Entries by Mike Stenhouse

Improving The Lives Of Ocean State Families

What if we were to realize that the status quo public policy approach, as well-intended as it may be, in reality, has had the unintended consequence of reducing the overall prosperity of our Rhode Island families? The Family Prosperity Index (FPI) research clearly demonstrates that cultural, social, and demographic factors must also be considered, in addition to economic factors, when formulating effective public policy. The Ocean State’s political leaders can become heroes if they can make policy that addresses the real needs of Rhode Island families.

Students Trapped By Their Zip Code In Failed Schools

How many Rhode Island families have moved away? How many other American families have chosen not to make our state their home… because of a lack educational opportunity and economic prosperity? The die has now been cast: School choice is all about expanding educational freedom for families; those who oppose choice are all about preserving the status quo system. With aggressive education reform ideas to come from the White House beginning next year, and only one side will prevail.

In announcing his intent to nominate philanthropist, entrepreneur, and education reform leader, Betsy DeVos, to serve as his administration’s Secretary of Education, President-elect Donald Trump has selected a talented woman who will place the interests of students and families above the interests of the state controlled school system model. A proven innovator, Betsy DeVos will ostensibly work with states and with Congress to implement the new president’s bold national school choice initiative

I have had the pleasure of personally meeting Ms. DeVos in attending multiple education reform conferences sponsored by the American Federation for Children (AFC), of which Ms. DeVos has been chairman, and I have chatted with her over dinner. I know that she will support reform of America’s broken educational system by removing barriers to change. It is the mission of educational leaders like Betsy DeVos to provide students, trapped by their zip code in a failed school, with the opportunity to attend a school of their family’s choice. Such choices include expansion of charter school seats, educational scholarships that can be used to attend private schools, and private mentoring programs.

Our Center has similarly advocated for Bright Today Educational Scholarships, which would empower parents in our state with the freedom and financial capacity to choose the best educational path for their children. Our Center produced reams of research that clearly demonstrated that such a program would not cause harm to students who remain in public schools. In fact, a detailed financial model showed that by funding such scholarships with state money only, and leaving 100% of local education dollars for exclusive use in local public schools, there would actually be more money available per public school student. You can read more about the model here.

Empowering Our Families!

Did you have empty chairs at your Thanksgiving dinner table? We all know people who have left Rhode Island for greener economic pastures. The Ocean State’s poor business climate is forcing our people out. For too long, there has only been one voice in the policy discussion in Rhode Island. What if Rhode Island’s political leaders were to realize that policies that focus only on the material needs of individuals were actually harming our state’s families? It is time for Rhode Island to adopt the family friendly policy reforms that can transform our state into a place where people can achieve their hopes and dreams.

We need to empower families, businesses, and all of the people of the Ocean State to make the calls, instead of a small group of insiders. Our state ranks 48th on both the Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union, and the Jobs & Opportunity Index created by our Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity. We have virtually no population growth, and have suffered the embarrassment of many other near-bottom rankings. Despite all this, our Rhode Island political class appears happy not to make the significant changes that are needed to turn our state around.

The Ocean State needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet – on our own – for businesses, jobs, and families. Will the elitists in Rhode Island learn the biggest lesson of the election? It is time to remember forgotten families. Both President-elect Donald Trump, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have said for a very long time that the system is rigged against regular people. While other states are decisively moved in a new direction, Rhode Island is doubling down on a failed agenda.

Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround. We must adopt the family friendly reforms that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. You are powerful. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and demand that the status quo changes.

Forgotten Families

Will the political class in Rhode Island learn the lesson of the election? It is time to remember forgotten families. As President -elect Donald Trump, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have been claiming for a long time, the system is rigged. While other states are decisively moving forward, Rhode Island is falling in the wrong direction. The Ocean State needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet – on our own – for businesses, jobs and families.

The biggest election impact in the Ocean State is status quo politicians may no longer have their government-centric schemes funded by the federal government! We want a government that works for all of us, not just the chosen few. We understand that if the Ocean State is to become a better home destination, we must offer a better life for American families by creating an environment that will organically produce more and better businesses so as to create more and better jobs.

Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the nation. It ranks 48th on both the Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union and the Jobs and Opportunity Index of our Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. It has virtually zero population growth, and it has suffered the ignominy of dozens of other near-bottom rankings. Despite all this, our Rhode Island political class appears content not to rock the boat. We need to empower entrepreneurs, families and all of the people of Rhode Island to make the decisions for our state.

