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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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“Save RI”: The Antidote To The Progressive Agenda

Rhode Island families understand that our quality of life can only be improved if more and better businesses create more and better jobs! Yet, the progressive-left has a very different vision. They are openly promoting job-killing, anti-business, and anti-family policies. Their so-called “fair shot agenda” would transform our Ocean State into a liberal utopia … where businesses face even higher legal and financial risks, and where worker safety, absenteeism, and workplace productivity are compromised.

The Ocean State faces a stark choice.

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Rhode Island Does (or Did) Something Right

In its design (as opposed to its objective) Stephen Moore doesn’t much like Medicaid:

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more poorly designed program in the federal budget than Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans. The costs are shared between the states and the feds, which means that the more money a state wastes under Medicaid, the bigger the check Washington writes to the state. No wonder the program costs keep spiraling out of control.

Obamacare added nearly 20 million people to the Medicaid rolls, and the left considers that a policy victory. Federal and state budgets are swelling.

Oh, to return to the days when taking people off of welfare — not putting them on the dole — was the goal.

In an unusual experience, for a conservative, Moore cites Rhode Island as an example of a different way, referring back to a block-grant program implemented in the waning days of the President Bush and Governor Carcieri days.  Gary Alexander, who ran Health and Human Services in RI back then comments in Moore’s essay:

Alexander has become the Pied Piper for Medicaid waivers. “This is such a terrific solution because in Rhode Island we reduced costs and provided better care. When the state had an incentive to save money rather than spend it, this changed everything.” He added, “State waivers are the way out of the Medicaid crisis.”

Of course, elected officials in Rhode Island moved quickly to give away the budget slack in the Medicaid expansion and other constituent buy-offs, so clearly we have to work on step 2 of the “saving money” process (i.e., not immediately spending it on something else).  But it’d be nice to be recognized more often for innovative, smart policies.

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The Dead End of Rhode Island’s Government Plantation Model

The entitlement mentality in this state will be palpable as the federal government rolls back the Obama Administration’s give-aways. Lynn Arditi writes about the potential cost to Rhode Island if it refuses to change its Medicaid program to reflect federal spending under the Republican health care plan:

Predicting how much it might cost the state to cover the roughly 70,000 adults in the Medicaid expansion population under the Republican plan is especially difficult, health experts say, because people move on and off the rolls. If, for example, the job market weakened and people who had left the Medicaid rolls return, the lower federal cost-sharing rate means they’d be much more expensive to re-enroll.

“While certainly we’d support the state continuing to fund the Medicaid expansion population,” [Linda] Katz [of the Economic Progress Institute (no relation)] said, “the reality is … it would be very difficult to replace with state dollars the federal dollars and keep people insured.”

Rhode Island never should have signed on to the Medicaid expansion if this was possible, and the likes of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity were ignored when we warned that it was most definitely possible.  What everybody can see clearly now is that insiders and bureaucrats padded their budgets at great cost and risk to others.

And it’s not just Medicaid.  Dan McGowan reports from Providence for WPRI:

President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate the $3-billion Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program would be a “devastating” blow to Rhode Island’s capital city, Mayor Jorge Elorza said Friday.

Trump’s proposed budget would do away with the 42-year-old CDBG program, which provides local governments across the country with funding for community centers, housing programs and neighborhood improvements.

None of these programs should ever be built into state government budgets or the local economy.  They should be treated as gravy on a healthy, independent economy.  Instead, we’ve allowed our elected officials to suffocate real industry and substitute a government plantation model premised on being able to bill the federal government and local taxpayers for government services for others.

Eventually, when you turn toward an obvious dead end, you reach it.

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Paying for the Entitlement That Never Should Have Been Extended

This is a great idea that Rhode Island should pursue, as reported by Michelle Hackman in the Wall Street Journal:

Ms. Verma, a health policy consultant, made a name for herself as the architect of Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program under then-Gov. Mike Pence, which that state administered through a federal waiver. Ms. Verma struck a deal with  the Obama administration allowing Indiana to charge enrollees under the expansion monthly premiums.

There is no reason childless, able-bodied adults relying on a government welfare-insurance program can’t pay something to give them a stake in their coverage.  From the beginning, we’ve seen examples of people who were willing to pay for private insurance, but who discovered their eligibility for a free plan through Medicaid.

Moreover, the state of Rhode Island never should have leaped into the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion with so little thought. Some of us warned at the time that the state shouldn’t count on the federal government holding the share it would pay at 90%, particularly as part of an unpopular and entirely partisan bill.  Since the state government conducted absolutely zero public debate over whether to accept the expansion, we can only surmise that elected officials and bureaucrats in Rhode Island either didn’t care to look that far ahead or counted on their ability to do what they’re trying to do now: get political mileage out of the federal government’s predictable move and attempt to transfer the burden to state-level taxpayers.

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The “Real” News About Healthcare Reform

The Providence Journal and Rhode Island progressives are doing a disservice to the people of our state by advancing a biased and non-realistic perspective on the federal healthcare reform debate.

There are few issues that are more personal or important than planning for the care that can preserve the health of ourselves and our families. But what governmental approach best helps us accomplish this?

