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A State Without Children

Way down in his weekly roundup column, Ted Nesi highlights another point from the recent RI Kids Count report:

One statistic that stood out: Rhode Island now has the fifth-lowest birth rate in the country, following a 15% slide in the number of babies born here over the last decade. What does that mean for the state’s future? It’s already having an effect on the economy, with Care New England saying the decline in births is hurting revenue at Women & Infants.

That’s an understated example of the effect of this dynamic.  Indeed, it would be difficult to overstate the effects of an increasingly sterile population.

To touch on one narrow political matter: As I’ve pointed out in Tiverton and for the state as a whole, our public schools have generally lost about two full grade-levels worth of students in the last decade.  Picture no fourth and no fifth grade students in the entire state; that’s how much enrollment has decreased.  This leaves a bureaucratic, unionized, and expensive education establishment demanding increased budgets to educate fewer children, which its partisans do against a taxpaying public that has less and less actual use of the schools.  That battle alone will be huge in Rhode Island.

But even an issue of that magnitude is as nothing to the reorientation of a society with fewer children.  The way people think and interact with the world will change on that basis.  Indeed, not having children (or not having multiple children) takes pressure off of people to become full adults, making them more susceptible to the pitch of the “government plantation” advocates to look to central planners as parents to us all.  It also makes us vulnerable to people from other cultures in which Peter Pan has been held at bay.

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The Partnership Model of Oligarchy

One wonders: If it weren’t for the heavy government-centric packaging and cover of the left-wing Brookings Institution, wouldn’t so-called progressives be highly skeptical of efforts like the Partnership for Rhode Island?

This is about CEOs addressing large societal issues and figuring out how money and expertise might advance certain efforts, said [Neil] Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations.

For a refresher, refer back to my piece on the “Wexford-Brookings Franchise.”  This is about business magnates working with government insiders and non-profit profiteers to shape our society more to their liking.  (We can trust that they like being wealthy and elite, by the way.)

We’re watching every socio-political lesson from history and fiction take shape before our eyes, and so many people are caught up in low-level political squalls and identity politics that we’re strolling right along with it.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has been placing more emphasis on the need for “civic society” institutions — that is, moving authority and decision making away from government and toward other institutions by which we interact, like business, churches, non-profits, and so on — but we mean something substantially different.  In our vision, people work together to solve their problems, forming organizations as necessary.

In the Wexford-Brookings-RI Foundation model, the people who already hold all the cards in our society essentially interweave government throughout our institutions to use them as leverage in their centralized goals.  That’s not freedom; it’s subjugation, however friendly a face they manage to put on it at first.

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How “Fair Shot” Becomes “No Shot”

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse has been playing off Rhode Island progressives’ slogan about a “fair shot” agenda, which consists mainly of policies that reduce economic freedom so progressives can buy support by forcing other people to hand over money.  Stenhouse’s riposte is that it’s a “no shot agenda for businesses.”  I’d suggest that he should drop the second part.  Progressive policies are harmful for everybody, business owners, employees, and people who aren’t working.   Stephen Moore makes the case succinctly in The American Spectator, listing a number of specific policies and concluding:

These examples merely scratch the surface of scores of governmental polices that are regressive. Could it be that the gridlock and polarization in Washington would be ended by a bipartisan reform movement to scout out and remove laws and rules that hurt those at the bottom of the income scale the most? One universal goal that we should all agree on and aspire to is equality of opportunity — which these laws squelch.

Where are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi and the class warfare warriors on reversing government policies that are stealing money and opportunities for low income and minority families? Do they care about protecting the poor? Or do they care more about protecting big government? It’s time to really find out.

No need for investigation.  As proven in Rhode Island, progressives want to help the poor and disadvantaged only inasmuch as that translates into more wealth and power for them, through government.  Progressives to whom that doesn’t apply aren’t progressives; they’re conservatives.

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RIGOP Blessing and Curse: Straight Line from Nowhere to the Top

The first thing one sees upon picking up the Newport Daily News today is a stock photo of me next to the quotation:

You can go straight from doing nothing to running for U.S. Senate on the Republican side because there are so few people involved.

I was one of a half-dozen Republicans and conservatives whom Derek Gomes interviewed for an article about Republicans in the state, to complement a recent one about Democrats.  (Unfortunately, the article isn’t online for non-subscribers.)

