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An Unpopular Governor and Phony Employment Gains

A national poll gauging Americans’ approval of their governors finds Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo with 46% approval and 39% disapproval.  That puts her at 40th on the list.  (Massachusetts’s Republican Governor Charlie Baker is at the top, with 74% approval and 14% disapproval.)

The response that Raimondo’s spokeswoman, Marie Aberger, provided to Ian Donnis for his Friday column is worth a look, too.  To substantiate the claim that “the numbers make it clear that we’re moving in the right direction,” Aberger mainly cites government initiatives, like additional subsidies for college and an energy tax break for businesses.  Whether good or bad, whether those policies will have positive effects (or sufficient effects to make a difference) remains to be seen.  The only number that could be called evidence of improvement is that “Rhode Island has driven its unemployment rate down 25.3 percent from this time a year ago,” which is a questionable thing to highlight.

I’ll be putting up my monthly employment posts on Monday (here’s the last one), but one quick takeaway is that the amount of employment dropped again, in October, yet the unemployment rate continued to decrease because even more people stopped looking for work.  If I’m correct that we can expect much of the employment gains of the first half of the year to be revised down substantially in January, then employment is not even arguably a strong point for the state, especially considering that job creation in Rhode Island appears to have slowed to a crawl, this year.

That this one (arguably phony) statistic is all that Rhode Island politicians can raise in their defense shows how badly they’ve botched things, around here, and why Raimondo’s approval is where it is.


Syria Refugees and Imagining a Good President

Some recent posts in this space and arguments on Facebook prove that I’m happy to argue over the moral principles and civic practicalities around United States policy on Syrian refugees, but I have to admit a level of disbelief that this is what we’re arguing about and holding competing rallies over at this particular time in history.  With that disbelief comes an urge to imagine how this issue might have proceeded under a decent U.S. president.

Imagine if, rather than taunting members of the opposing party, which is expressing views that appear to be held by a significant majority of Americans, President Obama had said something like this:

Events in Syria are a matter of war and national security, but they are also creating a humanitarian disaster.  My administration will therefore continue to hold a higher target for admitting refugees into our country.  But I understand that the American people have reasonable apprehensions about the refugee process, in light of the atrocity in Paris, and that large lines of differing opinion currently run across our nation.

My administration will therefore be pausing the acceptance of such refugees for a very brief time — so brief, I’ll be honest, that I expect it to have a negligible effect on the program.  We’re already in the process of inviting people with widely varying views on the matter — people with credibility among those who hold each viewpoint — to gather together to review our process and our projections.  That review will be wide open to the public, and when it is done, we will adjust our policy or modify our process in a way that addresses valid concerns.  We’ll also put out a brief report explaining how refugee review works and giving the American people some sense of who is in the pipeline now and whether that will change.

Personally, I have great confidence that the concern about these refugees is more a misunderstanding than a disagreement, so I expect we’ll move forward with the policy with little or no change.  But we’ll have to see.

I’d probably want more than that, but such an approach would defuse a lot of the discord and address, not dismiss, Americans’ real and legitimate concerns.

Of course, seven years in, that ship has sailed for the Obama Administration.  He staged some performances along those lines early on, but they were obviously for show.  Just look at the party-line votes on ObamaCare, including one on Christmas Eve, followed by procedural tricks to pass it into law.


Letting Lerner Off Through Prosecutorial Discretion

If you want to know why so few Americans who aren’t partisan Democrats trust the Obama Administration — a dynamic that is currently have a real effect on the issue of accepting refugees from the Middle East — Joel Gehrke provides one of the most recent indications as to the reason:

Justice Department officials used “prosecutorial discretion” to shelter former IRS official Lois Lerner from a grand jury after she was held in contempt of Congress.

“I believe that in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, the matter was handled and was resolved,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.

Translation: The Obama Administration simply decided not to prosecute somebody who very much appears to have broken the law in order to use a government agency to help his reelection chances.  As Congressman Trey Gowdy argues, there was more than ample evidence to justify a grand jury.

The damage that Obama’s presidency has done to the United States is incalculable in all areas, but the damage to our civic society is right up there at the top.


Terrorism and the President

Last night, I received a little push-back on Twitter to my reaction to the attacks in Paris, specifically President Obama’s comments thereon.  By Obama standards, the commentary wasn’t that bad.  His bar is so low it’s on the ground, of course, but he managed to refer to himself fewer than a dozen times in the 500 words, and at least he didn’t deny that Islamic terrorism was behind the attacks; he just sidestepped the perpetrators altogether.

