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1

Rhode Island Foundation’s Money from the State

Claims that $600,000 of revenue from the state to the Rhode Island Foundation was simply a “pass-through,” not a payment for services, appear to conflict with state documents related to the Chronic Care Sustainability Initiative.

2

RI Foundation Tells Rhode Islanders to Shut Up and Take Their Medicine

The lede of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Daniel Henninger describes its point concisely: “Barack Obama’s presidency of moral condescension has produced an electoral backlash.”  The notion of this condescension from our elite betters came immediately to mind when I opened up a Rhode Island Foundation email promoting this video, which is part of its “what’s next” initiative, and which is slap-in-your-face offensive:

The video opens with a blank screen and marching thrum before the following phrase appears: “Actual quotes, From actual Rhode Islanders.”  The text doesn’t specify which Rhode Islanders, or where these phrases were found.  It’s just us; things we’ve said as we’ve participated in public debate.  (At least its those of us who don’t fit the obvious political profile of the people included in the RI Foundation’s “community contributions” section.)

The slap comes immediately and with deliberate offense, with video of a child being beeped for reading swear words from a notepad.  Child 2 is beeped again, reading another quote from an “actual Rhode Islander.”  Child 3 looks up in disbelief after reading his quote.  A small girl offers the first commentary after hers:  “Who says this?”

Next, our local elite betters put their own words in the kids’ mouths: “Stop! … Stop complaining. Stop blaming. Stop trolling.”  We (“actual Rhode Islanders”) aren’t making things better; we’re making them worse.  Not to worry, though, because these kids “are what’s next.”  They’re going to solve the problems of the world when they’re adults, but in the meantime, they need us to “be nice or be quiet.”

That’s right.  The message of the people promoting this slick video…

  • who rope all of us broadly into the suspect category,
  • who include the very act of complaining on the list of things that we should stop,
  • who deliberately slap us with the shock of putting swears in the mouths of children,
  • who tell us that we’re merely a hopeless generation occupying space until the saintly kids grow up

… is that we’re not being nice, that we’re being dismissive.  That we should just shut our traps and not complain about the treatment to which the powerful in our state subject us or when they do things like impose new fees, take away our rights, and slush around money sucked from our economy in a corrupt whirlpool (or when they use non-profit organizations to push political agendas) or blame them when things continue to go wrong, year after year.  We’re just “trolling.”

Who are the condescending people behind this message, hiding behind children?

Well, the Rhode Island Foundation we know.  It’s interesting to note, though, the group behind this video, NAIL Communications, because it’s received almost $2.5 million from the state government through HealthSource RI, our ObamaCare health benefits exchange, over the past few years.

So, yes, shut up and pay your taxes, you nasty Rhode Islanders, so that people who think they’re better than us can get big paydays from government ventures that limit our freedoms as well as redistribute our money.

4

Will Ranked-Choice-Voting (RCV) be Forced on Rhode Islanders?

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Progressive Democrats and some moderate Republicans are advocating for a major change to Rhode Island’s Constitutional election provision, which currently provides for the candidate who receives a simple plurality of all votes cast to be declared the winner state or local elections … even if that plurality does not surpass the 50% threshold. […]

6

Guest Derek Leblanc from Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation #SISTERSINARMS – November 09, 2023

TODAY ON OUR SHOW: Since 2015, the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation has been a leader in the state of Oregon and the nation regarding children’s firearm safety. They have reached 28,000 kids in Oregon, Washington, Northern California, and Arizona. They have taught them life-saving skills on what to do if they ever encounter a firearm. STOP, DON’T TOUCH, RUN AWAY, TELL AN ADULT!! Tune in now to see our new episode… coming up LIVE at 5:15 PM and then always on demand.

9

Rhode Island lawmaker introduces education spending overhaul

The chair of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Senate Education Committee has introduced a trio of bills geared toward specific student populations across the state. State Sen. Sandra Cano, D-Pawtucket, has introduced bills she said would “bring more equity to the state education funding formula” in a news release.

