Welfare RSS feed for this section
mike-stenhouse-avatar

A Well-Planned “Shock” To The System Is, Indeed, Warranted

According to the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index, “startups aren’t the only thing when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” The only way to incentivize enough start-up activity to make a difference in our state is to create a business climate that is attractive enough to make thousands of entrepreneurs want to invest here. Crony deals for a few dozen companies will not get it done.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

News Flash: The Law Even Applies to People Progressives Like

Over on RI Future, Steve Ahlquist complains that, under President Donald Trump, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now detaining people for “even minor crimes.”  Here’s Ahlquist’s example:

According to sources familiar with the incident, José Eduardo Cames (the third part of his name may be misspelled) lied to immigration officials at the border when he and his wife entered the country. They carried a baby with them that was not theirs, loaned to them from another family, to make a better case for themselves to stay in the United States.

An investigation revealed the lie, but under Obama, that did not make the couple a high priority for deportation and as long as they made periodic visits to an ICE office in Warwick, they were allowed to stay in the country. At their most recent visit to the Warwick ICE offices on Friday, ICE did not let them leave and detained them, said a source familiar with the case.

In other words, the “minor crime” that the couple broke was entering the country illegally, with the added dynamic of fraud, and the agency that the federal government has created at great expense to enforce that particular area of the law is holding them, perhaps to deport them.  (Never mind that they “borrowed” a baby, as one borrows a car, perhaps with the intention that the child’s actual parents would then have an excuse to enter the country, which is arguably a form of exploitation and human trafficking.)

As I’ve written before, there are legitimately difficult cases in the immigration debate, but one gets the impression that progressives don’t actually believe that any of the cases are difficult.  Their view appears to be that we should let everybody in at the border and then let them stay (seeding the government plantation and giving progressives political leverage).

monique-chartier-avatar

Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

Thanks to Kate Nagle and GoLocalProv for inviting the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Mike Stenhouse on their new GoLocal LIVE program yesterday. They discussed, in part, Governor Raimondo’s recently announced manufacturing advisory council, which is comprised of lots of people but not a whole lot of economic diversity.

Meanwhile, congratulations and best wishes to Kate Nagle, Molly O’Brien and GoLocalProv on the launch of their cutting edge new program!

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Doesn’t Money Have to Come from Somewhere?

A nagging question is never addressed in this Christine Dunn’s Providence Journal article:

One of the Trump administration’s first actions last Friday was the suspension of a previously announced 0.25 percentage point rate cut in the Federal Housing Administration’s annual mortgage insurance premium. The planned cut, scheduled to become effective Jan. 27, had been projected to save new FHA-insured homeowners an average of $500 this year….

The FHA is a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it offers mortgage insurance, most often to first-time buyers and low-income individuals. An estimated 16 percent of mortgages in the U.S. are FHA-insured. The mortgage insurance is designed to protect lenders against defaults.

Was there no information about why the Trump administration took this action or where the money comes from?  Maybe this move benefits corporate interests, or maybe it benefits taxpayers; it would seem incumbent upon journalists reporting the benefits of a government program for the recipients to also give some sense of whom it affects adversely.

Inadvertently or deliberately, this omission perpetuates an imbalanced understanding in the public, disallowing us from weighing costs when assessing how well government is making decisions.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Money-Grubbing Company’s CEO Praises Politician Who Paid Him

It’s tempting to wonder whether Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo made a governor-praising op-ed by CEO Bob Baird a condition of the state government’s tax-dollar handout to pen-company A.T. Cross:

Enter Gov. Gina Raimondo. In 2014, soon after she was elected, Governor Raimondo called to tell us she loved our history in Rhode Island and looked forward to using a Cross pen to put her signature on official documents. Later, when the governor and her team learned we were talking to other states about pulling up our roots and beginning anew somewhere else, they made it clear they value Rhode Island companies that have been here all along. The governor, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and their team made a compelling case that our business is best served by staying in Rhode Island and that our employees will find everything they are looking for here at home.

Most likely, though, the CEO’s public promotion of the governor was more of a wink and nod affair than a contractual stipulation, or maybe it’s simple etiquette in the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours crowd.

