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Another Government-Wall-Street Scheme; Of Course, RI Is In

The Wall Street Journal’s Kirsten Grind raises a red flag over another mortgage-related investment scheme:

About $3.4 billion has been lent so far for residential projects, and industry executives predict the total will double within the next year. That would likely rank PACE loans as the fastest-growing type of financing in the U.S.

As the loans spread, so do problems that echo the subprime mortgage crisis. Plumbers and repairmen essentially function as loan brokers but have scant training and oversight. They often pitch PACE loans to help land contracting jobs and earn referral fees from lenders, according to loan documents and more than two dozen borrowers, industry executives and employees.

The referring contractor gets a cut.  The municipality gets a cut.  And taxpayers will wind up on the hook if things go wrong.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Rhode Island has this.  Democrat Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the legislation into law in 2013, after Democrat Art Handy (Cranston) passed H6019 and a gang of Democrat state senators led by William Conley (East Providence, Pawtucket) passed S0900.  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity did include this legislation in the 2013 iteration of the Freedom Index.

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Left and Right Need to Acknowledge Decisions Based on Policy

Hugh Hewitt makes a great point that conservatives like me sometimes need to hear:

It would be fair to announce the end of the mortgage-interest deduction in 30 years. It would be fair to phrase out the deductibility of state taxes by, say, 2050. But not overnight. Not unless you want to give the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.

Purists have great arguments against “market distortions” in the tax code—in theory. But Americans don’t live in theory. They live in homes they bought at a value based on the existing deduction, in states whose taxes were partly offset through the federal code. Change those rules and what’s left of the GOP in high-tax states will be gone.

While those on the Left would like to treat this sort of consideration as justification for keeping government programs going forever, those on the Right do have to acknowledge that people make decisions based on bad government policy, and it can be overly harsh to the point of injustice to drop onto their heads the roofs that they’ve built over the policy framework.

Unfortunately, as with everything else, we can expect that reasonable concessions from conservatives will not be reciprocated.  For example, with the beginning of this century, special interests pushing bonds and Tiverton’s Town Council doubled the tax levy in Tiverton in less than a decade, to the point that house buyers who shop based on the monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage payment would have to pay around 15% less for a house in Tiverton than in Westport, Massachusetts, next door.

Those who bought in Tiverton before this punishment was dished out have been unfairly penalized, and many have been responding by cutting their losses and leaving town, not just because of the cost, but also because of the injustice.

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Why Go After the Car Tax?

I’ve been meaning to suggest that this doesn’t look like such a great idea:

[Democrat Speaker of the House from Cranston Nicholas] Mattiello says the state’s recent increase in revenue will help.“Our revenues are on the rise,” he said. “They’re $40 or $50 million ahead of our projections just last year. The first year I was elected our revenues were dropping like a lead ball, hundreds of millions of dollars almost overnight, and now we’re getting that revenue back. So it’s that revenue that we get back that we’re going to dedicate to our taxpayers.”

I get that the car tax is an emotional issue for some people, although it has seemed to come under fire mostly for the unfairness of assessments.  But tax policy should not be determined by emotion.

Other taxes have a more negative effect on jobs and the economy.  That means not only that the state would be better off applying its tax-cutting motivation to other taxes, but also that replacing the car tax with other revenue, as Mattiello suggests above, is by itself a job-killing reform.

Additionally, shifting more decisions about tax revenue and the spending thereof to state government reduces the independence of local government, and to the contrary, that’s something of which we need more.

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Setting Degrees and Boundaries for Telling Parents What to Do

Abby Schachter raises a warning flag on the presumption of government agencies to tell parents how to raise their children:

The fact that legislation is necessary to correct the imbalance between parents’ rights and the separate, independent rights of their minor children is one of the defining characteristics of our current age, one in which the government at all levels has become involved in the private lives of families, dictating child-rearing standards and penalizing parents who do not follow the rules. This condition of overbearing state interference in the lives of families is pervasive, though not coordinated…

“Not coordinated” in the sense that there is no secret council with a defined plan to absolve parents of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood and transfer them to the government.  However, one would have to deny the link between big-government philosophy and a definable set of beliefs associated with progressivism not to acknowledge an implicit coordination.

