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Don’t Forget the Real Scheme Regarding Smiley

Yesterday’s Providence Journal “Political Scene” reminded readers about the windfall that Brown University recently paid for a house owned by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s chief of staff, Brett Smiley:

In July 2017, the university purchased a two-and-a-half story, federal-style Colonial house at 37 George St. — assessed by the city at $843,600 — from Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief-of-staff Brett Smiley and his husband, James DeRentis.

The university paid them $1.1 million, according to city records.

As I detailed in July, the price that Brown paid for the house may not be the scandal (although it’s conspicuous that Brown has plenty of reasons to want to be on the good side of Raimondo’s upper echelon).  The property assessment is the oddity.  Smiley’s assessment, made while he worked in the administration of Democrat Mayor Jorge Elorza, was actually 6% below what he’d paid two years earlier, even though his neighborhood generally increased in value by 20% during that period, saving him something like $4,400 per year.

Don’t forget that Smiley ran for mayor as a progressive, which is very telling of progressive thinking.  They create a big-government funnel of money and power and then position themselves right at the tip.

This is just how it’s going to work until Rhode Islanders stop falling for the rhetoric and insist that government go back to working for us, not connected insiders who like to talk about supporting the oppressed.

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The Illness of and Medicine for Corporate Crony Incentives

With a mention of the questionable benefit from having wooed General Electric to Boston with $150 million in subsidies, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby argues against the crony-capitalist bribing of companies to locate within a jurisdiction:

Amazon says it is seeking to build its new home in a metropolitan area with a large population, an international airport, and good schools. But as everyone understands, it also expect to be courted with publicly-funded “incentives” — some combination of property-tax abatements, job-creation credits, direct grants, sales-tax refunds, land-acquisition assistance, and the other varieties of corporate welfare that governments have concocted to lure businesses. Amazon knows how the economic-redevelopment game is played in what The Economist calls this “sweet land of subsidy.” (Just this week, Wisconsin agreed to pay Foxconn a staggering $3 billion in subsidies to construct a flat-screen factory in the state.) If cities and states are determined to compete for Amazon’s new campus by showering it with fistfuls of taxpayer dollars, the company can’t be blamed for pocketing the largesse.

But what excuse do mayors and governors have? Again and again they spend taxpayers’ funds to woo companies in this way. Again and again the taxpayers get jilted.

Yet, this is the strategy that our Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, wishes to expand in her recently proposed budget, including special subsidies to lower-end cronies, from students to small businesses.  Under this model, the government makes it unreasonably difficult for individuals and businesses to act economically and then tries to take credit for easing the burden with subsidies… for those individuals and businesses willing to kneel before the bureaucrats and be bought into the game.

By way of a bigger-picture medicine for this hard-to-kick mental disease, I like Glenn Reynolds’s suggestion:

State tax abatements and other “incentives” should be treated as taxable income at the federal level. States should be encouraged to have low taxes for every company, not just the favored few.

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Challenging The Progressive-Left

At the Center, we know that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation forced upon the people by an ever-growing state government is the main culprit in causing Rhode Island’s weak and stagnant performance. Look at it this way, heavy handed action by a state government that primarily seeks to perpetuate itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving.

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Rhode Island In 47th Place On The Jobs & Opportunity Index

Happy New Year! In 2018, Rhode Islanders want to achieve their hopes and dreams of better life for their families. In order for the Ocean State to prosper, we need an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, and creates quality jobs. In this regard, the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate is often used by state lawmakers as a benchmark to evaluate the results of their policy initiatives. However, this rate represents only a very narrow look at the employment health of a state and can often paint an incomplete, or even inaccurate, snapshot of the broader economic picture.

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Life Expectancy and Drug Overdose Deaths Don’t Fit the Identity Politics Narrative

The headline that the Providence Journal gave to a Washington Post story, “Fueled by drug crisis, US life expectancy declines for a second straight year,” hides the key point:

Overall, life expectancy dropped by a tenth of a year, from 78.7 to 78.6. It fell two-tenths of a year for men, who have much higher overdose death rates, from 76.3 to 76.1 years. Women’s life expectancy held steady at 81.1 years.

American women now have five full years of additional life, on average, than American men.  You better believe that if the sexes were reversed that would be not only the headline, but a theme for national coverage everywhere for a week.

Looking at a leading cause of the change only amplifies the point:

Men of all ages (26 deaths per 100,000) are twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as women (13 per 100,000).

In Rhode Island, where female Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo hosts an annual student contest that discriminates against boys, the number of overdose deaths among men is almost three times that of women:

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The most important antidote to drug use and overdose isn’t a government program, it’s hope.  Unfortunately, that’s only a word on our flag in Rhode Island.

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Is Reality Setting in for the Governor?

Perhaps it’s just the moment and the particular set of issues raised, but a quick-hit Providence Journal interview with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo feels like a bit of a change in tone, from backing away from legalizing pot to holding back on school construction bonds.

A couple of points are worth teasing out:

“Look,” Raimondo said Tuesday, “I think it would be really sad if we lost the PawSox to Worcester …. But no, I am not going to get into a bidding war. We can’t afford a bidding war. We have a deal on the table now. I would say: Go ahead and pass that deal.”

“I am not going to get bid up, and pay more than we can afford, so we don’t lose it to Charlie Baker,” she said.

This is particularly nice to see.  Rhode Island has lost thousands of residents in recent decades because the state didn’t want, essentially, to bid for them to stay by making it easier to make it in Rhode Island.  Why should a minor league baseball team get better treatment?

Raimondo said her budget proposal will honor the next promised $25-million cut in local car taxes, part of a multi-year phaseout plan lawmakers approved earlier this year.

This is interesting.  Last week on the radio, John DePetro and I had some fun speculating that Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello of Cranston was sending signals to Raimondo.  First, he was seen chatting with her potential Democrat primary foe, Lincoln Chafee, and then his shadow could be seen around the edges of Joe Trillo’s bizarre declaration of his intent to stage a third-party campaign that would almost certainly split the vote against Raimondo.

Holding to the car tax elimination, which the speaker championed, could be a sign that the messages have been received and an agreement struck.

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