I will say that I’ll never deliberately buy an A.T. Cross pen, now, although if the company decides to send a thank you gift to every Rhode Islander for our involuntary contribution to the company’s bottom line, I’ll take one.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Raimondo Insults Your Intelligence with College Plan

This morning, I noted that legislators are the only people in Rhode Island who can promise workers a 10% increase in pay without worrying about where the money will come from.  It just magically appears in their imaginations.  At noon, I suggested that Rhode Islanders should be embarrassed that their state is so dependent on federal government welfare.

The state government’s latest revenue and caseload conference estimated that the government’s revenue will fall $52 million from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2018.  And during the budget process, last year, the state expected that deficits would climb $40-60 million per year, hitting $333 million by 2021.

So how in the world does Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo state the following — and get away with it in G. Wayne Miller’s Providence Journal article — while promising the new $30 million expense of giving all Rhode Islanders two free years of college at a state institution?

We have the money. This is affordable. It’s a smart solution.

It’s a vote-buying giveaway pure and simple that counts on Rhode Islanders’ not noticing that they’re paying the bill.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.

Moreover, we should expect that the estimated cost is laughably low.  Given free tuition, more families will use the colleges and university, and the institutions will surely increase their tuition rates once the cost to the decision makers (students and their families) is zilch (or half-price, for four-year degrees).  And this doesn’t even get into the governor’s assumptions that people who have no financial skin in the game for their degrees will actually take their studies seriously and apply themselves and that those who do will stay in the state rather than taking their subsidized degrees to states that actually have healthy economies.

One can only hope that Rhode Islanders aren’t so far gone, at this point, that they fall for the governor’s snake oil sale.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

The Conversation Starts Tuesday: Opportunity To Become Self-Sufficient

Everyone concerned about the well-being of our state’s families should be alarmed by our unacceptable 48th-place ranking. It is time to challenge the status quo insider mindset and to search for a more holistic path to help real Rhode Islanders improve their quality of life. This week, the Center will co-host a forum at Bryant University, that will provide an ideal opportunity for community, religious, and political leaders to convene and begin the process.

healthsource-enrollmentlossbysource-2016-featured

Transfer to Medicaid “Main Driver” of HealthSource Decline

Rhode Island’s Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) health benefits exchange lost 5,027 members (18.6%) as of the December 31 deadline for open enrollment.  Officials largely blame the withdrawal of UnitedHealthcare’s plans:

HealthSource RI said in a statement that the “main driver” of the enrollment decline was the departure from the market of UnitedHealthcare, which HealthSource RI estimated insured roughly 1,400 exchange customers in 2016.

One source of lost customers was more significant, however: Medicaid.  A HealthSource spokesperson tells the Current that “about 1500 individuals who had [qualified health plan] coverage at the start of Open Enrollment have since been determined eligible and enrolled in Medicaid.”  A request for the number of Medicaid recipients who went the other way — losing the taxpayer-funded welfare benefit and signing up for a paid (if taxpayer subsidized) plan — had received no reply as of this writing.

healthsource-enrollmentlossbysource-2016

Since the beginning of HealthSource RI and the related Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has warned that the system was designed to draw Rhode Islanders toward welfare benefits and dependence on government.  From the beginning, new Medicaid enrollment has far exceeded the numbers of Rhode Islanders who have used the exchange to purchase insurance.

These decisions and results have been a significant part of Rhode Island’s drop to 48th in the country on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) and to 39th on the index’s Freedom Factor, which is the ratio of jobs and employment to reliance on welfare programs.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

How Should One Feel About a Terrible Project When It Doesn’t Work?

On WPRI, Susan Campbell and Shaun Towne personalize the latest example of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project’s (UHIP’s) glitchiness:

Since its launch in September, the $364-million United Health Infrastructure Project – or UHIP – has been plagued with problems, including two separate outages on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Thursday, a Pawtucket woman told Target 12 her husband’s citizenship status was changed in the system, suddenly claiming he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

What’s amazing to me about all this is that I’m completely and utterly anti-UHIP (aka RIBridgesas a functional project.  The fact that it’s still not functional is just astounding, and I’m not really sure how to react.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Never Any Way to Fix Costly Government Programs, Medicaid Edition

Reporting on a study by a couple of health care experts, Ted Nesi writes on WPRI:

Using 2015 data, their projections showed Rhode Island would lose $514 million in annual federal Medicaid funding under such a formula – a huge amount of money, equal to 22% of the state’s $2.3 billion in total Medicaid spending during the 2014-15 budget year. Massachusetts would lose $3.4 billion under the scenario.