The problem is that he’s just so weak, and the world is as it is in large part because of his weakness.  (Whether it’s deliberate is another subject.)  He came into office and traveled the world to point a finger of blame at his own country.  He cashed in a victory in Iraq for electoral gain and thereby precipitated much of what followed.  His actions in Afghanistan have been less than impressive, his administration (with Hillary Clinton) turned Libya to (even greater) turmoil, he helped foment unrest in countries like Egypt, while knocking the wind out of it in Iran, where it might have turned things for the better.  His fecklessness in Syria drew that country toward its calamity, and his timidness against Russia has invited that country to press for advantage.

That’s before we get to domestic politics, where open borders have drawn masses of untraceable, low-skilled people into our stagnant economy (which his policies have helped to keep stagnant), and his strategy of fomenting divisions along lines of identity politics (especially race) has weakened us as a nation.  And don’t forget the observation that he’s used taxpayer dollars to make it boom-time for left-wing activists while the bureaucracy under him directly attacks his opponents and imposes policies across the board that erode freedom and opportunity.

All of this leaves us extremely vulnerable.

On the national security front, the two options are to attack the terrorists’ infrastructure in their home countries, thus drawing the fighters back to that land, over there, or to build our own defenses and attempt to identify, trace, and neutralize them on our land, over here.  President Obama apparently lacks the will and clearly lacks the credibility to attack over there, and in any event, it likely aligns with his domestic goals to increase the reach and invasiveness of the government among its own people.

At this point, however, the country is so divided and distrustful of itself and the government that a dragnet sufficient to stop the largest attacks (but never all of them) is sure to fray as Americans resist it.  Meanwhile, the enemy is inside the gates and proclaiming, “The American blood is best, and we will taste it soon.”

It takes a great deal of inanity to get the world to a precipice like this, and another year of this president promises only more inanity.


The Real Way to End Corruption in Rhode Island

Edward Fitzpatrick highlights an interesting flash of truth from former Governor Lincoln Chafee, who candidly stated something that everybody who pays attention already knows:

… Stanton zeroed in on the question of whether Rhode Island’s process for selecting state judges is transparent and accountable. And attention turned to Chafee’s appointment of former Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano as a Superior Court judge in 2013.

Chafee told Stanton he’d received heavy pressure from Senate leaders, who held up several of his initiatives after he bypassed Montalbano for previous judicial vacancies.

It’s a favor factory, over on that hill in Providence.  Governing the state on behalf of the people of Rhode Island comes a distant second to shuffling favors around for the benefit of insiders.  But if you want reason to believe that nothing will ever change, here, turn to the suggestion that Fitzpatrick and Common Cause RI Director John Marion offer:

So what can be done? Marion said it’s going to take public pressure on Governor Raimondo “to exercise her full authority to pick judges without the interference of Assembly leaders. With former Rep. Tim Williamson a finalist for a District Court vacancy, the governor has a choice — stand up for her power to make those appointments, or give in to the pressure to placate legislative leaders.”

If a great deal of targeted pressure is brought to bear, maybe the governor will make the tune skip the Williamson verse, but that doesn’t fix anything.  Frankly, it almost makes good-government activism another favor to shuffle.  If the governor doesn’t bow to the pressure, then folks like Fitzpatrick and Marion will, in effect, be promising to hold up other initiatives she might need their support to achieve.  To be clear: I am not saying that advocates for good government will therefore be just like corrupt legislators.  I’m saying that they will be working the system without changing its structure, and Rhode Island’s problems are systemic.

To fix this specific problem — and many more — what’s needed is a balanced political system in which competing interests have incentive not just to slip their own priorities into the mix, but to expose the corruption of others and to hold them accountable.  That means elections actually have to be contested.  It means it actually has to be possible for power to change hands in significant ways.  It means people in power have to fear the consequences if their corruption gives their opponents an edge in the fight for the reins.

Much must be done to achieve that end, but for starters, Fitzpatrick’s paper could get some ideological diversity in its news department and (therefore) reporting, and Marion’s organization could stop supporting campaign reforms that serve to regulate outsiders off the playing field.

All They Need’s the White House (In Some States)

As a follow-on to my Watchdog column, this week, Megan McArdle’s thoughts on the Democrats’ electoral fate in the Obama Era raise a telling point, from a Rhode Island point of view:

Many of [ObamaCare’s] subsequent struggles have stemmed from the apparent belief that [Democrats] didn’t need down-ticket races, or public opinion; all they needed was Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office.

