The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) spent February releasing research findings that showed the flaws of progressive policies.
The proposed “settlement” of Rhode Island’s 2011 pension reform law (has anyone explained yet how a law can be mediated?) is currently in the hands of rank and file union members. If they give the green light (has anyone explained yet how a non-ballot can equal a “yes” vote?), it goes to the General Assembly for consideration.
But let’s go back to the 2011 pension reform itself. First, look at this three page PDF, compiled by the state of Rhode Island, which lists “Locally Administered Pension Plans in Critical Status”; i.e., municipal pension systems. See the note in the box on the bottom left of each page?
The poll results put out by the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University are unsurprising and really don’t tell us anything new.
The specialists in ad hominem fallacies on the Rhode Island Left are joining their peers nationally in behaving as if the sorts of things I’ve been writing out of conviction for over a decade must now be considered suspect because I’ve found a way not to have to write them for free. As I’ve written before, they don’t start from the investigation of things I write that would otherwise be inexplicable; they begin with the assumption that I’m evil and request that I disprove my lack of integrity by sacrificing the people who support me, offering them up to progressives’ predictable subversive attacks.
One progressive group in the state has actively campaigned behind the scenes in an effort to prevent the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity from working with anybody on the Left on explicitly balanced projects designed to better inform Rhode Islanders of both sides. Clearly, balanced debate is a sly tactic of the conservative conspiracy.
I mention this all to illustrate why questions of funding are on my mind, making it catch my attention that the R.I. Foundation is having banner years for revenue, recently, despite the state’s stagnant economy. In the same article, it caught my attention that the Foundation gave $75,000 to the left-wing Economic Progress Institute (formerly the Poverty Institute).
Turning to the vendor payment module on RIOpenGov.org, I see Rhode Island taxpayers gave the R.I. Foundation $300,000 in 2013, through the Dept. of Business Regulation. We also gave $15,000 to the Economic Progress Institute as a grant through the Dept. of Human Services.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rhode Island’s ruling class is little more than a scheme by which insiders take money from everybody else, pretending to have our best interests in mind, and then shuffle it around among themselves. I say this completely independently of the policies for which they advocate, which almost universally fall of their own merits, no matter where the money comes from.
Want some explanation for my general frame of mind and occasional testiness about things Rhode Island? Step 1: Read this article by Sandy Seoane and Ethan Shorey in the Valley Breeze:
Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis has a message for those traversing the state’s shoddy and weatherworn roads: Get used to it.
Crumbling roads and bridges across the state, Lewis told The Breeze, aren’t likely to get fixed anytime soon because the department’s funding sources are drying up …
Step 2: Read through the entirety of Governor Chafee’s proposed budget for FY15. I won’t steal the thunder from a wasteful spending report on which I’m working (to be released in a few weeks), but when you review the priorities for which we somehow have money and weigh them against an upwardly revised unemployment rate and the fact that there’s no money left over for the infrastructure that we all use and need for everything else to happen, it’s tough not to think some folks deserve a good talking to around here.
Wait, look! A social issue in Arizona we can argue about!
Rhode Island’s revised employment picture for 2013 is now one of decline, and Rhode Islanders have to stop allowing that to be acceptable.
Ocean State Current-Anchor Rising contacted the office of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras with regard to the prospect of the City of Providence giving a city building (246 Prairie Avenue) to a private organization …
To the Providence Journal, the only thing anybody needs to know about the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is that we can’t disprove allegations that we’re just a phony front group for the forces of evil.
Big H/T to John Loughlin for spotting and vigorously denouncing this yesterday on WPRO.
Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis has posted a much-anticipated weekly TGIF column featuring various Rhode Island notables and semi-notables from whom he requested blurbs, because he’s distracted with jury duty this week. Among the more “semi” folks on the list are me and fellow Current Anchor contributor Andrew Morse. I write on the political drama of the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls; Andrew takes on judicial gag orders.
I hadn’t heard that Channel 10 let Julie Tremmel go, but on GoLocalProv, Dean Starkman casts the dispute (now entailing a union-backed grievance against the station) in terms of the tension between the old-line news machine and the Internet generation. I don’t know if that accurately captures what’s going on in this case or in media generally.
A week ago, or so, I had a Twitter debate about Tremmel’s handstand video in which I came to her defense. It wasn’t that I was impressed with her performance so much as that I have a soft spot for people taking risks and trying different things.
(Soft spot aside, and in the spirit of critique, if you’re going to take those sorts of risks, the production values have to be beyond reproach. Being a clown is nothing new, and both the handstand video and Tremmel’s bear-attack skit had the feel of low-grade improv.)
What makes the Twitter discussion relevant, though, is that the people taking the old-line side against Tremmel were Ted Nesi, blogger-journalist for WPRI, and Matt Allen, the next-generation voice on talk-radio WPRO. Given those lines, it would be difficult to argue that Tremmel is representative of an up-and-coming ethos.
