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The Wexford-Brookings Franchise in Rhode Island

The seemingly separate commercial and non-profit activity of organizations involved with Rhode Island’s centralized economic development plan has markers of a pre-designed package that will make its salespeople rich… rather, make them richer.


OO Is for Food Czar, Cooler & Warmer, and Brookings

News that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has moved forward with the economy-rescuing hire of a “Director of Food Strategy” brings to mind the recent Brookings Institution report that is now the basis for Rhode Island’s economic development schemes.  There’s this, for example, on page 7:

Design, Food, and Custom Manufacturing: Industrial design provides significant competitive advantages for companies. Driven by rapid technological developments, falling costs, and 3D printing technology, industrial design is an increasingly important part of product and service development. Meanwhile, a burgeoning maker movement is lowering the barriers to designing and manufacturing goods. Particular opportunities for Rhode Island include rising demand for industrial design and growing interest in food manufacturing that stands at the nexus of food and health.

And that’s not all. Page 9:

The state’s quality of place is alluring and increasingly wellknown, and includes not just the shoreline and historic charm but distinctive cities and towns, vibrant food and art scenes, and an increasing “coolness factor.” However, the innovation community remains atomized and lacks the focal points, collaboration spaces, and state-of-the-art “innovation districts” and neighborhoods that are needed to retain and attract talent.

Oh, hey, there’s that “coolness” thing.  I wonder how much Brookings’s fondness for all things “cool” influenced the governor’s failed Cooler & Warmer tag line.

The real significance of these few overlapping words is the early indication that:  This is what the top-down, experiment-with-Rhode-Island, Brookings approach entails.  The public is only as involved as it has to be for PR purposes (because the experts know better… all about “the nexus of food and health”), and food czars and marketing czars gorge on our tax dollars.

More broadly, this is what central planning looks like.  We’ve got a report.  We’ve got people with our money and collective power who need to implement the plan in that report.  And so we get people who can’t possibly have all of the relevant information about our people, our economy, and our interests who have to make decisions because they were told to do so by the planners.

It won’t work, but boy will a handful of insiders, cronies, and politicians get rich and powerful as they fail.


Two Points on the Latest Brookings Op-Ed

Apart from producing campaign materials for Governor Raimondo, Brookings is suggesting a government-centric plan that might delay Rhode Island’s collapse, but only long enough to increase the pain.


Underlying the Brookings Economic Development Philosophy

One paragraph, in particular, is worth examination in an op-ed that Brookings Institution scholars Mark Muro and Bruce Katz published in the Sunday Providence Journal, yesterday:

[Rhode Island] needs to improve its ability to act. Currently, Rhode Island frequently undercuts itself with self-destructive turf squabbles and fragmentation. One response: Rhode Island leaders should create a formal Partnership for Rhode Island. Composed of top business and civic leaders, it would rebuild a collaborative ethos and channel private and civic capital and expertise into critical initiatives. State governments do not rebuild economies — people, as part of networks of public, private, civic and university institutions, do.

As my own recent Providence Journal op-ed suggested, the language the Brookings crew uses seems like it could dovetail nicely with the free-market view, but that’s a trickery of the language; the differences are massive and fundamental. Note, in particular, that they don’t write that people “rebuild economies” without limiting the term to those people who are “part of networks of public, private, civic and university institutions.” Sure, people in such networks grow the economy, but so do people out of them. Whereas a free marketer would suggest that people should be free to experiment and find the most efficient ways to accomplish what they want to accomplish, Brookings and the state government of Rhode Island are only comfortable allowing that to happen with the oversight of an established “network,” which they (or at least Bruce Katz) believe ought to put government at the forefront, leading on “what matters.”

The Brookings talk about “self-destructive turf squabbles and fragmentation” might also sound similar to principles espoused by some conservatives, but when conservatives use such phrases, they typically mean to indict the inefficiencies of government. Outside of government, in the private marketplace, “turf squabbles and fragmentation” are better known as freedom and competition. That’s what drives the economy forward, inspiring dedication and innovation.

All that stuff about “a collaborative ethos” that “channel[s] private and civic capital and expertise into critical initiatives” sounds good, but it glosses over the implicit necessity that somebody has to decide which initiatives are critical before directing “decisive” resources to it. (“Decisive” is the term used in the Brookings report.) One might call that a cartel.

In this context, Rhode Island isn’t an “it.” It’s an “us.” Our governor and her Washington, D.C., and Wall Street pals want Rhode Island to be an it, rather than an us, because they know they’ll be at the top of an it, making decisions for all of us.