Kentucky illustrates the dangers of this strategy. Most policy happens at the state and local level, not federal, something that’s easy to forget as local media outlets fail and news coverage becomes increasingly focused on national elections. Under outgoing Democratic governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky was a poster child for the success of Obamacare; under incoming governor Matt Bevin, it may well become a poster child for its failure.

Sitting here in the Democrat-run Ocean State, I’d caution McArdle not to be overly skeptical of the strategy.  Our state’s health benefits exchange (also created by questionable executive order) lived off federal funding and administrative changing of the law for development and a couple of years of operations.  Now, it looks likely to survive by being embedded in the larger Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), for which the federal government has largely paid.

HealthSource is a good example of the Rhode Island reality that, if the federal government can find a way to pay for it, state policymakers will go along.  The lesson may have limited application across a large, diverse country, but it is an indication of what the Left will strive to do with its control of the federal bureaucracy, judiciary, and whichever elective offices it can win.

For our part, Rhode Islanders should take it as a point of personal shame that our state and our liberties are so easily bought.


A Red Flag Election in Fall River

The election of 23-year-old Jasiel Correia as mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, is a red flag that we need to renew our understanding of the wisdom of the great minds that have pondered democracy throughout the ages.  All the way back to ancient Greece, observers have noted that democracies can be erratic and do harm to themselves and to others when they lose their bearing.

No matter who holds it or how the leaders gain authority over it, power requires its handler to have strong morals and common sense, and when the people elect leaders every few years, it is the people who must be moral and have common sense.  It isn’t impossible that a 23-year-old could be an excellent leader of some municipality, but the specifics are important, and in this case, they raise more than a little doubt.

Fall River is a city of nearly 90,000 people with a budget of around a quarter-billion dollars.  That’s why the mayor commands a six-figure salary.  As for Correia, while he’s no doubt impressive among those of his age group, there’s nothing in his background that suggests preparation for the role of CEO of a $250 million organization.  He doesn’t even have a full term as a city council member under his belt.  He graduated from college two years ago with a bachelor’s degree in political science, so it wasn’t long ago that he was tweeting about missing class for weeks.

It’s as if voters think of their top executives sort of like an elected version of British royalty.  Most of the power resides with bureaucrats and other elected officials, but the royal family sets a sort of national tone.  If there’s an issue of specific concern to the royals, it’s possible they can force change.  In Fall River, it appears that trash collection may have been such an issue.

If Wikipedia is to be trusted, Correia may be the youngest mayor in the United States of any municipality of comparable size.  In most cases, though, the populations are minuscule — as low as 74, but mainly in the low thousands.  In such cases, the mayor is likely to be more of a ceremonial position, and therein lies the hope for Fall River.  

The city also employs an administrator and has a full collection of department heads.  If the bureaucrats and council are good, effective leaders and work together, and if the new mayor has at least the common sense not to meddle beyond his ken, his age and inexperience might not matter much beyond his over-sized paycheck.

But the risks are huge when politically motivated game players, sly special interests, labor unions, and others are in the mix, all with incentive to manipulate a young man who still listed Nordstrom salesperson as work experience two years ago when he ran for city council.  All in all, his election is further evidence that, even as we hand more and more authority to government, we don’t really take its operation seriously in this part of the country.


In Rhode Island, It’s Not Stupidity, but Ignorance

Noting my recent article on the topic, Arlene Violet wonders if Rhode Islanders are dumb enough to keep falling for the scam of unconstitutional debt laundered through “quasi-public” agencies:

The Rhode Island Supreme Court years ago ruled that the quasi-public agencies can do this debt since they are not “state agencies,” but it is time to revisit that ruling. Rhode Islanders have been abused over and over again by these quasi’s like the PBA (Public Building Authority) and RIHMFC (Rhode Island Housing Mortgage and Finance Corporation) etc., which became the favor factory for the politically connected people.

A tangential question comes to mind, and it’s one that has been nagging at me since Anchor Rising wandered onto a largely empty political field back in 2004: Why, by the turn of the millennium, had it fallen to outsiders and unknowns to expose the scams embedded within Rhode Island government?  Why was there nothing like Anchor Rising in the pre-Internet print world, prepped to grab the Internet space the moment it became viable?  Why did it take Don Hawthorne’s volunteering to run for school committee to expose the lie behind teacher steps?  Why is it so easy to uncover scams in every area of RI government activity when it occurs to somebody to investigate it?  Shouldn’t such things have long been the bread and butter of some legacy organization?