Look, this is one of those areas in which the degrees to which interference is permissible and the boundaries at which such interference ought to be allowed through government, through social institutions, or merely through personal social pressure ought to be available for debate, but such decisions, being so personal and intrinsic to the perpetuation of families’ belief systems, ought to be made at the most local level possible.

My opinion is that government oversteps its boundaries when it mandates behaviors beyond immediate harm and with less than near-certain risk.  As for voluntary association with moral institutions, like churches, they ought to be nearly as free as individual families are.

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Influencing Elections for Personal Gain and Power

The Rhode Island Democrat Party and other left-wingers have been trying to make a big deal out of the fact that conservatives aren’t entirely sitting on their hands during this election cycle:

On Thursday, former Democratic party chairman William Lynch, now senior adviser, issued a news release calling on voters to “reject special interest money” from “outside right-wing organizations” trying to influence the election.

He pointed to $90,294 in combined independent expenditures from the Roosevelt Society, led by former Republican Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop, and the Gaspee Project, founded by activist Mike Stenhouse, and suggested they were being secretly funded by the trucking industry.

That’s two organizations spending on a range of candidates and issues.  A GoLocalProv article out today actually puts the groups’ combined spending at $60,850, but either way, the idea that this represents some invasion of voter sanctity by self-interested parties is absurd.  Just look through the bigger spenders on GoLocal’s list:

  • $335,000 from the URI Foundation and URI Alumni Association to push voters to put taxpayers in $72,937,126 of debt (principal and interest) for spending on URI programs
  • $175,000 from two individuals directly involved in ProvPort to push voters to put taxpayers in $112,210,962 of debt to expand their port and do work at the one in Quonset
  • $100,000 from United Way, as mentioned on this site yesterday, to push voters to put taxpayers in $80,150,687 of debt to fund the local affordable housing industry
  • $1,700,000 from Twin River to promote state and local ballot questions to allow a new casino in Tiverton
  • $146,500 from Alan Hassenfeld, partly to push for passage of ethics reform, but more to back candidates who’ll work to infringe on Rhode Islanders’s Second Amendment rights
  • And rounding out GoLocal’s top 10 list is Planned Parenthood, with $25,712 to promote politicians who’ll fight to continue allowing the killing of babies before every inch of them is clear of their mothers’ bodies

Anybody who’s concerned about the use of government to take away people’s property and rights should be much more concerned about money for debt and left-wing policies.  Voters should also be concerned about a party and ideology that tries to make it seem scandalous that those who disagree with them have the audacity to participate in the political process.  They’d rather be able to take your property and your rights without any opposition.

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Keable’s RhodeWorks Vote Shows Ballot Question #2 Would at Least Give a Chance of Inquiry

A concrete example of a situation in which the state Ethics Commission should have some authority over legislators might give anybody on the fence on ballot question #2 a nudge.  By way of a reminder, owing to a court case, the commission is not permitted to investigate allegations that legislators have conflicts of interest.  Senators and representatives can vote for legislation that will profit them directly, and the Ethics Commission has no authority even to investigate.  Ballot question #2 would repair that check against corruption.

Consider Democrat Representative Cale Keable (Burrillville, Glocester).  According to his official biography, Keable is employed by Providence legal firm Partridge Snow & Hahn, where he works in civil litigation, especially “real estate, construction disputes and environmental litigation.”  According to the state transparency site, Partridge Snow & Hahn has received more than half a million dollars of business from the state government of Rhode Island over the past few years, most of it specifically from the Department of Transportation, for which the firm has handled “infrastructure – engineering” matters and “agency bonds.”

And yet, Keable voted for the DOT’s RhodeWorks toll-and-borrow plan.