Rhode Islanders and their representatives should decline to go along.


Hearing Beyond the Brookings Rhetoric

The language of Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz (no relation), whom Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Foundation have invited into the state to offer consultation on economic development, might seem so close to some on the political right that casual news consumers would get the impression of substantial common ground.

In a short YouTube video, Katz says modern America needs a “pragmatic, collaborative federalism,” and federalism — the idea that power should be dispersed across the nation at the lowest level of authority possible — is a cornerstone of conservative philosophy. Katz sounds like a free-marketer when he exclaims, “Let’s free up the states and cities and metros!” They “should be empowered to innovate.” The federal government will back off to give them “room.”

But for those willing to listen, Katz points to the critical distinction that makes all the difference. Under his vision, “the federal government would lead on what matters,” by “providing incentives” that would guide the “transition to a different kind of American economy.” He doesn’t mean an economy in which we all pursue our dreams, but rather one in which experts in Washington have figured out what our dreams should be.

Continue reading in the Providence Journal.


A Bit of Jujitsu to Come from Brookings

Ted Nesi included an intriguing item in his Saturday column, this past week:

Brookings’ Bruce Katz told me one of their major themes is going to be how to improve Rhode Island’s tax and regulatory climate – a perennial complaint, yes, but not necessarily a focus you’d expect from the generally center-left Brookings. Katz and his colleague, Mark Muro, have also found Rhode Island lacks strong independent groups outside government that can build consensus and take action. “There’s an excessive focus on the government to design, finance and deliver everything,” Katz said.

Readers’ first thought might be to wonder why a group of Gina Raimondo supporters would spend over $1 million for conclusions that plenty of people have been offering for free for decades.  A closer look may provide clues as to why.  Brookings may lament the lack of “strong independent groups outside government,” but one can safely wager that the think tank isn’t going to disappoint their funders or their big fan, Gina Raimondo, but promoting the notion that Rhode Island government should just get out of the way.

No, when Brookings complains that there aren’t enough non-government groups in Rhode Island, one can expect a solution that includes some mix of two approaches:

  1. Government must take the initiative to spark independent action, which will (no doubt) conveniently dovetail with the ideas of government planners and which is really just a way of disguising the degree to which government continues to be the main driver.
  2. Non-government groups must somehow be empowered to make decisions that are binding on everybody else, which is just a way of moving government outside the reach of the electorate.

Brookings Backers Backed Raimondo, Too

As a quick follow-up to my post on Ted Nesi’s look at the meager details available on the forthcoming Brookings Institution plan to turn Rhode Island toward the radically new direction of socialism,* I checked out the campaign donations of the folks providing funding for the study, whom Nesi lists in this paragraph:

The $1.3 million is coming from a small group of backers: the Rhode Island Foundation; another local nonprofit that has yet to be publicly identified; The Fascitelli Foundation, a nonprofit endowed by the wealthy real-estate executive Michael D. Fascitelli, a Rhode Island native; Mark Gallogly, a Rhode Island native and hedge fund executive, and his wife, Lise Strickler; Stephen Mugford, an executive with Capitol One Financial Corp. in Boston, and his wife, Kristin; and Thomas R. Wall, another private equity executive, and his wife.

Including Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg’s $1,000 gift to her last year, the five listed families have given Governor Gina Raimondo $8,249 in political donations, $6,000 of it in 2014.  Fascitelli leads the way, with three $1,000 contributions, with Thomas Wall and Stephen and Kristin Mugford in for $2,000.  Mark Gallogly’s $249 in 2010 is the only non-$1,000 amount.  Although they all seem to have Rhode Island ties (mostly in Westerly), Steinberg is the only one with a Rhode Island address on his donation.

Raimondo’s policies and, we can assume, the plan that Brookings will lay out, are what we get when very wealthy people decide they need to step in and do society better than society does.  That their political philosophy is the core of the problem, in Rhode Island, whether it’s done poorly or with all of the study and structure that can be bought with the money of the 1%, doesn’t matter.  Their policies serve their interests and their egos, and at the end of the day, they won’t do the suffering if they fail; in fact, they’ll probably profit.

* Yes, there’s a touch of sarcasm, here.


The Brookings Activity Guide for the RhodeMap

Among those who don’t tend to think that the state government of Rhode Island should be tasked with completely ordering the lives of the people who live within its borders, the conversation about the relationship of the recently announced Brookings Institution study and RhodeMap RI has already begun.  Some think that RhodeMap was the framework to which Brookings will add specifics.  I don’t think that’s quite right.