One part of my extended statement to Gomes that I wish had made the cut was a benefit to being out of power:  The RIGOP has no influence to sell, so people tend to be involved for the right reasons, and the odds of corruption are lower.

I also wish the article had gone into some of the other topics Gomes asked me about.  He quotes Young Republican Barbara Ann Fenton as saying that Rhode Island Republicans are socially liberal, compared to the party nationally.  I’d suggested in my interview that that might be part of the problem.  The unanimous support for same-sex marriage, for example, is why I am (as Gomes notes) “a conservative but not a registered Republican.”

As a worldview, socially liberal and fiscally conservative is untenable, at least inasmuch as we acknowledge a responsibility to help the less fortunate.  Part of our solution for those folks must be to help build a healthier society overall.  If (for example) the “fiscally conservative” solution is simply to rely on private charity, it’s difficult to make the case that we shouldn’t just make our charity compulsory through taxation.

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When Mixing People, What We Value Matters

I talked about this in my Last Impressions podcast last week, but Megan McArdle’s article about Utah’s success with income equality and other social markers deserves additional attention.  One thesis is Utah succeeds by mixing people of different socio-economic backgrounds:

Sims has looked at what happens to kids from schools in pairs of counties located along state borders, which provides something close to a natural experiment. Adjacent counties can be assumed to have broad overlap in the kind of people and businesses that locate there but will, because of their different state governments, have different levels of school funding and institutional practices. Sims found this made “almost no difference.”

So he asked, in his words, “What are schools doing?” Answer: exposing students to social networks that aren’t like theirs.

I’d suggest that McArdle pulls up short on this count, especially with regard to comparing Utah to other parts of the country.  She segues into a discussion of racial homogeneity and the state’s racial past, but a different focus might be more relevant.

The prominent Mormonism in Utah introduces a strong influence to celebrate middle-class values.  When schools and the broader society mix children of diverse backgrounds and encourage the disadvantaged ones to emulate those with stronger family backgrounds, that’s helpful.  In more-socially-liberal areas, the mixing can go the other way if adversity or victimhood status bring the social value.

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The Tyranny of the “Right Thing to Do”

A recent Investors Business Daily editorial lays out the fiscal circumstances wrought by our profligate government and points to a more socio-political problem that affects us at the state level, too:

So 75 cents of every dollar the government collects will go to those three programs[, Social Security, Medicare, and disability]. That doesn’t leave much room for stuff like defense, infrastructure and all the other things government now does. And our national politics will turn into a long, vicious battle between those who get checks from the government, and those who don’t. It won’t be pretty.

Rhode Island and its municipalities already experience that “long, vicious battle,” although it’s tempered by the fact that those on the losing end (that is, taxpayers who pay more in than they take out) can just leave the state.

That fact requires those who get the government checks or collect services in excess of their contributions to have the presence of mind to reduce the taking in order to avoid calamity.  Watching local and state politics as I do, I’m not confident that people behave so rationally.  Until crisis hits, it’s much too easy to ignore problems and justify one’s actions for emotional or ideological reasons.

This struck me while listening to East Bay Democrat Senator Lou DiPalma on RIPR’s “Political Roundtable” and the associated “Q&A.”  Lou’s a smart guy with an interest in understanding facts, but genuine concern and a practical bent simply don’t rank against that insidious phrase that he repeats several times about “the right thing to do.”  By the end, that phrase becomes a talisman for him, warding away wicked objections.

One can tell that the senator determines what that “right thing” is first and then applies practicality to rationalize it and then get it done, sidestepping questions about broader effects and government’s legitimate role.  Is it “the right thing to do” to insinuate government into every area of our lives and to make it so difficult to advance in this state that families suffer and leave?

I wouldn’t say so.

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How Might Education Be Doing If Government Hadn’t Made It So Backwards and Bureaucratic

Well, this is a curious finding, articulated by Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit:

The takeaway here is that people who didn’t go to school at all did as well as or better than people who did. Considering the huge amounts of money, and other social resources, that we invest in K-12 education, that’s kind of a big deal. Of course, you’d want to do a bigger study before taking this too seriously on a policy level, but it ought to spark at least a bit of rethinking.