This would be a great topic for a Steve Frias research project.  It just seems so obviously something that the American system of governance and society was built to foster; why did that break down in the Ocean State?

An obvious piece of the puzzle is that new media, mainly the Internet, but also talk radio, finally created a tunnel through the mountain of insider connections that made activist groups and the news media part of the establishment in our small, everybody-knows-everybody state.  Still, with groups like the “business-backed” Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) and the RIGOP, not to mention news media, there had to be a breakdown of the incentive structures to create an opposition with more reason to expose the scams than to play along.

Maybe the Democrat-union-progressive alliance simply moved too quickly and maybe the state’s size just made it too easy for the opposition to up and leave.  Perhaps the Internet came too late to counteract the sense of hopelessness that people whom the DUP alliance (read: “dupe”) targeted for gaslighting felt before they decided it wasn’t worthwhile to stay and fight, and all who remain are those of us who either have ties too strong to leave or a missionary zeal to help Rhode Island’s vulnerable and misled residents.


Government Means Subsidies for Failing Businesses and Labor Unions

Steven Frias’s brief history of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) provides another illustration in miniature of one of our government’s core problems:

Before RIPTA, most bus service in Rhode Island was provided by United Transit Company. After World War II, personal automobile ownership became more widespread, the suburbs grew, and bus ridership naturally shrank. Consequently, United Transit began to reduce its workforce and scale back its services. In the meantime, the transit workers union sought and obtained more pay and benefits, and United Transit raised bus fares to pay for these increasing operating costs. Eventually, United Transit began to operate at a loss.

In 1964, when United Transit refused the union’s demands for more pay, job security, and much larger pensions, the union initiated a strike that lasted two weeks. In response, Gov. John Chafee and Henry Molloy Jr., a transit union leader, supported creating a public transit authority to take over the United Transit bus system.

Such government activities are nothing other than crony capitalism, vote-buying redistribution schemes, and money transfers to labor unions.  People in all three groups — the business men and women who want to transfer risk to taxpayers, the people receiving government subsidies, and the employees who want to elect the people with whom they’ll be negotiating — elect politicians who promise to take money away from other people and give it to their political supporters.

It’s that simple.


Government and Data: Climate Change

During the Obama Administration’s reign, all government agencies seem to have become political and all government data seems to be questionable.  Here’s Investor’s Business Daily wondering why data related to “climate change” is being withheld:

Earlier this year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists took part in a study that found — no surprise — that the “pause” in global warming from 1998 to 2013 didn’t exist.

Their change didn’t come from actual temperature readings. It came from extensive data manipulation and tinkering. Instead of a pause, they found a surge. …

Enter Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Science Committee. Curious, he subpoenaed NOAA for research documents related to the study. NOAA refused to hand them over. Smith’s committee wants to know why.

As even the Associated Press has noted, “Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests.”  Among the darker thoughts to come to mind when considering this trend is to wonder how terrifying it must be to insiders of the current regime and their allies to think that somebody who isn’t part of their own party — or at least part of the Washington, D. C. establishment — could win the White House.  People terrified of the truth’s coming out can be dangerous.


The Demon RI’s Cult of Big Government Would Summon

As Halloween approaches, fear not the masks and movies; fear the quiet promises whispered in press releases and incanted with mystical words like “equity,” “sustainability,” and “diversity.” The Cult of Big Government is working night in and night out to raise from the dark abyss of dangerous philosophies a demon to possess all of society and sap the human will.  Look south of Salem, to Rhode Island, where the scheme is well advanced.

In a society so comfortable that it has become discomfited by the wisdom of its ancestors, our popular myths mislead us now.  The demon will not arrive with a flash of lightning and the smell of sulfur.  It has changed the masks of racial bigotry and overt greed in which it has been spotted in the past.  Its minions have no need of the ritualistic dances of the legislature.  No virgin need be sacrificed (though virginity itself may be).  Surviving until dawn will not save the victims.

Rather, the secular clerics of the soulless cult have chosen three points in the lives of unsuspecting national villagers on which to build their citadels, disguised as places of public service, and when the triangle is fully drawn between them, all hope will be lost.

Continue reading on Watchdog.org.