Currently, our state is following the federal Obamacare approach of seeking to insure more people with government-run Medicaid or with a one-size-fits-all government-mandated private insurance plan. This approach is in a death-spiral.

Continue reading at Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

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The Economics of Giving Stuff Away

As is typical, Kevin Williamson is worth reading on the practical economics of government policy:

We are a very, very rich country. We can afford all sorts of things: food for the hungry, health care for the indigent, education for children, and hearing aids for families that for whatever reason cannot manage to scrape together $1,000 a year to invest in the well-being of their own children. (Those $5,000 hearing aids last for about five years, meaning that their real cost over time is less than the $1,200 a year typical American family spends on cable television.) I myself am all for doing many of those things, though I do not think that government very often is the best instrument for getting them done. But if we are going to use government, then, by all means, let’s use government in the most honest, transparent, and straightforward way we can. Forget the insurance mandate and just write the check.

In that regard, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free tuition would be preferable to some other policy that tried to force somebody else to pay for it — homeowners insurance or something like that.  Of course, other basic economic lessons come into play, which struck me when WPRI’s Dan McGowan tweeted:

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“Affordability” is a measure of price against value.  Following Williamson’s price estimate for hearing aids, in-state tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) is less than the average family cable bill.  Rhode Island College (RIC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) are substantially more, but both saving and borrowing spread out the payments.

Considering that the average monthly student loan payment for all years of all colleges is somewhere around $280, two years of in-state tuition in Rhode Island would be much less.  That means young adults are valuing a large number of other things — cable, cell phones, video games, weekly dinners out, and so on — more than they’re valuing education.

Pushing the price down for them doesn’t make them value the education any more.  What it will do, though, drive up tuition and hurt taxpayers.

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Governor Pitches Free College to More Kids Who Can’t Do Math or Read at Grade Level

Last week, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and Democrat Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed visited Rogers High School in Newport to promote the governor’s plan to buy votes by giving families taxpayer dollars for two years of public college:

“When I talk to people around the state like your parents, they tell me that they are kept up at night thinking about your future,” Governor Raimondo told the students. “I want you and Rhode Islanders like you to get the jobs companies are creating here. The number one barrier to a college degree is cost. Our Free College proposal is affordable and an investment we need to make in your future. I am so thankful for Senate President Paiva Weed’s leadership and partnership. Working with her, I’m confident that all of you will have a shot at a good job here in Rhode Island.”

The women didn’t mention that 96% of students at Rogers High School are not proficient in math, and only 21% are proficient in reading.  A more honest message would be:

In cooperation with your teachers’ union, we have ensured that most of you are not receiving the education that you deserve.  You’ll be excited to hear that rather than fix the problems that we’ve created for selfish reasons, we’re going to take tens of millions of dollars from your parents and neighbors and cut two to four years out of your adult life in order to try to get you to where you ought to be right now.

The reception that these politicians get when they abuse their power like this — using school time to campaign to children — ought to be more like a Tea Party town hall than a pep rally.  It would seem that keeping students under-educated has its benefits.

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The Key Paragraph of the ACLU UHIP Settlement

You may have read that the state government settled the lawsuit that the ACLU filed over the debacle of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP; aka RI Bridges, if it ever works).  As I’ve asked before, was this necessary?  Even assuming the state wouldn’t have taken the same steps that it has promised in the settlement once negative attention forced action, couldn’t a push from a few activist groups have produced the same result?

Well, mostly.  This part of the settlement probably wouldn’t have been in the outcome of a simple petition:

Plaintiffs shall be entitled to recover their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Within sixty (60) days of the Court’s entry of this Order as an order of the Court, Plaintiffs shall file a bill of costs and motion for attorneys’ fees and costs with the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, unless such time is extended by agreement of the Parties or order of the Court or unless such motion is rendered unnecessary by agreement of the Parties. Prior to filing such motion, 13 Plaintiffs shall present a bill of costs and fees to Defendant and within fifteen (15) business days thereafter, or at such time as the Parties mutually agree upon, the Parties shall confer by telephone or in-person in a good faith effort to agree to an amount in settlement of fees and costs. If the Parties are unable to agree to a fee amount, Plaintiffs may file a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs with the Court.

Indeed, if a petition-driven resolution had included language promising money to the activists, it would have seemed shady.  But in this case, to recap, the state is having trouble providing money and services to needy people, and some activist lawyers managed to make a payday of it while appearing to be warriors of charity.  That’s government under a progressive regime, I guess.

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Risk Aversion in Stocks and in Politics

Here’s an interesting find from Justin LaHart in the Wall Street Journal, in a brief article titled “Why the Stock Market Doesn’t Like Republicans“:

The two economists created a model where people have a choice between being entrepreneurs and working for the government, and of voting for a political party that favors lower taxes or higher taxes. When risk aversion is low, more people want to be entrepreneurs and to vote for the low-tax party. When risk aversion is high, the opposite is true.

It is a highly simplified version of U.S. politics and economics. But the implications for stock prices are interesting. The low-tax party gets elected when risk aversion is low, and then if risk aversion merely returns to the mean, stocks suffer. For the high-tax party, the opposite is true.