Given its often-disappointing approach, the Ethics Commission might not find that to be a problem, even were it fully empowered to investigate.  It’s conceivable that Keable will receive direct benefit in his role at Partridge Snow & Hahn from RhodeWorks (say, by handling litigation arising from the road reconfiguration).  Or, on the other end of the spectrum, his role in the firm may be completely disconnected from anything having to do with its government contracts (as disconnected as it’s possible to be within a single company, that is).

In other words, the Ethics Commission might look into the matter and conclude that Keable’s vote did not represent a conflict of interest under the code of ethics.  But right now, the commission can’t even look into it, leaving Rhode Islanders with no reason to do anything but assume the worst about their legislators.

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Needing a GPS to Navigate the Law

In April, I noted my wife’s ticket in Massachusetts for holding her cell phone in her hand in order to better follow audio GPS directions.  Surprisingly, although we requested a court date to contest the ticket, we haven’t heard anything yet.  Meanwhile, judges in Rhode Island are coming to conclusions unhelpful to our cause:

In a decision that has drawn criticism from some in the defense community, a three-magistrate panel upheld a finding that an East Providence man violated a state law banning text messaging while driving when a state trooper spotted him using his GPS.

If upheld, the tribunal’s reading of the law would make Rhode Island the only state in the nation to ban any manipulation of a cell phone by drivers, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. However, talking on a cellphone — an activity that many other states prohibit unless a hands-free device is used — is still allowed.

In Rhode Island, naturally, the problem is compounded by bad drafting of the law, with a definition of “text messaging” as “the process by which users send, read, or receive messages on a wireless handset, including, but not limited to, text messages, instant messages, electronic messages, or e-mails, in order to communicate with any person or device.”  Where the judge’s decision is specious lies in the fact that GPS already exists, so legislators could reasonably have been expected to put it on the list of examples.  “Not limited to,” in this reading, would be a phrase intending to cover some innovation in technology or obscure messaging application that might arise to skirt the law.

Sadly, this is how law gets made, and it probably has been.  The difference was that the law attempted to do much less in the past, leaving people less susceptible to being caught in such interpretations.

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Union Dislike for the Ethics Commission’s Independence

Here’s an interesting commentary by National Education Association Rhode Island honcho Robert Walsh on the proposed constitutional amendment in Rhode Island to give the Ethics Commission authority over the General Assembly, as highlighted on Twitter by local progressive Sam Bell:

… ever since the Ethics Commission tried to stop any Union MEMBER for voting on any issue related to unions the potential for mischief was clear.  An unelected 4th branch of government that makes regulations, enforces them, hears violations, and renders judgement? A constitutional abomination.

My gut inclination is to agree with Walsh on the Ethics Commission.  My own disenchantment came when the commission ruled, essentially, that government employment can never be considered a corruptible activity itself.  If a town solicitor, for example, plays both sides of a trial when a business associate or family member is brought up on some sort of violation before the city or town that he or she serves, then that’s corrupt, but if the business associate is another government employee abusing his or her position, then that’s perfectly fine.

But the peculiarity comes in the fact that government of the progressive, union-dominated type that Walsh prefers is practically built upon unelected agencies making regulations, enforcing them, hearing them as judges, and imposing consequences.  The Dept. of Education does this.  The Labor Relations Board does, too, as does the Department of Labor and Training and probably every single agency, in its own capacity.  This isn’t a problem for progressives; it’s the plan.

That leads me to suspect that Walsh’s real problem with the Ethics Commission is that its makeup and structure may allow it to make decisions from time to time in ways that go against the system that RI insiders prefer.  That’s almost enough to make me a modestly enthusiastic, rather than tepid, supporter of the amendment.

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Sheeple Index – 2016 Rhode Island General Assembly

Despite policies that have caused the Ocean State to suffer with the 50th ranked business climate, the 48th rank on the Family Prosperity Index, and the 48th rank on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index, our new 2016 “Sheeple” Index demonstrates that there is scant dissent among Rhode Island lawmakers who vote for such policies. The 2016 “Sheeple” Index is a collaboration between WatchdogRI.org and our Center. In a healthy democracy, there should be a rigorous debate of diverse policies. Sadly, and conversely in Rhode Island, it seems that when leadership authorizes bills to move forward, legislators feel compelled to automatically support them.