Consider these two disconcerting paragraphs from Ted Nesi’s WPRI article, yesterday, drawing out some details of the intentions:

“This is an opportunity that you don’t get that often, to take a shot at putting the state on a different trajectory,” [Mark Muro, director of policy for Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program] added. “It’s been a rough decade.” …

“I think in most parts of the U.S. it’s still, the government does this, the corporations do that, the universities are somewhere else,” [Bruce Katz, the nationally-known head of the Metropolitan Policy Program] said. “In the successful places around the world there’s a seamless interaction between all these different sectors, and if they’re all on the same page – then that’s when you get the bigger returns. So it’s not just the policy … it’s this foundation of collaboration.”

This study will be part of the same ideological program as RhodeMap, but they’re distinct pieces.  RhodeMap is concerned with controlling where people live and how they structure their lives.  Brookings is going to instruct the state government about what professional activities Rhode Islanders should be engaged in while they live here and how to bring the private sector into alignment with the central plan.  (Whether they’ll go into detail about what laws to pass to force compliance, or just make friendly-sounding suggestions about how to create incentives to benefit special interests that are aligned with the program or are willing to adjust, we’ll have to wait and see.)

Consider this carefully, Rhode Island.  Even in a small state of about one million people, you can’t have “seamless interaction.”  Our entire government system is (or was) set up so that we can interact in a way to ensure the maximum freedom while allowing us to work together peacefully.  That’s the central challenge of a free society; progressives can’t just ignore it away.

When they skip over that challenge, what they’re really assuming is that they will be able to pick people in non-government sectors — in business, in academia, and in cultural institutions — who will stand in as if they speak for their whole sector and who will agree to follow the plan.  You may be able to live your life your own way, but it will become progressively more difficult to the extent that you want to do something of which the pointy heads at Brookings and the control fanatics who invited them in disapprove… or even that they don’t quite understand.

If what you want to do conflicts with the powerful people, well then, you’ll have to be banned.


CCP “Confucius Institutes” in RI May Not Have Ended with Bryant University

It may be little known, but Bryant University is one of Rhode Island’s most “woke” institutions. Reality-based employees are fleeing the university in droves, not willing to endure the relentless attacks on their traditional cultural values. From forced pronouns, to constant white-shaming, to mandatory LGBTQIAP+ employee indoctrination training seminars … the once proud school has […]


More Funding Does Not Mean Better Schools

Originally published February 15 on by Emma Camp as Bad Schools Aren’t Always Underfunded “More money can help schools succeed, but not if they fritter those extra resources in unproductive ways,” says one researcher. (Illustration: Lex Villena) A viral TikTok video of Carmel High School outside Indianapolis, Indiana, has sparked a revealing conversation about school funding […]


Wexford: A Half-Empty Glass of Promises

Reviewing the tenants (and even contractors) associated with the Wexford complex in Providence raises the question of whether there’d be any economic activity there at all, but for the state government’s subsidies.


Bruce and the Incentives of the Central Planner

Here’s a telling note from Ted Nesi’s Nesi’s Notes on

The CNBC list drew a lot of attention on social media, including from economic-development expert Bruce Katz, who tweeted: “I find this ranking difficult to understand given large drop in RI unemployment, investments in infrastructure, off-shore wind, innovation vouchers + innovation campuses, attraction of Infosys and other significant companies and many other smart moves.” Turns out Katz had good reason to have Rhode Island on the mind: on Wednesday night I ran into him in Providence, and discovered he was in town to interview with Commerce RI about writing its new economic development study. Katz, of course, helped put together the 2015 Brookings Institution report that provided the blueprint for the Raimondo administration on economic development. Katz has since left Brookings, and now runs a consultancy called New Localism Advisers. The other three contenders are Camoin Associates, TIP Strategies, and The Research Associates. Commerce spokesperson Matt Sheaff says there’s no timeline yet for making a pick.

How perfect is this.  A guy who was at the center of RI’s failed economic development strategy is publicly praising the state’s economy four or five years later while also secretly in the running for a big contract from the state government.

The archetypal central planner would no doubt disagree with this assessment, but a skeptical observer might see in the above blockquote a reason to doubt central planning.  Even by their own philosophies central planners aren’t demigods who should be expected to get every decision right from the start, which means they have to be able and willing to review their results with a cold, clinical eye.  The political incentives and human nature, however, make that practice virtually impossible.