Starkman does catch a critical point about the speed at which news consumers want their information, but that only indicates a need for differentiation between breaking news and more-in-depth, informative stories. The real challenge lies in conflict.
The Internet has left the old-media oligopoly with less room to do what it used to do — namely, align with a political party and worldview and cast all opposition as villains. Over the long-term, in the narrative that builds day after day, news consumers need to feel that there’s a chance the winner might lose and the loser might win.
Whether any given reader/viewer sees the situation as the enlightened establishment fighting back the barbaric upstarts or as the righteous rebels laying siege to the walls of an oppressive stronghold is immaterial. For people to care what’s happened on a given day, there has to be some chance that things might have changed.
The snow is falling outside the window (again), and upon my desk, figuratively speaking, John Miller has dropped a study showing that Democrats are more likely than Independents or Republicans to believe that astrology is scientific. The group most likely to believe otherwise — and to know both that the Earth revolves around the sun and that it takes a year to do so? Conservative Republicans.
The finding is particularly timely, because I was mulling over Seth Borenstein’s AP article in today’s Providence Journal:
The Arctic grew 8 percent darker between 1979 and 2011, [Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California,] found, measuring how much sunlight is reflected into space. …
[Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland] and University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati, who was not part of the research, called the work important in understanding how much heat is getting trapped on Earth.
How such an article could fail to note the interesting facts that Arctic ice is up, in recent years, and that Antarctica has been at historic highs, I don’t know. The intellectually curious conservatives who read this site might be interested to play with this interactive chart on Arctic sea ice “extent.”
“Extent” means the area covered by sea ice, and what one sees is that, while there may have been some downward shift over the decades, 2007 brought a rather sudden downward drop. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it seems like a result that would at least require some work to reconcile it with the idea of a gradual human-caused warming trend and self-reinforcing ice coverage decline.
The world’s an interesting place. It’s too bad the New England Democrats who read the Providence Journal don’t get to ponder it before they turn to the horoscopes on page C6.
Preamble Be sure to check out some of the very good coverage and analysis of the proposed pension reform “settlement” in the press. The ProJo story here. The WPRI story here. Arlene Violet’s column in Thursday’s Valley Breeze, “Stop the pension reform ‘reform’”, went to press before Friday’s slyly timed press conference but it is [...]
Ed Achorn just tweeted another masochist feather in Rhode Island’s cap — or maybe “another arrow in its back” would be a better metaphor. The Ocean State achieved the dead-last place on Gallup’s Job Creation Index, this time around.
Of particular note, our partner at the low-outlier end of my monthly distance-from-peak-employment chart, Michigan, made Gallup’s top 10, this year. In last year’s iteration, Gallup noted Michigan, up 32 points since 2009 that year, as the state with the most improvement.
What has Michigan been up to?
Let’s look at things in crass political terms to start. Here’s Gallup:
Three of the five states with the longest track records at the top of the state job creation ranking — North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska — are strongly Republican in party affiliation. All three states with a long track record (at least four years) at the bottom — Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York — are heavily Democratic.
Last May, I ran the peak employment chart over several election cycles, color-coded for party control of the state legislature, and found a lot of switching toward Republicans, with such states doing a bit better. But look at Michigan.
At the beginning of the recession, Michigan had a split legislature (Republican Senate and Democrat House) and a Democrat governor. Over the next two years, it dropped from roughly 94% of peak employment to under 88%, while Rhode Island dropped from to a little under 92%.
In 2010, Michigan voters switched the House to Republican and put Republican Rick Snyder in the governor’s seat. In the latest version of the chart, Michigan has almost caught back up with Rhode Island, which is now hovering at around 91%.
However, crass politics are not critical, policies are. The bold marker in Michigan was its switch to right-to-work, last year.
Rhode Island needs to do something, and almost nobody on the political scene is even talking about policies with enough umph to turn things around. Either they’ll have to start changing their tune, or Rhode Islanders will have to change them.
Otherwise, we should just get used to being last, and dead.
An opportunity for unified action by all Americans looks likely to be thwarted by the discord that the government and political agents have sowed.
Some mornings America’s new reality hits you the moment you turn on the computer. The point is driven home, deep within blue country, with parallels of national concerns at the state level, with the “bizarre” backroom maneuvering on pension reform (to quote House Minority Leader Brian Newberry), and at the local level, with Tiverton’s farewell to the rule of law.
But it’s the Obama Administration that wins the spotlight, today. There’s the new innovation in abusive use of the IRS that requires businesses to swear, under threat of perjury, that their layoffs have nothing to do with ObamaCare:
Obama officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that ObamaCare was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions.
At the very least, that will keep a lid on news stories giving the legislative affront to the Constitution the blame for continued economic suffering.