An alarming number of lawmakers vote in lock-step with leadership here in the Ocean State.

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Be Sure to Vote Your Sheeple Back into Office

Year in and year out, we watch bills pass the General Assembly with little or no opposition, raising the unavoidable conclusions that (1) the General Assembly is a corrupt enterprise, and (2) our elected senators and representatives don’t really get the role that they and government generally should be playing in our society.  (That’s a purposefully inflammatory construction; one could say they just have different political philosophies, which is ultimately mere semantic spin.)

A study published yesterday by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity in cooperation with WatchDog RI found a shocking lack of divergence from the preferences of the senate and house leaders. As the following charts show, only 5% of senators and 11% of representatives voted with the leaders of their chambers less than 75% of the time.  (The list of legislation reviewed removes resolutions and marriage solemnization bills.)

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Even limiting the bills just to those on which there was at least enough controversy for one legislator to vote against the Senate president or House speaker (or miss the vote), 78% of senators and 68% of representatives voted with leadership on at least three out of every four votes.

Given the condition of our state, there are really only two possibilities, here:  Either our elected legislators waste our time fiddling with legislation that is so benign that it generates no substantial disagreement or opposition, or they aren’t representing the people of Rhode Island, with all of our diverse interests and perspectives, but rather a narrow band of special interests who can be corralled into agreement on bills that help them while harming the rest of us.

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The 2016 Rhode Island General Assembly Freedom Index

It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 47th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November. This trend is exemplified by continued deeply negative overall General Assembly scores on our 2016 Freedom Index.

Loaded with information that will be useful to voters this fall, the Freedom Index is part of our larger transparency initiative. The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the freedom in the Ocean State.

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And Now on to the General Election and More Debt

With the general election now the next big event (if the primaries in Rhode Island can even be said to be a big event), I took a look at the bonds that will be on the November ballot.  In total, we’ve got $227.5 million (nearly a quarter-billion dollars) in new debt that Rhode Islanders will likely approve, not including the tens of millions more that municipalities are surely seeking.

That’s crazy.  Government bonds are one area of democratic action that make me mildly sympathetic to progressive inclinations to limit the franchise to those with some basic knowledge.  They’re also a reason I wonder if progressives might be incorrect to assume a more-educated electorate would tend in their direction.  What might voters do differently if they understood that debt isn’t just free money to spend on feel-good projects?

Making matters worse, these bonds aren’t just desperate attempts to gain money to build things for which the state should have budgeted with regular revenue; some of them are clearly policy issues.  How many voters, I wonder, would really want to supply the state government with borrowed money to buy up even more property in the state?

Would voters really fall for these schemes if they took the time to consider just how much of it will (or at least can) become subsidies for private businesses — from the URI “innovation campuses” to help private businesses use public-university research to come up with new products and services for a profit to the government purchase and discounted resale of farmland to improvement of ports that benefit a limited number of businesses at public expense?  All of these things benefit narrow groups at the expense of everybody else.

Even more concerning is that, when you add them all together, the picture becomes one not of a few included groups siphoning off public resources, but a comprehensive system that ultimately excludes those who don’t receive some sort of public aid.  If you’re an ordinary Rhode Islander who wants to know who those excluded parties are, take a look at your latest selfie.

Apparently every hyper-informed person in every ideological group believes that the public would agree with his or her beliefs if only people were better educated, but I can’t help but think that my ideological group is correct in that belief.  As the saying goes, everybody’s conservative when it comes to the things he or she knows best.  I simply don’t believe that people who’d been shown the corrupt, incestuous connections building into a web that ensnares our freedom and opportunity would continue to support such things… or the politicians and organizations who work so hard to make them a reality.