First, let’s have a little perspective, here.  The revised spending on “Medical assistance (including Medicaid)” for fiscal 2015 was $2,382,919,281.  The year before — in fiscal 2014 — it was $1,819,597,682.  If you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a difference of $563,321,599, or about $50,000,000 more than the “huge amount of money” in the possible reduction.

According to the mainstream calculus, government spending can never go down, even just to the prior year’s level.  On the one hand, we’re told it would be a terrible thing if Congress were to block grant Medicaid based on state income because states that rely on the program as a large part of their budgets would face massive reductions.  As the study says, it “would result in a seismic redistribution of federal spending.”

On the other hand, the authors go on to say, we can’t possibly calculate block grants based on current spending, because that “would lock in large and arguably unfair variation in funding across states.”  The only solution, clearly, is to just keep giving states as much money as they need for however many Medicaid recipients they’re able to sign up.

Folks, this is the government plantation, or company state.  As I wrote when I first began tracing that economic model in Rhode Island, when the state’s major industry (government) relies on its ability to sign up people for services in order to charge other people for them, the people forced to pay the bill will eventually flee the system, if they’re local, or push their own representatives to stop the bleeding, if they’re in other states being soaked by the feds.

Rhode Island should take the opportunity of the Trump Administration to get off this track.  The chasm toward which it leads has no bridge.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Corporate Welfare – Are We Being Played?

For years, the insiders have conspired to create the cronyism rampant in the Ocean State. In their zeal for headlines, does the political class ever question the value of these corporate welfare deals? Just this week, we saw the results in questions surrounding the Governor’s claims in the Wexford deal. The tone-deaf Brookings report lays the ground work by recommending that we can achieve better results if, instead of taking the arbitrary approach to 38 Studios-style corporate cronyism that has dominated Rhode Island public policy for decades, we take the same approach in a more targeted and strategic manner. Nonsense.

monique-chartier-avatar

No More Blind Eye – General Assembly Must End Corporate Welfare Scam

In light of GoLocalProv’s blockbuster expose Friday that the Wexford job creation claim is off by nine hundred, the General Assembly needs to immediately defund all corporate welfare – and request that the Governor claw back much if not all of the taxpayer subsidies currently earmarked for Wexford.

monique-chartier-avatar

Rhode Island “Company of the Year” (and State Ward) Already Has a Broken Turbine

Much to the detriment of the state’s rate payers, Deepwater Wind began generating electricity on December 12. Less than three weeks later, one of its five turbines broke (oopsie). As though wind energy isn’t already expensive enough, now we have to add the cost of making repairs thirteen miles out on the ocean. (‘Cause the cost of water and seawater-related repairs is always very reasonable, right, boat owners …?)

It probably was not a coincidence that the company made this embarrassing admission on a day – the Friday before Christmas – sure to glean the absolute minimum amount of public attention.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

If It’s “Unpaid Care,” It Cuts into the Government Plantation’s Market

It seems a point of personal pique for him, but Wesley Smith makes a great point when he objects to the characterization of families’ taking care of their own special needs children as “unpaid care”:

Really? What about mothers providing “unpaid care” for their babies? Or spouses for each other? Should such care also be measured in terms of the cost of having services provided by professional caregivers?

As Smith goes on to insist (emphasis in original), “the societal expectation should also be that families are the first line of care-giving.”  The first line of care-giving.  The first line of financial assistance.  The first line of loan guarantees.  The first line for education.  The first line, period.

The problem is that such activities cut in on the government plantation’s market.  Governments can’t tax other people to provide the services.  Labor unions can’t take a cut (although they do try).  And politicians can’t count on votes from people who aren’t dependent on government.

The deeper affront of the “unpaid care” attitude is how it teaches us to see caring for those we love.  The insinuation can be that families would (and maybe should) offload care if they can afford to do so, just as a homeowner may patch a wall to save the cost of a tradesman.  As a new state senator from Lincoln touchingly exemplifies, caring for loved ones can be a joyful fulfillment, and society should encourage us to see it as such.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Political Realities of “Fixing” ObamaCare

Megan McArdle is well worth a read on why Congressional Democrats designed ObamaCare in the flawed way they did and what the consequent political reality means for Republicans’ likely steps for repeal-and-replace.  Both those who would prefer to save the law and those who would prefer to trample it to dust should consider the political reality.