Dreaming of a Healthy Civic Society Over Breakfast

The morning of the middle day of the workweek is as good a time as any for unrealistic dreams about how our system of government could work.  Yesterday afternoon, RIPR’s Ian Donnis tweeted:

Spox says Speaker Mattiello + @GinaRaimondo set to chat over dinner tonight. Truck toll plan is part of the menu

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a system in which the speaker would be forthright in public about his specific concerns, and then the issue would be discussed thoroughly through open meetings of the legislature, before insiders had ensured a predetermined outcome?  Each elected official could make a public statement about priorities and principles, and others could respond to those statements.

Then the news media could cover the debate, and Rhode Islanders could consider it.  Those with strong feelings could let their representatives know whether they think they’re on the right track, giving them a sense of what electoral consequences might result from a particular decision.

On the day of the vote, the speaker of the House would join with all of Rhode Island watching the red and green lights on the vote tally board with no certainty about which way the vote would go.  At that point, the news media would report the results and everybody would plan their future actions accordingly.

Instead, we get this “chat over dinner,” with the speaker acting as the chief executive and decision-maker for his chamber of “representatives.”  He’ll arrive prepared with some trades that would sweeten the deal for him and maybe protect or benefit some special interests that are important to him.  The governor and speaker will devise a plan, which they’ll then run by the Senate president.  If necessary, they’ll each turn to their respective special interests for feedback and negotiate a final deal.

Most legislators will simply assent to the plan because they’re content with the perks they already receive.  A few who are particularly daring, who have an unusual amount of leverage, or who really, really care about some separate issue will make a play to be bought off.  A small group won’t be brought into the loop and will play the role of opposition right up until the end, but their numbers will by no means be large enough to affect the outcome and necessitate real compromise.

There’ll be a show debate on the floor of the House.  Good (if ineffective) points will be made.  Things that are patently false will be said.  Promises that amount to lies will be made (perhaps to be revealed with no consequences years later).  The news media won’t focus on the falsehoods or promises and might not even bother reporting the final vote.  Mainly, the articles and news segments will consist of prepared talking points issued through communications offices, perhaps with quotes from a regular corral of dissenting voices.

Instead of sparking electoral revolt, the forthcoming tolls, debt, and inevitable scandal will lead another wave of productive, motivated Rhode Islanders quietly to make plans to leave the state.


When Government Has “Affordability” to Sell

A journalist once asked me what “other side” there could possibly be to the unmitigated blessing of government’s buying up open space.  I responded with the basic point that economist Thomas Sowell makes here:

Housing prices in San Francisco, and in many other communities for miles around, were once no higher than in the rest of the United States.

But, beginning in the 1970s, housing prices in these communities skyrocketed to three or four times the national average.

Why? Because local government laws and policies severely restricted, or banned outright, the building of anything on vast areas of land. This is called preserving “open space,” and “open space” has become almost a cult obsession among self-righteous environmental activists, many of whom are sufficiently affluent that they don’t have to worry about housing prices.

From progressives’ point of view, this is all to the better.  They get to preserve pretty nature for their own enjoyment when they have a moment to pause and look at it or to make their morning commutes more pleasant, and they drive up the price of housing, so they can then turn around and buy votes with subsidies to those who can no longer afford their homes while also increasing their power to tell people how they have to live.

Remember RhodMap RI?  It came before RhodeWorks, which (we’ll no doubt find) precedes RhodeKill.  Well, RhodeMap is an excellent example of the plan in action.

A poor economy, tight regulations and zoning, and a growing portfolio of unavailable land are making it difficult for lower-income Rhode Islanders to find suitable housing.  The solution, according to government planners, is to force social engineering by pushing “affordable housing” into every corner of the state, which has the happy side effect for progressives of pushing people who tend to vote for their preferred candidates and policies into those corners, so no contrary perspective can gain a solid footing.

When implemented, RhodeMap-like plans will drive up the prices (and taxes) in areas that aren’t in the designated subsidy zones.  The subsidized areas will fill up, first, with politically preferred groups.  This combination of circumstances will create many opportunities for strife, among them being an increase in the sense of inequality and unaffordability, which will — surprise! — increase the calls for government to step in and solve the problems with new taxes and diktats.

It’s a fine machine, don’t you think?