12

Rhode Island Suffers a “D” Rating in Workplace Freedom for Gov’t Workers

Public employees in the Ocean State enjoy fewer freedoms than their counterparts in most other states The state of Rhode Island scored a disappointing “D” on the annual 50 State Labor Report produced by the Commonwealth Foundation, entitled “The Battle for Worker Freedom in the States: Grading State Labor Laws.” States that suffer from this […]

16

Clay Johnson: Officials Forgetting Foundational Importance of Hum of Running Economy

I applaud the decision makers, at all levels of government, that quickly responded to the medical crisis. But health issues only represent one component of the challenges in front of us. We all hunkered down for weeks to ‘flatten the curve.’ Our common goal was to ensure that, as a community, we had enough hospital beds for those most vulnerable. Well, we’ve flattened the curve. (And we know now that the survival rate of COVID-19 in the United States is almost 95%.) Why then are governments having a hard time moving to the next stage during this time of testing? I can only believe that most people were more familiar with the fears and responses to the medical side of the crisis.

Let’s explore the impact on small businesses. Almost half of all employees in the United States work for a small business. In fact, 96% of Rhode Island businesses are small businesses. They are the engine of our economy. Business owners can feel in their bones, the impact of this shutdown on Rhode Island. We owe it to the rest of the citizens of Rhode Island to communicate this feeling.

18

Another Lesson to Learn, Rhode Island: Minimum Wage

Sometimes state government makes bad policy decisions because it is improvising without any example to follow for its actions, and sometimes state government makes bad policy decisions because it ignores the evidence that other states have generated.  Passing progressive Democrat Gina Raimondo’s proposed new Medicaid tax on employers and her proposed minimum wage increase would be in the second category.

Writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, Jon Miltimore notes one New York City restauranteur who is cutting hours, cutting staff, and increasing prices, all to address a massive increase in the city’s minimum wage:

Bloostein is just one restaurant owner, you might say. But he is not alone. A New York City Hospitality Alliance survey shows that 75 percent of restaurants said they planned to cut employees hours in response to the wage hike. Nearly half (47 percent) said they’d cut jobs.

The outcome is hardly a surprise. These are the signature responses to steep wage hikes forced onto businesses (those that manage to bear the costs and stay open, anyway).

However pure the intentions of New York politicians might be, the minimum wage will have a dire impact on those who can least afford it: young, poor workers who will not be afforded important job experience. It’s a terrible way to fight poverty …

Of course, as Miltimore goes on to suggest, New York politicians’ intentions cannot be assumed to be pure.  Their incentives are different from the people’s needs, and that most definitely applies to Governor Raimondo.

19

A Long Time for a Decision on a Rhode Island Labor Question

A Rhode Island–initiated labor union case that the National Right to Work Foundation is asking a U.S. Court of Appeals to force the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a helpful reminder of the abuses of the Obama administration.  The underlying case, brought by Jeanette Geary, is nine years old and has been sitting without resolution for the last five:

Geary, then a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge in 2009 with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Her charge stated that United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union officials unlawfully spent her forced union fees and failed to meet financial disclosure requirements as to the amount of the compulsory fees required as a condition of employment.

One might conclude from the summary that the union was simply asserting that dues-driven funds were spent appropriately without providing any evidence.

In 2012, President Obama’s illegally-appointed NLRB rejected Supreme Court precedent and granted union bosses power to charge nonmember workers for union political lobbying, including lobbying in other states. However, that decision was invalidated by the Court’s holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” President Obama made.

20

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Calls Out Kilmartin, NEARI

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today called out Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) and its Bristol-Warren local for attempting to mislead government employees in the Ocean State:

The notice comes after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin – who signed onto an anti-Janus brief at the Supreme Court and received major support from union officials in his runs for public office – made the false claim that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling “only affects non-union members” and does not apply to union members.

The Attorney General is wrong. Under Janus all government employees have the right to resign their union membership and immediately stop any financial payments to union officials. Because the Supreme Court decision made it clear that public workers must opt-in to any union payments and explicitly waive their constitutional rights, union members cannot be restricted if they seek to resign from the union and stop the payment of any union dues or fees.

The Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA) and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) also issued a letter blatantly misleading teachers about their Janus rights. The letter claims that union nonmembers must pay a NEARI attorney to file a grievance against the union. However, as the Foundation’s notice states, unions are legally obligated to provide grievance service to both members and nonmembers as part of its exclusive monopoly bargaining status.