Assumptions of Perfection in Prostitution

For a recent episode of his Uncut podcast, Matt Allen had an interesting conversation with Bella Robinson, who is (I think it is accurate to say) a prostitute based in Rhode Island.  Matt remarked several times that Ms. Robinson seemed to paint those who do charitable work as well as government agencies tasked with human services as unfailingly bad or misguided, while also seeming to prefer big-government policies.

The flip side of this tendency toward blanket condemnations of adverse institutions is blanket praise for one’s own.  Listening to Robinson, one would think that prostitution is preferable to, and even safer than, just about any other occupation, and certainly to dating and marriage.

Along those lines, Matt confronted her with the broadly understood reality that a traditional, responsible lifestyle will bring 90% of people out of poverty.  Actually, the progressive Brookings Institute finds that 98% of poor people who finish high school, get full-time jobs, and wait until 21 and married to have children will escape poverty, with 75% making it to the middle class.

Bella Robinson’s response, in essence, was that she tried that strategy, and it didn’t work for her.  Well, yeah, any system that is 98% effective will not work for 2% of people.  That doesn’t mean that we should reorder society in a way that might work for that 2% but fails some much larger percentage.  (One thinks of radical feminism, which tears down standards for relationships that work for large numbers of women and replaces it with one that might not work for anybody except the feminists themselves.)

During the entire podcast, listeners get the impression that Robinson doesn’t believe anything works except the subject of her advocacy: sex work.  Religion, government, relationships, marriage, social work… all of them are entirely flawed because they’re not 100% perfect.  But tossing our “old tired ethics,” which our civilization has honed (yes, with missteps) over thousands of years, that apparently will cure everything.


The Red Threat Funding the Left

It’s a cliché (and no less likely to be true for being such) to say that progressives will always tell you what they are doing by accusing the other side of it.  Thus, we get coordinated accusations about “Koch brothers funding” in the most local of races all the way up to the most nationally concerned disputes while George Soros funds the broad and hostile Left and Tom Steyer undemocratically changes energy policies in states in which he does not live.

Thus, we get unsubstantiated assertions of Russian investment in the American Right even as this is going on:

China’s Communist Party is intensifying covert influence operations in the United States that include funding Washington think tanks and coercing Chinese Americans, according to a congressional commission report. …

In addition to Johns Hopkins, other think tanks linked to China and influential in American policy circles include the Brookings Institution, Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress, EastWest Institute, Carter Center, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

So, at best, we’ve got a complex world in which both sides do similar things, each with a mix of motivations and effects.  My experience, though, is that progressives’ activities carry what most people would perceive to be a suspicious tinge.  That makes sense objectively:  The Left, after all, is defined by its comfort with centralized authority and positions itself in opposition to established norms.

However much these Left-Right scales may balance, though, we shouldn’t allow the assumption that anything done for progressive causes is excusable.


A Lesson in White Privilege

A couple of years ago, I wrote a parody song to the tune of Randy Newman’s “Short People,” titled “Pale People.”  No matter what the challenges of your actual experience might be, one verse suggested, “All a’ that ain’t nothin’ to the color of your skin.”

Well this is an interesting finding, from the left-leaning Brookings Institution:

… Poor minorities (defined here as blacks and Hispanics) face similar—and often worse—poverty-related challenges than do non-Hispanic poor whites. Yet they are more resilient in the face of negative shocks, less likely to report depression or commit suicide, and significantly more optimistic about the future. Part of the explanation is their higher levels of community and family support. Aspirations also matter. Poor blacks and Hispanics tend to report they are better off than their parents were, while many blue-collar whites are facing a reality of downward mobility. Many of their primary occupations are close to extinction, and family structures have weakened significantly (a trend that is associated with the drop in labor force participation).

That’s not surprising.  In the popular culture, which has been taken over by progressive ideology, minorities are to be celebrated.  They’re the future.  They can accomplish anything, and society should give them special advantages to make it so.  Meanwhile, white people, especially white men, are everywhere the villains.  They have to “check their privilege.”  Anything they accomplish is tainted because they are the beneficiaries of oppression.  Government-funded reports insist that the future has darker skin, and we should start changing the communities that government serves now, in preparation.

Based on the interactive graphic on the Brookings page, “poor non-Hispanic whites” in Rhode Island have low optimism relative to the country, high worry, and high pain.  Unfortunately, the statistics for minorities are too small for Brookings to rank them in Rhode Island, but Massachusetts is telling.  Poor minorities in our northern neighbor have among the lowest rates of worry in the country, while their white peers have among the highest rates of worry.