The next question, obviously, is what causes these changes in sentiment, because the variables seem more to correlate than to cause one another.

Of course, they may have a causative relationship indirectly.  The high-tax party, for example, is likely to sense this dynamic (whether consciously recognizing it or not) and change policy in a way that makes people more risk-averse (such as regulations to make independent activity more difficulty while acclimating people to dependence on government’s socialization of risk).  Indeed, even when they promote entrepreneurialism, they strive to make it seem like something that cannot be done without the safety net of government subsidies.  (“You didn’t build that.“)

The insight has implications for advocacy, too.  Conservatives who make a theme of imminent doom under progressive rule — however accurate that theme is — may be making the public more inclined to fall for progressive promises of security.  The key, perhaps, is to make people feel secure in their families and their own ability to transcend

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The Anti-Poverty Idea That Became a Dependency Trap

Jason Riley recently wrote, in the Wall Street Journal, about Peter Cove, who once was a warrior in the “War on Poverty” but has come to the quite different conclusion that the government is now promoting dependency:

“We have edged toward a moral cliff where the shame of being dependent on government aid has been replaced by a breezy bonhomie for entitlement,” he writes in a new book, “Poor No More.” “We have moved from a commitment to serve the deserving poor to an assumption that all are deserving. And much of this rests at the feet of politicians trolling for votes by larding on the largesse.”

What Cove is talking about, in my view, is the business model of the government plantation.

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Making Distinctions on Immigration

This New American Economy study of immigration has been going around:

Though it is our nation’s smallest state, Rhode Island is home to almost 140,000 immigrants. The state’s immigrants are mostly of working age and play a valuable role in both the manufacturing and software industries. They are also bolstering the housing market by buying the wave of homes coming on the market as baby boomers retire; all of these positive contributions are critical to the success of Rhode Island’s economy.

For the most part, this has been deployed as part of the mainstream effort to blur lines on immigration, proclaiming the value of immigrants generally.  That has always been a distortion of the debate; I don’t know anybody who objects to controlled immigration that takes account of the national interest and emphasizes assimilation.  The first objection people have is to illegal immigration, and the (distant) second objection is to indiscriminate legal immigration that bolsters welfare roles and puts downward pressure on low-end wages.

With respect to illegal immigrants, note that, overall, immigrants in Rhode Island pay $886.1 million in state and federal taxes, based on income of $3,500 million.  That’s 25.3%.  By contrast, illegal immigrants pay $43.7 million on income of $365.2 million, which is 12.0% — less than half the rate for all immigrants.  (The proportion for state taxes is roughly the same as taxes overall.)  Note that the numbers for legal immigrants would be substantially more positive than the presented numbers, because illegal immigrants account for 20% of them and bring the numbers down.

Those on the political Left might say that this proves that illegal immigrants should be normalized so they’ll pay more taxes, but the type of work they do is different, as is their propensity to need financial assistance.   The New American Economy study (surprise, surprise) doesn’t give information on welfare programs and other public expenditures (such as for education), but that’d probably be higher for the illegals, too.

Rhode Island should refocus immigration policy on those who contribute the most, certainly until our employment situation is no longer stagnant.

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Projo Catching Up on Illegal Immigrant Benefits; Information Still Partial

It’s always nice to see the Providence Journal catching up on topics that Anchor Rising covered long ago.  Here’s Monique Chartier writing in 2011:

When someone goes to the State of Rhode Island and applies for social services, one of the first pieces of information for which they are asked is a social security number. However, there are instances when the applicant/recipient may not have one (more on that in a sec). When that happens, the staff at the Dept of Human Services is permitted to enter a “666” by-pass number – a nine digit number that starts with 666.

Know how many people are receiving benefits under a 666 by-pass number?

3,388.

And here’s Katherine Gregg writing in the Providence Journal the other day:

The numbers: As of February 8, there were 3,419 people without Social Security numbers listed as receiving benefits by the new state computer system that tracks eligibility determinations and payments of publicly-subsidized benefits in Rhode island, from cash assistance to health care.They have been entered into the state computer system with the code “666” or “000” in lieu of a Social Security number.

That tiny increase brings to mind Monique’s 2011 question: “Are we to believe that there is a steady new batch of 3,300 applicants continuously coming into the system who need to use the by-pass number while waiting for a social security number or a copy of their card to arrive?”

Curious, indeed.  Gregg got the state to insist that “fewer than” 750 of the beneficiaries using the bypass numbers are illegal immigrants.  Per Monique’s earlier question, one wonders to what extent they are the same people receiving benefits six years ago, or whether there’s amazingly consistent churn.

We shouldn’t forget, by the way, that the bypass numbers can’t be the complete count of illegal immigrants receiving benefits.  Consider this recent video of illegal immigrant activist Jose Vargas acknowledging that his grandfather bought him a Social Security Number.  One gets the impression that such things are common, given that Vargas raises the matter as evidence that illegal immigrants pay taxes.

In summary, we still don’t know how much Rhode Islanders are paying for illegal welfare benefits.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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