Speaking of news stories, here’s one that’s gotten surprisingly little play:
The U.S. under President Obama, who once promised to run the “most transparent” administration in the country’s history, fell from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 13 slots. The index, compiled by the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, analyzes 180 countries on criteria such as official abuse, media independence and infrastructure to determine how free journalists are to report.
It appears that we’ve got a long way to go to the freedom of Namibia, but at least we’re still edging out Haiti (barely).
What I can’t help but wonder is this: How can we trust the American news media to protect our freedoms when they aren’t making much noise about their own?
I find myself thinking of the tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders who are unemployed (including those who no longer tell government pollsters that they are looking for work) and the thousands of struggling self-starters and small-business owners and wondering what they think when they read the Providence Journal. Consider:
The start of the new legislative session sparked raises of up to 22 percent for more than two dozen General Assembly staffers, a high-level promotion and the hiring of another former state lawmaker.
Promotions: Lawyer Frederic Marzilli was promoted to director of … Legislative Counsel … salary up from $90,458 to $121,566 a year. He replaces John O’Connor, who was given a new title — “senior legal counsel to the Speaker” — at the same $116,890 salary he had before.
And so on. From a different segment of the same link:
[Matt] Jerzyk, who held a number of titles in Providence City Hall, including deputy city solicitor, has been named legal counsel for the House Labor Committee … Jerzyk also serves as legal counsel to the House Small Business Committee… He is being paid $2,500 a month for his work on the two committees…
Jerzyk is also city solicitor in Central Falls and consulting on Providence City Council President Michael Solomon’s campaign for mayor and former state General Treasurer Frank Caprio’s bid to regain his former job as treasurer.
And then there’s the Foster teacher complaining in an op-ed about pension reform:
The reduction and suspension of the cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees is just one component of the pension reform that the legislature adopted during the 2012 legislative session. The other two components that no one chooses to discuss are deep cuts to the defined benefit of the teacher or state employee and the additional requirement that they work years longer to attain their deeply reduced pensions.
Of course, circulation numbers suggest that much of Rhode Island’s struggling population isn’t reading the Providence Journal, perhaps because of demographic shifts, perhaps because they’re all too busy struggling, or perhaps because it’s become a conduit for sowing hopelessness among them, so why bother.
In conversation with RIFuture’s Bob Plain about the controversy over Republican State Senator Nick Kettle’s Facebook parody site attacking Democrat State Representative Scott Guthrie — which puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the ACLU — Bob clarified something related.
Specifically, Bob contradicted my understanding of the cyber-stalking case involving National Education Association executive John Leidecker. Perusing various reports on the incident and pursuant trials, it’s understandable that I would have the impression that Leidecker sent emails broadly in the name of Democrat State Representative Doug Gablinske, whom the union had targeted, to discredit him among voters.
As the search warrant for Leidecker’s property made clear, the most detailed complaint involved an apparent “constituent” named Walter Flatus. Other reports noted that Flatus appears to have been Leidecker, himself.
What wasn’t clear from the bulk of the news reports, and what Bob told me explicitly, was that no emails have been found to have gone out to anybody who wasn’t either Gablinske or Leidecker. If that’s the case, then it seems a bit of a stretch to make this out to be a crime called “cyber-stalking.”
Don’t get me wrong. The NEA appears to cultivate people who think it’s their professional duty to behave in very creepy ways. I’ve watched Leidecker perform hysterics in front of a school committee chairman in what appeared to be an attempt to start a fight. I’ve seen him show up to a public speech by a local columnist with the apparent intent to disrupt. (Conspicuously, Leidecker left after he saw me start liveblogging.)
I have no doubt that disorienting and discomfiting Gablinske was Leidecker’s purpose in creating an email chain to himself and then forwarding the whole thing to the representative. Such examples of psychological warfare are fully in keeping with the operations of the NEA and other labor unions, in contract negotiations and electoral politics.
They should absolutely be cause for Rhode Islanders to ponder the significance of having people like that funded by and associated with our public education system. But I don’t think they should be crimes.
Wall Street Journal reporter David Wessel tweets the information that a record 2,999 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2013, mostly (he says) for tax reasons.
We should be clear-eyed about the fact that this is around one one-thousandth of a percent of the population (while admitting the likelihood that they account for quite a bit more of government revenue than that). Still, the stunner is the comparison to other years:
That’s a very dramatic change in the annual number of expatriates, almost like the canary in the coal mine of American hope. The dip during the election year looks like a pause to watch for signs of change.
Which makes me think of Rhode Island. On net, almost 4,000 Rhode Islanders left for other states, last year.
The Ocean State’s civic problems may be too deeply entrenched, at this point, for there to be any hope of a turnaround, but the rest of the United States should take the warning before allowing President Obama and Congress to continue moving the nation in our direction.