This shouldn’t be a contest; we should be concerned about all of our neighbors.  Unfortunately, progressive identity politics rely on dividing us so we’ll keep handing over power to the truly privileged and powerful.


Nursing Education Center and Rhode-Island-Style Innovation

Take a moment to consider the import of this paragraph, from Ted Nesi’s report of the opening of a new combination URI/RIC nursing center and Brown University administrative center in Providence:

“This was a power plant across the street from the vibrant Jewelry District,” [Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo] said. “The economy is changing, and we’re not standing still. We’re changing with it. The New York Times just called this area, quote, ‘a busy hive of invention and collaboration.’ And so we’re changing the narrative of our whole state.”

In the past… the private market made Rhode Island a hub for a particular industry.  Now… the government collects $85 million from productive areas of the state’s economy to renovate a building vacated as the economic tide went out from the Ocean State and use it for bells and whistles at government-run universities and a wealthy tax-exempt non-profit.

Honestly, I don’t want to sound that cynical, but come on.  Now throw this into the mix:

The developer of South Street Landing was CV Properties LLC, a Boston-based firm led by Dick Galvin. Earlier this year, real-estate company Ventas Inc. paid nearly $130 million to buy the facility and a new 750-space parking garage being constructed next door from Blackstone Group LP. Ventas is the parent company of Wexford Science + Technology LLC, the developer building a high-profile innovation campus on the vacant 195 land in the same part of the city.

As I mentioned when I detailed the suspicious interconnections of the bigger Wexford deal, Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro and her husband are substantial Raimondo donors, located in the governor’s notable fundraising hot spot of Chicago.

Yeah, for the general public, renovated buildings make for nicer scenery than abandoned ones, but that doesn’t mean we should accept the surface story every time politicians proclaim the advance of public-sector-focused crony deals.  Somebody’s got to lose out, and we can be reasonably certain that it’s us.


The Governor’s Inappropriate Blurring of Roles with DACA Initiative

A larger percentage than I’d like of recent posts, in this space, have to do with the actions of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, but the hits just keep on coming, as they say.

We can offer wry quips, as John Loughlin deftly did, about Raimondo’s initiative to pay the $495 filing fees of applicants for federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.  Loughlin imagines the governor paying off the minimum corporate tax for small businesses in the state as an alternative.  Put aside, though, the specific policy (and questions about why the governor wants to create more incentives for illegal immigrants to locate in Rhode Island) and look at the process.

Data point 1: As Kim Kalunian reports on WPRI, the governor announced this program with at least the trappings of her official office, holding a PR event in the State Room of the State House, at a government podium.  Additionally, in a fundraising appeal (see below), Raimondo blends this initiative with various official programs of the State of Rhode Island as if they’re of the same nature.

Data point 2: The governor’s statement notes that “the Rhode Island Foundation is coordinating contributions and making grants to community agencies that have stepped up to do this work.”

Data point 3: A fundraising appeal for the initiative that the Providence Journal’s Kathy Gregg tweeted out was sent courtesy of the PAC, Friends of Gina Raimondo.

This blurring of public and private sector is absolutely inappropriate, but it’s a regular practice of Raimondo’s.  Recall, for example, the overlapping interests of Wexford Science and Technology (of I-195 Redevelopment fame), Raimondo, the RI Foundation, and the Brookings Institute.  Or consider her “hiring” of a chief innovation officer for her cabinet one step removed from government by being housed in the RI College Foundation.

It would be one thing if the governor were merely expressing support for some private-sector initiative, but instead, she’s acting through a shadow government serving unknowable interests and a far too obvious ideology.


Observations of Political Scene on Out-of-State Raimondo Fundraising

Let’s dispense with the minor observation of today’s Political Scene in the Providence Journal:

Rhode Islanders contributed [to Gina Raimondo’s campaign fund] more than any other geographic group — a total of $440,557 between Jan. 1 and June 30 to Raimondo’s anticipated bid for reelection, according to her most recent filings with the state Board of Elections. She banked another $23,025 from Rhode Island-based PACs, such as the RI Laborers PAC and the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

Isn’t this kind of expected?  In fact, isn’t the more-newsworthy point something that Katherine Gregg never mentions: namely, that Raimondo has received roughly 60% of her donations, this year, from people out of state?  I can’t help but feel that if Raimondo were a Republican the Providence Journal’s question would be the same as mine:  Whom is this woman serving?  A big majority of Raimondo’s political income, so to speak, comes from people out of state.  How central can the state’s interests actually be to her?

