the Year” (and State Ward) Already Has a Broken Turbine

Much to the detriment of the state’s rate payers, Deepwater Wind began generating electricity on December 12. Less than three weeks later, one of its five turbines broke (oopsie). As though wind energy isn’t already expensive enough, now we have to add the cost of making repairs thirteen miles out on the ocean. (‘Cause the cost of water and seawater-related repairs is always very reasonable, right, boat owners …?)

It probably was not a coincidence that the company made this embarrassing admission on a day – the Friday before Christmas – sure to glean the absolute minimum amount of public attention.

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Drop in Manufacturing in RI Most Worrying Because of Government Solutions

Highlighting the change in the Providence area’s mix of employment, Ted Nesi reviews a study finding that the metro has seen the nation’s greatest drop in manufacturing jobs, as a percentage of all jobs, with jobs requiring a college degree increasing in the mix.

This is a percentage, not the absolute number of jobs, so all sorts of jobs could go up or down, but if they do so at different rates, the mix will change.  In that light, this metric could be indicative of Rhode Island’s government plantation approach.  As the economy shifts toward emphasis on government services, more of the available jobs require college degrees (not because, by the way, government-service jobs necessarily require degree-level skill sets, but because it suits politicians and labor unions to require degrees.)

Beyond such considerations, the response from the governor caught my eye:

In his paper, Whitaker notes concerns “that the growing industries do not provide enough work opportunities or middle-class incomes for people without college degrees.” That echoes frequent comments by Rhode Island leaders including Gov. Gina Raimondo who say the state needs to do more to encourage the creation of jobs for workers who don’t attend college.

She may have said such a thing somewhere, but the emphasis of her policies has been on “well-paying” jobs in trendy fields.  More importantly, her premise about government effort is wrong. State politicians and bureaucrats are not well positioned to create targeted jobs.  And even if they were, they haven’t the right.  When the government attempts to create specific jobs, it is either manipulating the public to match politicians’ preferences or replacing residents who don’t fit the plan with outsiders who do.  Note this:

A study earlier this year by Boston Fed economist Mary Burke reported manufacturing employment in Rhode Island plunged by 57% between 1990 and 2015, and found a growing number of the state’s skilled jobs requiring college degrees were going to out-of-state workers.

If the state government is to maintain democratic legitimacy, it has to represent the people who are here, not a marked-off place on the map or a collection of preferred industries.

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Rhode Island-Style Economic Development’s Inevitable Failure

Put aside any partisan — or individual-politician — loyalty.  Clark Judge offers a valuable lesson for Rhode Island in his recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rust Belt Is Right to Blame Obama“:

First, and no surprise here: From 2010-15 regulatory risk jumped—an average increase across all industries of 79%.

Second, and more surprising: As regulatory risk climbed, annual capital expenditures fell, a total drop of nearly $32 billion when comparing 2010 to 2015. This negative relationship was strong across the board, but it was statistically tightest for “industrials” (heavy manufacturing plus railroads and airlines).

Third, as regulatory risks grew and capital expenditures shrank, major corporations also cut jobs by more than 1.1 million. Among the biggest losers were heavy manufacturing, airlines, railroads, information technology and consumer products—America’s industrial core.

Fourth, while the business of making things and moving them to market was eroding, the value of gaming the government increased. The Vogel and Hood team constructed two trial portfolios composed solely of companies that ranked high in lobbying strength. From 2010-16 these portfolios outperformed the S&P 500 by 22% and 27%.

In short, with the expanded reach of regulation (as well as the increased propensity to continue that expansion), companies stop investing in their businesses, both their capital and their labor, and focus attention increasingly on getting government to help them out.  This has obvious benefits for elected and appointed government officials, and it has benefits for established companies that game the government in a way that hobbles their competition.  But it hurts everybody else, from entrepreneurs to workers, and leads to inevitable decline.

This dynamic covers regulation, taxation, and even the Raimondo-esque corporate welfare programs that compensate politically favored companies for the inconvenience of doing business here, and it’s an across-the-board failure.  Not only are more-innovative companies washed out, but the companies that survive produce less and innovate less, because they’re focused too much on redistribution.

Forcing our elected officials to get us off this one-wheeled bandwagon — focusing instead on family prosperity — should be Rhode Islanders’ resolution for the new year.

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The Unsustainable System of Money-Grubbing Companies

The thing about handing out other people’s money for political gain is that it’s very, very easy to look only at the upside, because the future is, obviously, not yet known, and when it arrives, few will check the record, and responsible parties may no longer be in place, anyway.  Thus, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is free to say things like this, from a Ted Nesi article on Johnson & Johnson’s agreement to put a location in Providence with 75 employees for the low-low government welfare handout of $5 million:

And 10 years from now, when GE has 700 employees there and J&J has 700 employees there and Virgin Pulse has 700 employees there and it’s tens of millions of dollars of revenue for the state, great, I did my job.

Note the assumption that the government can pick these winners.  It sounds great to think that every one of these subsidized companies will succeed and expand by multiples over the next decade, but if that were feasible to expect, investing would be easy.

Meanwhile, the money handed out to them won’t be in the state’s economy serving other purposes that might be more productive. The simple fact of these companies’ competing in the Rhode Island market with the benefit of subsidies will have a largely untraceable effect on others. And we can be confident that some of them will seek more public money down the road (like 38 Studios) to secure the state’s “investment.”

Moreover, we’re already seeing the insidious contagion of corporations’ government dependency:

A.T. Cross, the maker of fine-writing instruments and accessories founded in Providence in 1846, celebrated its move back into the capital city from Lincoln on Wednesday, after nearly $1.9 million in economic incentives from the state helped fund the company’s $2.1-million move.

Taxpayers are nearly paying the whole bill to move this company from one Rhode Island municipality to another.

The economic system that these money-grubbing companies are ushering in is clearly unsustainable.  The key marker of success will quickly become whether a company has the political connections or leverage to get money from the government to offset the high taxes and suffocating regulations.

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