Gone, Gone, the Rule of Law

In his latest “Afterburner” video, Bill Whittle gets it exactly right, at least in describing the sense that a sizable portion of the American public gets about how our system of government really works after seven years of Barack Obama as president, noting that one of the penalties for Hillary Clinton’s withholding official records from her time as Secretary of State would be a lifetime bar on her holding political office:

So, let’s just come out and state what we all know to be true: Hillary Clinton will either walk Scott free for treasonous graft or criminal incompetence or she will be indicted and lose the nomination solely on the personal whim of Barack Hussein Obama and the merits of the deal that the Clintons can cut with his majesty in order to save her skin.  Everybody knows this is true.  Everybody knows that justice in the absence of a press corp is now at the whim of this president, and the only reason she’s being prosecuted in the first place is because it pleases Barack Obama to do so.

Whittle refers to the report that Hillary Clinton went to Obama and told him to call off his attack dogs, emphasizing the erstwhile truism that federal agents aren’t supposed to be the president’s attack dogs at all, but rather objective enforcers of the law.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer sounded a similar note on a Fox News panel, talking about the story that the American people are going to be handed from Clinton’s Benghazi-related testimony, yesterday:

We’re not going to get the contradictions, we’re not going to get the facts, we’re not going to get the real story underlying it. We’re living in an age where what you say and its relation with the facts is completely irrelevant as we see in the presidential campaign. And it’s carrying over into the hearings.

The system of society and governance that defined the United States is dead.  It can be revived, but until that happens, it’s gone.  An ideologically homogenized academia, superficial and silly arts and cultural institutions, and a partisan news media have all decided that the American people can’t be trusted with the sharp object of reality, so their fantasy is what we get… at least until reality snarls so meanly that even Hollywood special effects can’t cover it up.


Hey, Gorbea, It Ain’t Your Web Site

In the course of researching state government stuff, I noticed that Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea apparently thinks Rhode Islanders visit the Web site of her office in order to find out about her:


Contrast that with the governor and lieutenant governor:



The attorney general sort of splits the difference:


Granted, Gorbea doesn’t add a picture, but that’s arguably more of a personal touch than self-promotion.  The point is that Web sites for state offices aren’t the personal sites of the politicians who happen to hold those positions at any given time.  They’re our sites, dedicated to fulfilling the offices role in conducting our business.


How to Add Construction Jobs for Younger Workers

A brief article in the Wall Street Journal concludes that, nationally, a significant part of the disappearance of construction workers has to do with a gap in the supply line.  (We’re putting aside, I guess, the degree to which illegal immigrants have pushed part of the construction industry out of view.)

By supply line, I mean new, young workers:

The two researchers also looked at industry hiring to come up with another possible reason for a tightening labor market within the construction sector: Simply, construction companies didn’t hire enough young workers.

“The percent of hires accounted for by the 19-25 age group declined from approximately 18% at its peak before 2006 to 13% in 2012-13,” Janicki and McEntarfer said. “In comparison, the composition of hires of workers in the 25-34 and 34-44 age groups shows much more modest declines over this time period.”

During my construction years in a growing shop, I worked with a number of young guys.  A good number spun out of the job because it could be difficult and uncomfortable.  Some chugged along with it as the best available option, at the moment.  And some (like me) quickly advanced in the ranks, investing in tools, to become full carpenters and even foremen.

Young workers, in short, are a gamble for construction companies.  At a time when employees are plentiful (and willing to take less money), contractors will prefer more-seasoned guys who are more reliable and more flexible and advanced in what they can do and who have more of their own equipment.

That tendency could be reversed, though, if the industry were more free.  That is, if the government licensing, regulating, and permitting processes weren’t so burdensome, if employers were free to pay employees what employees are willing to work for, and if the policies for public projects weren’t so tilted toward labor unions, then individual tradesmen could start their own small crews, relying on help from younger men and women, and build up both the companies and the employees to their unique potential.

But we don’t like freedom and its benefits anymore in Rhode Island or the United States, apparently.


Legislative Grants Are One of the Important Problems of RI

By now, you’ve no doubt heard that RI Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) has been the subject of criticism after taxpayer dollars he handed to a local hockey league inspired the group to thank him with his name on the back of some jerseys.  The money’s distribution was part of the General Assembly’s legislative grant program, whereby the speaker of the House and the Senate president get to exchange thousands of taxpayer dollars for the good behavior of our elected representatives in each of their chambers.

Naturally, the speaker objects to the criticism:

“I encourage the Republican Party to focus on the many important issues facing our state.”

It is neither exaggeration nor partisanship to suggest that legislative grants are among “the many important issues facing our state.”  They’re a clear representation of Rhode Island government’s operation as a favor factory.