Of course, an important caveat is that “unschoolers,” as they’re called, are bound to be a self-selecting group, the last paragraph of Reynolds’s source article puts well:

In sum: “The findings of our survey suggest that unschooling can work beautifully if the whole family, including the children, buy into it, if the parents are psychologically healthy and happy, and if the parents are socially connected to the broader world and facilitate their children’s involvement with that world. It can even work well when some of these criteria are not fully met.”

Education is so dependent on individual circumstances that a changing world will inevitably require freedom to adapt.  Unfortunately, we’ve built a massive, self-interested education establishment that may be among the most resistant-to-change institutions in our society.

One wonders how we’d be doing, right now, if the progressive sentiments of the last century didn’t put education into such a backwards, bureaucratic model.  Parents would have sought the best opportunities for their children — because, if you haven’t noticed, parents tend to love their children and want what’s best for them more reliably than anybody else in the world — and communities would have figured out ways to guide families along, helping where needed — because that’s what communities tend to do.

Sadly, there are always those who think they know better and care more (conspicuously benefiting themselves through the process of dictating to others).

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Actual Issues Cross the Politico-Racial Divide

recent article in the The Providence American, a publication serving the black community in Providence, shows how conservative policies can find resonance among people who have been told to see Republicans and conservatives as the opposition:

Anti Free-Market, Protectionist Policies? It is a common scheme for advocates of certain industries to lobby government to impose strict licensing requirements in order to create barriers to competition. According to a 2012 report by the [RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity], many such occupational licensing mandates have a disproportionate and negative impact on low-income workers, who often can’t afford the time or money to meet the sometimes onerous and unnecessary requirements. …

Now is the time to push for a critical reform that can transform the lives of low-income families in Rhode Island. Our state should encourage work; NOT make it harder to earn money! Legislation has been submitted, and time is running out to advance this important reform.

The Right is for the American Dream, and the American Dream is good.  That’s a point that ought to be made again and again.

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MAGA Hats and Selective Respect for Speech and Appearance

Dean Balsamini writes in the New York Post of his experiences walking around the Big Apple in a red “Make America Great Again” hat:

In the left-leaning Big Apple, it’s a fashion faux pas more fatal than walking around in sandals with socks, or strapping a fanny pack around your waist: wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.To see for myself, I sported the fire-engine-red baseball cap worn by Donald Trump on the campaign trail in liberal gin joints and shops across Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I may as well have been wearing a Red Sox hat at Yankee Stadium.

We had a related incident at a Tiverton Budget Committee meeting a few weeks ago.  (Before the camera was on, unfortunately.)  Member Jeff Caron wears a red baseball cap from his friend’s business that reads “Make Skiing Great Again,” and one of the more vituperative members of the high-tax crowd accosted him as he took his seat and placed his hat next to him.  She insisted that it was a political statement and was therefore banned from Town Hall.  Or something.

Meanwhile, one of her allies was sitting in the audience proudly wearing her pink, knitted, pointy-horn hat.  (Yes, yes, I know.)

The irony is that this same crew is vehement that the Budget Committee is effectively silencing the public by not continuing to add time to its weekly three-plus-hour meetings to provide yet another forum for public statements.  In stark contrast, they’ll rush to suppress any statement with which they disagree, whether Caron’s hat, legitimate motions by Budget Committee members, or a fake rifle as part of a pro-veteran display on school grounds.

One suspects that the New Yorkers who reacted to Balsamini with scorn would excoriate anybody who treated in a similar fashion people in Muslim garb or with multiple piercings and purple hair.  You can believe whatever you want or dress however you want, in other words, provided you challenge their worldview and political power, the latter being the more important.

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Raimondo Seeks to Tighten Screws on Grassroots Opposition

So, while progressive activists make sure anybody who might disagree with them has incentive not to run for public office, progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo attempts to create more dissincentive through the law:

Raimondo’s proposal would bar any candidate with an overdue campaign-finance fine of any amount from running for election. The rule would apply only to new fines; any fines under appeal or on a Board of Elections-approved payment plan would not prevent a candidate from running.

The proposal would also increase the fine for late campaign-finance reports from $25 to $100 while raising the maximum Board of Election violation from $100 to $500.

Rhode Island already as a palpable lack of people running for public office to challenge incumbents.  The governor’s proposals — by design, one imagines — would make matters worse, entrenching a powerful elite even more and further reducing the democratic functioning of our state.