The BWEA and NEARI union officials’ letter also incorrectly claims that nonmembers are unable to request days from the Sick Leave Bank, even though the BWEA’s monopoly bargaining agreement establishes the Sick Leave Bank for all teachers, including nonmembers, covered by the agreement.

National Right to Work’s statement is in line with the analysis offered in this space in August.

Government employees in Rhode Island who want more information about their rights can visit MyPayMySayRI.com or National Right to Work’s MyJanusRights.org, where employees can also request free legal assistance.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask that the state’s lead law enforcement agent would offer accurate legal opinions to the public and that labor unions would be more truthful with their own employees.

22

Tax Foundation on What Senate Tax Reform Would Mean to RI

The Tax Foundation, specifically Nicole Kaeding and Morgan Scarboro, has estimated the effects of the U.S. Senate’s version of tax reform:

The TAG model estimates that the plan would result in the creation of roughly 925,000 new full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, while increasing the after-tax incomes by 4.4 percent in the long run, meaning families would see an after-tax income boost of 4.4 percent by the end of the decade. The increase in family incomes is due in part from individual income tax reductions and the broader rise in productivity and wages due to economic growth.  These estimates take into account all aspects of the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, including changes to the individual and corporate tax codes.

The results are provided by state, and Rhode Island stands to gain 3,135 jobs, with the typical middle-income family seeing another $2,707 in income.

Keep in mind that this is the outcome of improving the tax climate nationally.  Imagine what would be possible if the State of Rhode Island were sufficiently forward thinking to improve its own tax and regulatory climate relative to other states.

23

Should Rhode Islanders Be Confident In Our State’s Elections Integrity?

Following the release this week of city-by-city and district-by-district voter registration and 2016 election voting research by Ken Block, via his Simpatico Software Systems data analysis company, we call on the Governor and/or the Attorney General to initiate an independent investigation. This shocking data means our current registration practices may need to be amended, with individuals appropriately held accountable, if voters are to maintain confidence in our State’s elections integrity.

24

Benny’s Is Another Warning Sign for Rhode Island

Like other Rhode Islanders, I’ve got my stories of finding just the right thing at a Benny’s.  As Ted Nesi reports in his weekend column, this is probably a point of commonality across the state:

“Like so many Rhode Islanders, I am heartbroken,” Governor Raimondo said after the announcement Friday – a somewhat remarkable statement about what is, after all, a store; there will still be places to buy Christmas lights or snow shovels after December. But of course it’s not about that. It’s about community, about the institutions and traditions that bind us together, especially at a time when it’s easy to feel closer to people across the country than across the street.

That is why our sense of pre-nostalgia melancholy at the closing of the entire chain should be secondary to a higher degree of concern, even urgency, at the direction in which we’re heading.  This isn’t just a matter of watching institutions crumble under the weight of an evolving future.  The profound lesson has to do with our passivity in the face of change.

A few years back, when the RI Foundation hosted its Make Rhode Island Great Again summit (or whatever it was called), Mike Stenhouse and I happened to sit at a lunch table with one of the higher ups from Benny’s.  Given that it was an area of central focus for us at the time, Stenhouse raised the topic of eliminating the sales tax, and the Benny’s executive offered a somewhat muttered reply and soon thereafter excused himself from the table.

Now, I’ll never gainsay the possibility that Stenhouse and I are simply frightening to behold, and perhaps the businessman wasn’t in the mood to be pitched for a donation.  My impression, however, drawn mostly from the substance of his muttering, was that he wouldn’t support something so disruptive of the status quo.  Indeed, that was the view expressed in no uncertain terms by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s representative on the legislative commission to study  sales tax elimination.

Of course, one can’t say with certainty that the boom of an eliminated sales tax would have saved Benny’s from the Amazon tidal wave, but my wager would be that it would have.  More importantly, such a reform would have opened up new possibilities for the company.  Being the kind of state that isn’t afraid actively to get out of the way of its residents’ needs could make all the difference.

And it’s a difference we need to start making, otherwise the only Rhode Island institutions that will remain will be government and the outsized benefits of its employees.