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The 38 Studios Misfire

Putting together the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s 38 Studios scorecard, the peculiarity of the whole matter reared its head.  Most folks who’ve watched the controversy closely know that the Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) loan guarantee program first arose in a supplemental budget, but the details aren’t widely understood.  Here are some findings that don’t entirely jibe with the common recollection:

  • The increase of the $50 million program to $125 million — to surreptitiously cover the 38 Studios bonds — was not slipped in as a floor amendment during the infamous floor session at which Republican Representative Robert Watson of East Greenwich stood as the lone “nay” vote when the bill came back around a second time.  It was part of article 7 in the SubA bill (2010 7105) that the House Finance Committee sent to the floor with the supplemental budget.
  • More representatives voted against the program in the supplemental on April 13, 2010, than as a separate bill, although all but one apparently changed their views when the bill came up again:
    • Rod Driver
    • Larry Ehrhardt
    • Robert Jacquard
    • Charlene Lima
    • Brian Newberry
    • Robert Watson
  • Cranston Democrat Lima even put in an amendment that would have required disclosure of any elected officials who contacted the EDC on behalf of any company seeking to participate in the program, and 25 representatives voted for it (which is a relatively large vote for an insurgent amendment).
  • The Senate actually did pass the supplemental budget, on April 14, but oddly didn’t transmit it to the governor.

The immediate question that the Center had to consider for its scorecard was whether to count these votes.  Ultimately, we decided not to do so because, in the weird circumstances, it never became law.  Even if, for example, Lima’s floor amendment had passed, it wouldn’t have been part of the law because she didn’t resubmit it to the version of the statute that made it into law.

Had we counted the supplemental, some legislators would have edged a grade up or down, but no incumbents.  Moreover, in the discussion over the years, the public has generally considered the 38 Studios controversy as having begun with the freestanding bill that actually made it to the governor’s desk.

Reviewing the history, though, does make one wonder who knew what, back then, and why an issue that did spark some push-back in April seemed to zip right through when it came around again in May.

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Check out Your Legislator on the “38 Studios Legislator Scorecard”

The public is outraged that there has been zero accountability on the 38 Studios issue. The insiders have failed to provide any transparency by releasing the 38 Studios documents. The Center is now offering our own version of transparency by publishing a new scorecard that tracks and grades the voting records of lawmakers on the 38 Studios affair. Many people consider it extremely hypocritical for any lawmaker who rated an F or D on this scorecard for their past record to now jump on the band-wagon by calling for the Attorney General or Governor to release the documents.

Despite the johnny-come-lately calls from many lawmakers for the release of documents from the government’s 38 Studios Investigation, 81 of the 113 sitting General Assembly lawmakers graded an “F” on their related voting records. On the scorecard, we documented and scored legislative votes on 15 related bills, amendments, and budgets since 2010 related to the 38 Studios disaster. There have been many missed opportunities for transparency. Why do they feel they have to protect the political machine?

As we approach the November elections, we’re providing voters with the voting records of their elected officials so they can decide whether or not to hold them accountable. It is up to you to choose if you want to change the Ocean State. Overall, of the 178 lawmakers, 132 graded an F, 10 a D, 8 a C, 6 a B, and 14 an A. You can see the full scorecard by clicking here now.

Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround. We must adopt an open and transparent public policy culture that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. The 38 Studios disaster is the perfect example of everything wrong with the way our state is being run. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and demand that the status quo changes.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

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Ray Mathieu: Not Too Late to Default on 38 Studios and Force Investigations

Taxpayers are and should be outraged not only at the final “findings”, or rather lack of findings, resulting from the conclusion of the multi-year investigation of the 38 Studios fiasco, but also at the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation. Based upon what professional bond investment managers have told me, I have stated repeatedly since long before the first bond payment was ever made that the only way to have a thoroughly independent, full-blown professional investigation would be to default on the bond payments, thereby forcing the bond insurance companies, who would wind up paying these bonds, to perform their own deep investigation.