If — rather than voting in a way that they believe best serves their constituents’ interests or desires — representatives and senators vote in a way that pleases the leaders of their respective chambers, they get money intended almost literally to buy votes back home.  They could sell their town and their state down the river, but what people notice in our apathetic community is that they gave somebody else’s money to the local kids.

This contributes to the dynamic whereby everybody faults the legislature as a whole for moving our state in the wrong direction but believes that their own elected officials are “good people.”  Ipso facto, the majority are not good people.  They accept the way things work and fall in line, even though it’s destroying the state.  That’s a pretty important issue to talk about.


Speaker Mattiello, Why Give Gina Raimondo’s Political Career An Enormous Boost Via Tolls?

Dear Speaker Mattiello:

I listened with interest to your interview yesterday morning on WPRO with Gene Valicenti in which you said that you support “a” toll plan.

We won’t linger on the reasons why a toll, of any amount, on any vehicle, would be a really bad idea economically and politically for everyone in the state (except Governor Raimondo). Economically bad: it would drag down the state’s economy by adding to the cost of living, it would exacerbate the state’s business climate and it would be remarkably wasteful as half of the revenue would be completely squandered on interest and gantries. (You should be aware, by the way, that the REMI study produced earlier this month at Governor Raimondo’s order is viewed by everyone with any intelligence as completely skewed and its conclusion as derisively unbelievable.) Politically unwise – Tolls are astonishingly unpopular, as witnessed by the public uproar over the attempt, last year, to toll just one bridge way off in a corner of East Bay. Tolls would be used like a cudgel next year against every legislator who votes for them.

But important as all of that is, it is secondary to the main issue that I would put to you. Tolls would enormously benefit one person and one person only: Governor Gina Raimondo. You have undoubtedly heard the rumors that she will seek higher office rather than re-election in three years. Whatever her plans, whether she seeks the political promotion in three years or seven, if a toll plan of any kind is implemented, her political career – and no one else’s – would receive a gigantic boost, financial and otherwise, as hundreds of millions of dollars in a construction surge would turn the members of certain trades unions into her adoring slaves and contributions – some of them from the tolls themselves in the form of wages! – would flow lavishly into her campaign coffers from those unions and their members. Is there any question that this, in turn, would expand into support from national unions as the governor moves on politically from Rhode Island?

Forgive me for being direct here, Mr. Speaker. Why would you permit this to happen at every other Rhode Islander’s expense? Even stipulating for a moment that one or two other officials may benefit in a mild way from a toll plan, such a benefit would be utterly dwarfed by the out-sized boost to Governor Raimondo and her political career. It is impossible to believe, sir, that you are a supporter of Governor Raimondo’s political career to the point that you would facilitate such an enormous boon to it, to the corresponding detriment of the state.

Thank you for any consideration you might give to this matter.


Monique Chartier


The Permeating Narrative (Or Not)

Is it possible to doubt this what-if imagining of what the national political discussion would be if Mitt Romney had been elected and were in the same position with foreign policy as Obama?  (The likelihood is that outcomes would have been dramatically different with the policies of a President Romney, but we’re talking hypotheticals, here.)

If Romney were president right now, the White House would be surrounded by protestersand candlelight peace vigils night and day. Some would wave American flags, some would wave signs calling for impeachment, some would have pictures caricaturing the president as Hitler or an animal. They would chant “Not in our name!”, or “Bring them home!”, or “Hey ho, hey ho, Romney has got to go!”

If Romney were president, nightly news reports on CBS, NBC, and ABC would have regular features on war crimes, quagmires, and collateral damage. CNN would be wall-to-wall with team coverage of protests, interviews of bombing witnesses, and Anderson Cooper walking through rubble in full body armor.

If Romney were president, every political analyst left of Judge Napolitano would be fretting over the war-weary public turning the upcoming election into a referendum against the president and his party. Vox and FiveThirtyEight would have maps showing how many Senate seats Republicans would lose because of the president’s sure-to-plummet approval rating. And then there’s MSNBC.

One finds it difficult not to conclude that all of those anti-Bush activities were either completely fake or were the fashionable expressions of gullible people.  The links at the end of this Ed Driscoll post on Instapundit point to some of the absurd credibility-destroying Obama love from the news media in 2008.  The people who behaved in that fashion — or even just tolerated and facilitated it among their colleagues — have to twist reality not just to serve their preferred political narrative, but because their error was so massive and destructive.