Unless we want our home state to continue with failed rankings, we must switch tracks and focus on policies that broadly help families and small businesses. Haven’t you had enough? Rhode Island has been crippled by a rigged system for far too long. Big spending, high taxes, and insider handouts have led us to where we are now. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, there are empty chairs at our holiday dinner tables. We all know people forced to leave Rhode Island. Your voice is powerful. Continue to speak out and the wave of change will come to the Ocean State.

Empty Chairs At Our Holiday Dinner Tables

The Providence Journal’s endorsements of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, spending bond questions, and incumbent congressman are, in essence, support of the status quo. Such endorsements should be made with a broad, external-looking, national perspective, not with a narrow, inward-looking local lens – as we see so many in our political and media elite continually do.

This perspective is vital for voters. The political class believe that large corporate handouts and small, targeted tax cuts are good for economic development. As compared with other states, these measures are insignificant and ill-directed.

Enough Of The Insider Machine

It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 48th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November.

This week, the Center released a new voter guide for the upcoming ballot questions. In heaping over $321,000,000 of additional debt burden on Rhode Island families, as well as on future generations, we are recommending to voters that they “reject” bond Questions #4-7. Just like families who must tighten their credit card debt and avoid luxuries they cannot afford, voters should reject the exorbitant spending proposed by the state, much of which is earmarked to benefit special interest insiders. Only Question #2 – to amend the state constitution restore Ethics Commission authority – received an “Approve” recommendation from the Center.

Haven’t you had enough of the broken status quo here in the Ocean State? We have seen over and over again that the special interest thinking is failing the people of Rhode Island, while enriching the elites. You and your family deserve more. The headlines are full of examples of regular people being kept out of the process and silenced. It is time to stand up to the same old way of doing things here in our state. It will be up to voters to decide this November if they want to continue down the path our state is on or to change things here in Rhode Island.

I think Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround from the poor scores and last place rankings. We must adopt the free market reforms that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. You are powerful. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and make sure your legislator does more to make Rhode Island a place where our families can achieve their hopes and dreams.

There are Better Solutions Than Rhode Island’s Status Quo Public Policy Environment

Does anyone trust that an elite cabal of political cronies should centrally engineer our economy? Or do we place more trust in the great people of Rhode Island to be able to unleash their suppressed capacity in a fair and free-market economy, via major tax and regulatory reductions across the board? The top down ideas being presented in the upcoming election would be harmful to our state. It is up to voters to decide for themselves if Rhode Island will be a place where our families can prosper.

There are many examples. We have proven in our Freedom Index that the status quo is moving our state in the wrong direction. Led by Rep. Patricia Morgan and Sen. Elaine Morgan, only 11 of 113 lawmakers earned positive scores on our 2016 Freedom Index. The Sheeple Index, released in partnership with WatchdogRI, shows that there is a dangerous pattern of lawmakers blindly following the leader.

Sheeple Index – 2016 Rhode Island General Assembly

Despite policies that have caused the Ocean State to suffer with the 50th ranked business climate, the 48th rank on the Family Prosperity Index, and the 48th rank on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index, our new 2016 “Sheeple” Index demonstrates that there is scant dissent among Rhode Island lawmakers who vote for such policies. The 2016 “Sheeple” Index is a collaboration between WatchdogRI.org and our Center. In a healthy democracy, there should be a rigorous debate of diverse policies. Sadly, and conversely in Rhode Island, it seems that when leadership authorizes bills to move forward, legislators feel compelled to automatically support them.

An alarming number of lawmakers vote in lock-step with leadership here in the Ocean State.

The 2016 Rhode Island General Assembly Freedom Index

It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 47th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November. This trend is exemplified by continued deeply negative overall General Assembly scores on our 2016 Freedom Index.

Loaded with information that will be useful to voters this fall, the Freedom Index is part of our larger transparency initiative. The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the freedom in the Ocean State.

Testimony: DEM Must Consider Economics Before Buying Farmland

In this video, I speak out against a new scheme by the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management to acquire farmland at a public comment forum held at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography on September 7, 2016.

With government increasingly influencing and controlling the means of production through myriad tax-credit, loan, and direct-subsidy schemes in a multitude of industries, the DEM farmland acquisition scheme, which will actually acquire and resell private property, is not based on any legitimate economic analysis — or any economic consideration at all.