Of course, The Powers That Be did not want that, for fear of the real truth coming out, so they used the fear mongering excuse that the state’s bond rating would be adversely affected if we defaulted on the bonds. While, as I’ve been advised, it may be true that the rating of moral obligation bonds like the 38 Studios bonds, which are not backed by the full faith and credit of the State and, therefore, do not carry a low tax-exempt interest rate but rather a much higher and fully taxable interest rate, may be adversely affected, we should not be issuing anymore of these moral obligation bonds anyway. Such bonds are approved by the legislature so the debt can be issued without requiring voter approval. Needless to say, after the result of the 38 Studio investment, the practice of issuing bonds without voter approval should be curtailed permanently.

As I have been also advised, the ratings of the state’s general obligation bonds may also be affected by a default on the 38 Studios moral obligation bonds, even though general obligations require voter approval and are backed by the full faith and credit of the state. Even so, the possible potential increase in the amount of interest the state may have to pay on potential future bonds not even yet issued would be far less than the $90 million we are currently paying on the 38 Studios bonds, and the state would have avoided what now appears to be a cover up.

If the governor and state treasurer had stepped up and done the smart thing by defaulting on the bond payments initially, the taxpayers could have saved tens of millions of dollars and would have had the results of a professional insurance investigation made public years ago.

It is still not too late to default on the remaining 38 Studios bond payments and, thereby, force the bond insurers to give us the full investigation the taxpayers deserve and reduce the cost of this fiasco to the taxpayers.

 

Ray Matheiu is an independent candidate for RI state representative in district 1.

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Bike Paths, Lights, Sustainability – RhodeWorks Tolls Turn into Huge Bait-And-Switch

Am I going crazy? (Don’t answer that!) Didn’t Governor Gina Raimondo sell us on her unnecessary and highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan by saying that the money would go to repair our very unsafe (oh so unsafe; most unsafe in this quadrant of the galaxy) bridges? But look at this RhodeWorks Quarterly Report!

Bike paths, lights, guardrails, road re-paving, something called “I-95 Sustainability” – RhodeWorks is being spent on all kinds of projects, not just bridge repair. Remarkably, there is even a RIDOT sign that CONFIRMS money from the RhodeWorks/Toll Project is being spent on a bike path!

What the heck??? Tolls were supposed to go to our unsafe bridges! Where did all of these other projects come from?

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ME vs. RI: A State Works by Making Work Work

In The Daily Signal, Rachel Sheffield highlights some states that have taken the lead in reconnecting welfare programs (notably SNAP, or “food stamps”), with the inclusion of New England’s own Maine:

The decline in food stamp rolls between March and April of this year follows the re-establishment of work requirements in a number of states. On Jan. 1, 22 states had to reinstate the federal work requirement for areas of the state or the entire state because their waivers expired.

Some states did not wait until their waiver to end, however. Instead, they took a proactive approach to ensure that able-bodied adults were encouraged toward work.

Maine, one of the most proactive states in reinstating work requirements for food stamps, saw its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents decrease by 80 percent within just a few months after re-establishing the work requirement.

Readers who’ve paid attention to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) won’t find Maine’s inclusion surprising.  From 2012 to the latest report, Maine has climbed from 32nd in the country on the index (for which SNAP enrollment is one of 13 indicators), and second-to-last in New England, to 17th in the country, which is second best in New England.  Overall, Maine’s SNAP enrollment dropped 24% over that period (60,441 people), compared with a 5% (8,592 people) reduction in Rhode Island.

Starting with the year of Maine’s SNAP policy change (2014), Mainers have benefited from a 16% reduction in state and local taxes, while Rhode Islanders have endured a 10% increase, according to U.S. Census data.

These differences are starting to make a real difference to the people of the respective states.  Per the underlying data for JOI, the first six months of this year have brought Maine a nine-times-larger increase in employment, compared with Rhode Island, while jobs in the state have increased there, while decreasing here.  Personal income in Maine is up 2.36%, compared with only 1.85% in Rhode Island.

Whether these comparisons — like comparisons with states that have implemented right-to-work policies — will show an expanding disparity between a state that is making positive, small-government, free-market reforms and one that is not, those of us who live in Rhode Island should begin demanding that we no longer be the control group for these tests of economic policy.