The great 2008 conning of the American people has made the world a less wealthy and more dangerous place, and a final tally of its consequences by honest historians decades from now might have to put the toll at trillions of dollars and millions of lives.  Those who played some role in the scam therefore have tremendous incentive to keep it going as much as possible.  Meanwhile, the wolves and scavengers continue their work in the shadows of the facade of normalcy.


Teacher’s Unions Are Inherently Political and Overtly Ideological

In a move sending shivers through the skin of organized labor unions across the country, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Rebecca Friedrichs is a teacher in California public schools who says the thousands of dollars that, for nearly 30 years, she has been forced to pay a labor union, have been coerced funding of an organization that she does not support.

If the court rules in her favor, then unions will no longer be able to force professionals who are not members to pay what labor activists call a “fair share fee” just because they are paid according to terms negotiated by the union. In some cases, the fee can be as much as dues; in others, the dues are reduced by some presumed percentage that goes specifically to political advocacy, as distinct from negotiation and member services.

People who watch politics, particularly at the local and state levels, can see that labor unions are wholly political organizations, at least in the public sector. Indeed, one could argue that labor services are merely their method of raising funds and building manpower, with a raison d’etre of pushing partisan and ideological political issues. That is a large part of the reason that organizations like the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, for which this writer is research director, have signed on to an amicus briefencouraging the Supreme Court to come down on Friedrichs’s side.

Continue reading on Watchdog.org.


Drivers Licenses for Illegals in Brown Daily Herald

Writing for the Brown Daily Herald, Shawn Young notes that Governor Raimondo’s plan appears to have stalled, and I get to be the opposition voice:

“There should be a clear legislative channel for the state to discuss” the issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, said Justin Katz, a writer for the Ocean State Current. The government should follow a predictable path so that Rhode Islanders are able to keep track of and control it, Katz said. Right now, there is no state law that “prevents the interpretation that driver’s licenses can go to non-citizens,” Katz said.

Even though it would not be illegal for Raimondo to issue an executive order, Katz does not think she will take this route because there is not enough support for the issue.

One important area of our conversation that Young didn’t include is the “and so.”  In order to ensure that a legislative approach is followed, the General Assembly should immediately (or as soon as possible) pass legislation that either (A) reinforces the status quo of no licenses for illegal immigrants explicitly within state law or (B) forbids the use of executive action to make the change.

Neither is likely, though, because politicians like to ensure that all disputes are political, not legal.  If that’s the game they want to play, then those opposing the driver’s licenses should begin campaigning on the issue, now, so politicians who are ambivalent don’t let the rope slip, either accidentally or greased with the deals and special favors that characterize Rhode Island government.


Renewable Energy, Unchangeable Systemic Bias

Last week, it turned out that $200,000 of the $64-100 million total that the Republican Policy Group proposed to reprioritize for road and bridge infrastructure might not be available from a Woonsocket museum.  For those without a calculator near at hand, that’s between 0.2% and 0.3% of the whole proposal, which means it’s pretty much dispensable.

The correction, however, presents a lesson on the degree to which our system is tilted toward ever-greater government spending.  Even taking actual news media bias out of the equation, a systemic bias exists.  Each cut or restraint has people paid (usually by us) to advocate for their positions, and they have all sorts of direct information not readily available to the public. That means:

  1. Every fact will be checked and errors proclaimed.
  2. The likelihood of errors in proposed spending reductions is high, because even such facts — small in the grand scheme — can be time consuming to check thoroughly.
  3. Conversely, surprising excesses that are absolutely true will be downplayed.

One of the more stunning pieces of information in the Republicans’ proposal is also relatively small, although more than double the museum line item.  Using numbers directly from the state Office of Energy Resources, it turns out that the surcharge that the state imposes on energy consumers to fund public support for renewable energy special interests costs taxpayers $526,000 indirectly through the cost of state government, including public higher education.  That’s on top, obviously, of whatever we pay total for our own energy usage, which is probably much more.

With its being accurate, the incentive for Rhode Island insiders is to ignore that little fact, not to defend it, to keep it out of the public consciousness as much as possible.  No green-industry lobbyists will come forward to tell Rhode Islanders what they’re getting for their half-million dollars.  Bringing news media bias back into the equation, PolitiFact will not likely be analyzing the shocking number and finding it “True.”

So, the beat goes on.  People who take our money do so quietly (and lie when they’re caught), while those who seek to stop the theft are constantly in the spotlight for any for any small error.