We’re reaching the point of crisis on this stuff, and even “good government” people who ought to know better are asking government to take our rights away.

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Progressives Move Closer to Fascism in March on Coughlin’s Home

Obviously, they’ve still got a long way to go, but a mob of protesters’ showing up at a state representative’s home with a police escort and leaving a mess of signs is a step on the path to fascism:

Pawtucket City Councillors Sandra Cano and Meghan Kallman helped to lead the march, along with Fuerza Laboral’s executive director Heiny Maldonado and organizer Raul Figueroa. The group, escorted by the Pawtucket Police Department for the safety of the marchers, arrived at [Pawtucket Democrat David] Coughlin’s residence shortly before 9am and tried to get him to come out and address the crowd. Coughlin did not come to the door or answer his phone. A car with Coughlin’s House license plate 60, wrapped in a “Choose Life” frame, was parked in the driveway.

The crowd stood outside Coughlin’s residence for about ten minutes. Heiny Maldonado rang his doorbell and knocked, but did not get an answer. As the crowd departed, they left a small pile of messages, in the form of protest signs, on the front steps of Coughlin’s house. This is believed to be the first protest of a state legislator’s home in at least three years, and the success of the action points the way towards more such protests in the future.

Call it a trial balloon for fascism: target homes, intimidate, show up with a mob and the police, leave messages for the target to clean up (quotes: “Your Constituents Put You There. Your Constituents Can Take You ‘Out’,” “Resist,” “You do not represent our district,” and “Dream killer”), and publish photographs of his home from multiple angles having nothing to do with the “protest.”

Apart from the danger of fire, depositing these signs is not far off from a flaming cross, and the published photographs send the message “we know where you live” as clearly as a brick through the window.

Not only will the Coughlins of the state get the message, but anybody who might consider running for office while disagreeing with the brownshirts will have another reason to think twice.  That’s what they want, and that is fascism.

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CBO Points to the ObamaCare Abusive Spouse

This Wall Street Journal editorial offers some worthwhile perspective on the meaning of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) estimates around Republicans’ initial ObamaCare repeal bill:

The CBO attributes “most” of this initial coverage plunge to “repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate.” If people aren’t subject to government coercion to buy insurance or else pay a fine, some “would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.”

What this finding says about the value Americans attach to ObamaCare-compliant health insurance is damning. If CBO is right, some 14 million people would rather spend their money on something else, despite the subsidies.

In keeping with the general worldview of central planners, if you cease to get something through them, you’ve “lost” it.  This attitude permeates government, from charitable grants that local governments give to their preferred charities up to massive federal entitlements.  In this case, the government isn’t even just taking credit for something it’s using other people’s money to provide, but behaving as if forcing people to do something gives them that something.

As perverse as that is, it may be the perfect representation of progressive government.  It’s like an abusive spouse who rationalizes his or her pathology into the belief that commanding and berating his or her significant other is for the other person’s good.

As for the CBO, the Journal also reminds us that it’s a policy group working off a model, not a mystic order of prophets telling the future.

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Putting the “Failed” in “Liberal Coup”

Being suspicious that others are ever using rhetoric to manipulate, my warning lights go off when I see talk of coups and the like.  After all, if the battle is that stark, then your allies have some claim to have you compromise your principles.

It’s difficult to disagree with John Hinderaker, however, when he writes:

What we are seeing here is a coup: a coup by the New Class; by the Democratic Party; by far leftists embedded in the bureaucracy and the federal judiciary. Our duly elected president has issued an order that is plainly within his constitutional powers, and leftists have conspired to abuse legal processes to block it. They are doing so in order to serve the interests of the Democratic Party and the far-left movement. This is the most fundamental challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.

For the moment, I still conclude that our goal, on the right, should be to ensure that the rule of law is followed to the greatest degree possible, by which I mean that we follow it, rather than escalating the lawlessness of the Left.  That conclusion derives from my sense that the American people know what’s going on and a large majority don’t like it.  The progressives are over-playing their hand, in other words, and the only way they win is if conservatives don’t convey a palpable difference.

In short, I’d edit Hinderaker’s headline that “A Liberal Coup Is in Progress” to make it “A Failed Liberal Coup Is in Progress.”  The requirement, however, is that we stand up — stand up against the coup and for our principles.