26

Crime and the Rhode Island Puzzle

Poking around the Family Prosperity Initiative data tool, I was struck again by how well Rhode Island does when it comes to violent crime.  According to the last-published Rhode Island report, Rhode Island is fifth-best in the country by this measure.  One could consider it to be counterintuitive or obviously correlative, but Rhode Island also has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the United States, as depicted in this slide from a presentation by David Safavian, an expert with the American Conservative Union Foundation, when he spoke at Bryant University at a Family Prosperity event:

safavian-incarcerationrates

While reviewing this information, I happened to be distracted by an “Economics 101” video by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (not the RI organization of a similar name) emphasizing the combination of stability and freedom that characterizes prosperous countries.  The video is mainly concerned with financial stability, but overall stability is critical, too.

A safe state that doesn’t lock up large numbers of its residents should have an advantage economically.  Indeed, add that advantage to all the rest — location, history, etcetera, etcetera — that ought to make Rhode Island the jewel of New England, rather than the armpit.

Unfortunately, we get other things terribly wrong, so our advantages go to waste, largely in the service of our insider system of centralized micromanagement and profiteering.

27

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.

28

The Story of Rhode Island in the Trump-Clinton Divide

The other day, the Providence Journal published an interesting map showing that, much like the country as a whole, Rhode Island’s presidential votes were split by region, with the coastal municipalities’ going to Hillary Clinton and the interior going to Donald Trump.  The image oversimplifies, of course; several cities and towns in the northeast of the state don’t touch the coast, and Charlestown and Tiverton went to Clinton without her winning even half of the vote.

Reporter Paul Edward Parker touch on some of the nuance in the numbers:

Four of the five communities with the highest median household incomes voted for Clinton, as did seven of the eight communities with the lowest incomes.

Essentially, Clinton drew her support from the wealthiest and poorest places, while Trump drew his from the middle.

Laying this out in more detail arguably tells the story of Rhode Island’s current condition in a single chart:

RImuni-clintonvotevsincome

In that red U, we see both the story of the “productive class” and the workings of the “company state.”

Refer back to this 2009 post on Anchor Rising, and you’ll see that the bottom of the U is almost exactly in line with the population that has been leaving Rhode Island throughout this millennium.  As those Rhode Islanders flee the state, those who remain are increasingly part of the “company state” or “government plantations” model, wherein highly paid service providers in and around government have incentive to increase the number of clients requiring subsidized services as a pretense for taking money away from those above the line for subsidies.

This model harms the economy and drives people away because it reduces the incentive and opportunity to work.  The “productive class” is characterized by the economic role of the people who tend to be within it.  It’s the broad class of people whose main function in the economy is to turn their effort and ingenuity into money that they can use to support and advance their families.

This trend is terrible for a state for a multitude of reasons, but two stand out as particularly profound and overarching.  The first is that the “productive class” is the group whose activities are the foundation of a thriving and advancing society.  They are the dynamism and hope for the future.

The second is that the erosion of this tier of the economy as a source of balance eliminates political competition. A loss of political competition will inevitably lead to a political monolith that is not only incapable of correcting itself, but also susceptible to simple, wasteful, and demoralizing corruption.

Those who sympathize with the high points of the U really need to reevaluate the long-term good of their policies.  The rest of us need to redouble our efforts to turn the tide.

29

RI Foundation’s Sneak-Attack on Free-Speech

Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?

It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.

As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.

In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us – that we should just “stop complaining”.

Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it?

I don’t think so.

It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped.

30

Rhode Island’s Property Taxes are Much Too High But It is Avoidable

GoLocalProv’s Russell Moore had an article yesterday comparing property taxes around Rhode Island. One more data point is needed: how Rhode Island’s property taxes rank nationally. They are tenth highest.

In the article, the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Justin Katz identifies a major factor contributing to our too high property taxes.

One aspect that is central to the property tax question has to do with labor union influence and various regulations and mandates that drive up the cost of labor. We’ll be taking a specific, close look at those numbers within the next year, but we can already say that Rhode Island forces itself to pay a premium for insider, special-interest work.

One other, important related matter. If our officials could lower property taxes, would that decrease the need for affordable housing, which further exacerbates property tax rates? H’mmm …

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