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Riding ObamaCare Down the Mountain with No Brakes

According to data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the number of Rhode Islanders enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP increased by 126,486, that’s an 81% jump, from December 2008 to March 2016, and the total is rapidly approaching 30% of our entire population.  Almost one in three people.

This gigantic surge resulted from the state government’s decisions to jump into the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion with both feet (and no public debate) and then to advertise its new exchange so aggressively and draw new Medicaid recipients into the system.  Granted the federal government picks up more than half the tab for non-expansion enrollees and will perpetually pay most of the cost for expansion enrollees, but ratcheting up the recipient side of the equation spells trouble for the payer side of the equation at both the state and federal levels.

That’s especially true because, nationally, original projections for the expansion were way low, even on a per-enrollee basis:

… By 2022, projected per enrollee costs for this newly eligible population is more than 40 percent higher in the 2015 report than it was in the previous two years. The outer years of this projection are most important from the state perspective because it is when they will begin to bear some of the costs of the Medicaid expansion population. States that have moved forward with the Medicaid expansion might be forced to pursue significant fiscal adjustments to other aspects of their Medicaid programs, or to other components of their budgets.

In short, we’ve got more beneficiaries than expected costing more money each than expected.  Where do lawmakers expect to find the money to cover this program?

Let’s play the “making matters worse” card, too.  Stephen Green highlights several stories finding that fewer people are signing up for payed ObamaCare plans, and they’re less healthy than hoped (costing more to insure and care for).  Meanwhile, ObamaCare is also strangling innovators and forcing small players to hand cash directly to major players with inside connections, like Blue Cross.

ObamaCare and Rhode Island’s full embrace of it were terrible, terrible ideas, and we’re all going to pay for it.  Unfortunately, precious few will understand the source of our pain, and progressives and partisan Democrats (whose party is fully responsible for the result) will work overtime (often on our dime) to distract people and prevent them from allocating responsibility where it belongs.

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Support for Families More Effective than Government Co-parenting

Grover Whitehurst of Brookings has made an attempt to compare research findings concerning the effects of different programs on the test scores of young students, and the findings conflict with the progressive preference for increasingly moving responsibility away from people and toward government:

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Whitehurst suggests:

The results illustrated in the graph suggest that family support in the form of putting more money in the pockets of low-income parents produces substantially larger gains in children’s school achievement per dollar of expenditure than a year of preschool, participation in Head Start, or class size reduction in the early grades. The finding that family financial support enhances academic achievement in the form of test scores is consistent with other research on the impact of the EITC showing impacts on later outcomes such as college enrollment.

The most important takeaway from this is that it reinforces conservatives’ contention that government should not seek to displace parents, relieving them of responsibility for raising their children.  Government policy should seek to strengthen families.

Of course, the fact that this would tend to reduce the influence of government and (therefore) progressives leads me to expect Whitehurst’s research not to have a significant effect on progressive policies.  Indeed, in his subsequent discussion, Whitehurst endeavors to speculate that imposing restrictions on families’ use of the funding would be even more effective than simply improving their financial standing. However, if giving parents money is so much more effective than public funding of pre-school programs, one might question Whitehurst’s belief that letting the public funding stop in the parents’ accounts for a moment would be better than both approaches.

Note, too, the limits of Whitehurst’s consideration.  The first and irreducible assumption is that government must do something to bring about specific social outcomes.  If supporting families through broad welfare that is largely free of strings is so much more effective than building government programs, one might expect even greater rewards from getting government out of the way of families.  Let people act in the economy without the weight of high taxes and oppressive regulations; allow communities and states to determine their own economic and social policies; allow the society, broadly, to follow cultural traditions that have proven, over time, to be the healthiest for human society (such as the traditional institution of marriage).

Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to test for and make charts of the effects of progressive redistribution on the whole society.  Researchers can’t know (to simplify) that taking EITC money out of the economy wound up hurting other families, resulting in worse test scores.  Still, taking in all of the evidence, the weight of it suggests that leaving people free is not only the most moral approach, respecting civil rights, but is also likely to prove to be the most effective system by any standard apart from the wealth and power of government.

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