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Venezuela Continues Down the Predictable Path of Socialism

In June, I noted how familiar and predictable Venezuela’s deterioration has been, citing Manzoni’s classic novel The Betrothed.  Seventeenth Century government meddling in the Italian economy created starvation-level problems, and naturally, the government looked for scapegoats.

Venezuela has continued along this predictable path.  As Jim Wyss reports in the Miami Herald:

Facing a bread shortage that is spawning massive lines and souring the national mood, the Venezuelan government is responding this week by detaining bakers and seizing establishments.

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

Yeah… detain bakers and seize their establishments.  That’ll fix the bread shortage!

Watch this short Ami Horowitz report from Venezuela for more Manzoni parallel’s, particularly the part about how the powerful insiders continue to do just fine.  Please, please, folks, could we start learning from history and ignoring those whose main purpose is to deceive us into giving them more money?

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The Union’s Shocking Admission… Which Nobody Will Notice

Confessions of my naive idealism are becoming a theme for me, perhaps, but I still find casual admissions such as the following, from Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column on RIPR, partly shocking and partly comforting:

The National Education Association Rhode Island, a influential force in state politics, is likely to support Governor Raimondo for re-election next year. NEARI Executive Director Robert A. Walsh Jr. acknowledges that retired teachers are among those still fuming about the pension overhaul spearheaded by then-Treasurer Raimondo in 2011. Yet Walsh, speaking on RI Public Radio’s Bonus Q&A this week, offered this explanation for why the incumbent Democrat is likely to get NEARI’s support in 2018: “I think that the election of Donald Trump significantly changed the game in this state. It is imperative that the Democrats retain control of the governorship …. My approach to this is a very pragmatic one. You’ve heard me advertise for alternative candidates to the lieutenant governor — ‘come on down, we’ll help you run against Dan McKee [see #4].’ I am not advertising for alternative candidates to Gina Raimondo. We must retain the governorship and we must retain our Democrats elected in the Senate and in the United States Congress. And the Republicans are going to drop money in this state and go after us as a package, so it’s imperative that the team stays in place.”

Here’s one of your state’s two teachers unions: part of the Democrat “team.”  There is no line between the party and the labor union that takes taxpayer dollars and shuffles them back into political activism.

In a healthier society with a greater appreciation for the founding principles of the United States, this would be a scandal — the sort of thing that would be uncovered through an undercover investigative report.  Instead, it’s proclaimed proudly on a publicly subsidized radio station, and nobody in the state but an outré blogger will bat an eye.

I’ve said it before, but it merits repeating: Rhode Island isn’t fully a representative democracy anymore.

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Under Raimondo, Promoting Dear Leader Is the Government’s Job

Silly Republicans, there is no higher good than promoting Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

The Republican Governors Association slammed Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday for using taxpayer money on a Facebook ad to promote a New York Times story about her.

The sponsored ad, purchased by the quasi-public Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, was first noticed by an Eyewitness News reporter on Wednesday

This has been an issue for Raimondo’s entire term; in August 2015, I called CommerceRI a Raimondo PAC.  From where I sit, there are only two ways to look at this, both of them bad:  Either it’s corruption, and the governor is using public resources — not just $50 for a Facebook ad, but the multi-million-dollar apparatus of the Commerce Corp. — for personal political advantage, or her administration truly believes that the government’s chief executive should be considered the embodiment of the government and the state, which is an extremely dangerous totalitarian attitude.

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Don’t Want “Devastating” Cuts? Don’t Rely on Federal Government.

It seems that the special interests who rely on federal money for their income in Rhode Island (in and out of state and local government) have been working to keep stories like this in the news every week:

Potential cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put forward by the Trump administration could have devastating effects in Rhode Island.

The Coastal Resources Management Council, the state agency that oversees development along the state’s 400 miles of coastline, would lose nearly 60 percent of its funding.

This is the problem with the government plantation/company state model.  When you’ve built your economy around the government’s ability to make other people pay for services that the government insists on providing, local taxpayers will move away and people in other states may decide to cut funding.  It’s a risky dead end of an economic development approach.

Our goal as a state (similar to our goal in our cities and towns) should be to react to news of changes at the federal level by expressing relief that we don’t rely on the federal government for much of anything.  That would be a state of both freedom and stability.

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