The more-intriguing observation (which may help to answer the first) comes from this:

Also among Raimondo’s first-quarter contributors is Peter G. Peterson, a one-time U.S. Commerce secretary and CEO of prominent companies including Lehman Brothers before founding the private equity firm Blackstone Group, which he grew “into a global leader in alternative investments,″ according to his online biography.

This may be mostly a story about how small the world of investment elites actually is, but as I’ve detailed before, Blackstone purchased the parent company of Wexford — of I-195-subsidy fame — in 2015 and spun off the Wexford component in 2016.  It would go beyond the scope of my resources to investigate the amount of profit these transactions created and sort out the timing of Raimondo’s Commerce RI dealings with Wexford, but it’s telling nonetheless.

Regardless of the specifics, one could easily summarize that the governor Rhode Island receives a substantial majority of her political donations from people outside of the state that she governs, and some not-insignificant number of her donors are conspicuously connected to deals that she makes as the governor.  These associations sure ought to raise more questions than those posed by a weekly political-interest column.


What Are Raimondo Campaign Donors Buying from Out of State?

Shortly after adding the certification of school bus drivers to my running list of tasks at which Rhode Island government is failing, my morning reading brought to my attention multiple articles about Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s big fundraising take in the first quarter of this calendar year.  Here’s WPRI’s Ted Nesi:

Raimondo continues to demonstrate a fundraising prowess rarely seen in Rhode Island politics, having raised nearly $3 million since becoming governor and millions more before that when she was general treasurer. The state’s last two-term governor, Republican Don Carcieri, had about $275,000 on hand at the same point during his third year in office.

Want a fun fact?  According to the helpful spreadsheets that one can download from the state’s campaign finance search tool, so far in 2017, only 31% of the $570,110 the governor has raised came from people with addresses within Rhode Island.  That does represent a little bit of a change.  Going back to 2009 (the earliest available for her) brings Raimondo’s in-state percentage up to 51%.  Over those seven-plus years, by the way, the governor of Rhode Island has averaged a $541 donation from people out of state, but only $406 from donors in the state.

For comparison’s sake, Cranston’s Republican Mayor Allan Fung, presumed to be Raimondo’s most likely GOP challenger in 2018, has collected 99% of his $30,109 campaign donations so far in 2017 from people with in-state addresses.  If it seems unfair to compare a governor with a mayor, turn to the fundraising record of former Republican Governor Donald Carcieri.  He raised 89% of all of his campaign money from people in Rhode Island, and Rhode Island donors gave him an average $427 donation, versus $397 from each out-of-state-donor.

So what are Raimondo’s out-of-state donors buying with their money?  I’m sure their motivations are manifold, but I can’t help but notice that Wexford Science & Technology is back in the news, having received approval for $13.5 million in taxpayer incentives to do business in RI.  As I highlighted back in December, the interactions of Wexford, the Brookings Institution, and other private organizations are certainly, let’s say, interesting, as is the overlap with Raimondo’s donor base.


The Partnership Model of Oligarchy

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Big Wexford Deal, Big Exaggeration on Jobs

Kate Nagle and the GoLocalProv news team have dipped into a topic that has likely nagged at a lot of Rhode Islanders who follow the news:

Governor Gina Raimondo has repeatedly claimed that the $32 plus million in public subsidies will create 1,000 new permanent jobs in Rhode Island [at the I-195 Wexford development]. After weeks of requesting information about tenants, rents, and job creation, GoLocal was finally able to secure actual job numbers for the project and then fact check those claims.

In fact, actual jobs created will be closer to 80 to 90, at a cost of more than $32 million.

The two tricks of the higher estimate (which might even make the 80-90 projection high) are:

  1. The jobs are estimated based on square footage, and a key tenant, Cambridge Innovation Center (CICO), will actually just be renting out space to start ups, which may or may not utilize the space in accordance with the rule-of-thumb guest.
  2. Many of the claimed jobs, from Brown University and CIC, would have been created whether or not taxpayers gave Wexford such heavy subsidies, simply in other spaces.

I recently described how the Wexford-Brookings-CIC package is being sold for taxpayer handouts around the country.  GoLocal’s review of the jobs claims certainly advances the impression that Rhode Island has merely bought into a pitch.  If that’s the case, the next question is whether progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo was duped or is in on the scam.

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