Option One:

For Republicans to fix the system as it stands, they would have to jack up the parts people hate — not to deliver new benefits, but mostly just to keep the existing system from flaming into a tailspin. Only the price tag would now be much higher, for boring technical reasons I’ll leave in a footnote.

Option Two:

Yet repeal and replace now seems almost as unlikely, because it means taking something away from voters — stuff that polls really well, such as, er, prohibiting insurers from looking at pre-existing conditions.

Option Three:

Of course, the last option — doing nothing while the individual market flames into a tailspin — doesn’t look all that hot, either.

McArdle states that she’d probably go with a variation of the third:

I’d announce a blue-ribbon commission designed to study the matter and propose a comprehensive alternative. I’d give it plenty of time to study and make recommendations. Then I’d wait and see if 2017 brings more premium hikes and insurers pulling out of smaller counties — disasters that could then be blamed on Obama…

The key point, here, is that we’re in this situation — with our healthcare system, economically, and politically — because President Obama and his fellow partisans who controlled both chambers of Congress felt they had to, and had the power to, push through something big (as the vice president put in vulgar terms at the time).  But the American people didn’t want what the Democrats were pushing, so a party-line Congress created a system destined to fail and hoped its failure would teach Americans to want the socialized medicine that the party wanted to provide.

November made that possibility so unlikely that McArdle doesn’t even mention it.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Government as Majority Customer, Making Healthcare Worse

So when do problems in healthcare stop being the fault of the proverbial greedy insurance companies and start being an indication that the system is too socialized already?  Maybe when it’s more than 50% reliant on government?  Consider this from a Ted Nesi report on WPRI.com:

Care New England also said more than half its gross revenue from patient services came from the two major government health programs in 2015-16, with Medicare accounting for 32% and Medicaid accounting for 28%. The share from Blue Cross was roughly steady at 20%.

At this point, Care New England is essentially what I’ve been calling a “government satellite.”  Given heavy regulations, it’s essentially a quasi-public agency that has some independent revenue.

Keep this in mind, too, the next time you hear about how government is going to hold reimbursement prices down for Medicare and Medicaid.  If you ran a business and your biggest — indeed, majority — customer (which also happened to have regulatory power over you) dictated prices for the services you provided to it, your only option would be to reduce services to other clients or find ways to soak those clients for more.

This is just one way in which government involvement in the healthcare industry is making things worse.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

ObamaCare Repeal Plan Exposes Government Plantation

Even if he fails in office, President-elect Donald Trump — merely by promising to behave as if it’s possible for the people to push back against the government-expansionist march — will do much to expose the workings of the government plantation.  Consider comments from Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo in an article by Lynn Arditi of the Providence Journal:

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday during a meeting at The Providence Journal that she “loses sleep” over the prospect of a hasty unrolling of the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid payment system. “It could be devastating for us,” she said.

Such a change would mostly be “devastating” if it portends a new pattern in which the federal government stops paying state governments to provide services. That is increasingly the business model of Rhode Island’s true major industry, government.

The Beast needs customers for its services, and it needs a mechanism to make other people pay the bill.  The federal government is critical in that transaction because it’s able to take money in so many ways and without people’s having a clear view of what it’s paying for or a straightforward way to decline the bill year after year.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Purpose of the ACLU’s UHIP Lawsuit

Obviously, I agree with the thrust of the ACLU’s lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island over its poorly conceived and implemented Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP).  You don’t get much more anti-UHIP than me.

However, in the interest of asking questions nobody else is asking in order to keep us always thinking, I can’t help but wonder: What is the purpose of this lawsuit?

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) announced Friday the details of a lawsuit it’s filed against the state over its new benefits eligibility system.

The class action lawsuit claims the state has failed to timely provide benefits to needy families due in part to its troubled transition to the Unified Health Infrastructure Project – otherwise known as UHIP.

Honest question:  If the incentives of politics, pressure from the federal government, and basic human decency aren’t driving bureaucrats and elected officials from the State of Rhode Island to do everything they can to resolve these problems, why would the expense and distraction of a lawsuit from the ACLU make the difference?  If the ACLU is simply piling on, the organization would arguably be making the problem worse.

Quantcast