Despite the fact that the state’s own Commerce Corporation demanded a RhodeMap RI–related mandate be inserted into the DEM plan, no economic justification was provided. The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warned you about the dangers of RhodeMap RI; here is one place where the planners’ vision seems to be marching forward.

Inching Progress on JOI (Jobs & Opportunity Index) Is Not Enough

There has only been one way of doing things in Rhode Island for far too long. We have seen the results in our state’s failed rankings. Yet, the insiders and elitists love to point to the rising employment figure to justify their status quo ideas. For this reason the Center has developed the Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI). If our elected leaders are to craft and advance legislation that removes barriers to the creation of meaningful work and that provides broader economic opportunities for all Rhode Island families, it is important that lawmakers are provided with a deeper measure of economic well-being.

While on the July Jobs & Opportunity Index Rhode Island edged past New York to claim the rank of 47th out of 50 states in the nation, this slow progress is not enough. Rhode Island families deserve more than these bottom results.

Check out Your Legislator on the “38 Studios Legislator Scorecard”

The public is outraged that there has been zero accountability on the 38 Studios issue. The insiders have failed to provide any transparency by releasing the 38 Studios documents. The Center is now offering our own version of transparency by publishing a new scorecard that tracks and grades the voting records of lawmakers on the 38 Studios affair. Many people consider it extremely hypocritical for any lawmaker who rated an F or D on this scorecard for their past record to now jump on the band-wagon by calling for the Attorney General or Governor to release the documents.

Despite the johnny-come-lately calls from many lawmakers for the release of documents from the government’s 38 Studios Investigation, 81 of the 113 sitting General Assembly lawmakers graded an “F” on their related voting records. On the scorecard, we documented and scored legislative votes on 15 related bills, amendments, and budgets since 2010 related to the 38 Studios disaster. There have been many missed opportunities for transparency. Why do they feel they have to protect the political machine?

As we approach the November elections, we’re providing voters with the voting records of their elected officials so they can decide whether or not to hold them accountable. It is up to you to choose if you want to change the Ocean State. Overall, of the 178 lawmakers, 132 graded an F, 10 a D, 8 a C, 6 a B, and 14 an A. You can see the full scorecard by clicking here now.

Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround. We must adopt an open and transparent public policy culture that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. The 38 Studios disaster is the perfect example of everything wrong with the way our state is being run. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and demand that the status quo changes.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

A Culture Of Silence In The Ocean State

In America, we must all remain free to voice our opinions without fear of state-sponsored persecution. It is reprehensible for any political elitists to collude to prosecute those who disagree with them on policy. For this reason, the Center is assisting a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General release documents they have refused to make public. We believe that General Kilmartin, and his fellow enemies of debate, are seeking to maintain a cloak of invisibility over the national AG group’s attempt to crush dissent by those who disagree with their radical climate change agenda.

In June, the Center published an energy report that demonstrated how oppressive state renewable energy mandates, as part of the national climate change agenda, will cost taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. These mandates will cause job losses in the thousands, and artificially raise local electricity rates. It is research and advocacy such as this that Kilmartin and his AG group are seeking to muzzle and potentially prosecute as criminal. No matter where you stand in the climate change debate, citizens must have the right to speak freely.

This culture of silence in the Ocean State is chilling. Why do so many elected officials and prominent people want you to be quiet? The rigged system protects the corrupt insiders. As we saw in the recent 38 Studios political whitewash, the machine will do what it takes to keep you from knowing the truth. Rhode Islanders want a government that works for everyone not just the chosen few. Things do not have to be this way in our state. We can have an open state government that serves the real needs of our families, and protects our freedom to achieve our dreams.

Elected officials saying things are getting better in Rhode Island is not enough, they must take action. We need action. Unless the Ocean State adopts the proven free market reforms that can transform our state, we will continue to see the negative trends continue. You can change the status quo. You must not allow anyone to silence you. By speaking out on the issues that affect your family, you can make a powerful statement to the insiders that you have had enough. Now is the time to be bold, and have our public policy culture make a complete turnaround.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

What’s Really In Your Best Interests? Aimee Gardiner On The No HPV Mandate Movement

On this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interest?” I interview Aimee Gardiner, director of Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations, on the movement against the HPV Mandate in the Ocean State. Rhode Island parents deserve the freedom to make private family choices without government involvement. The mandate on the HPV vaccine for Rhode Island students is an important and symbolic violation of our rights.

Recently, the RI DOH undertook a marketing campaign directed at the children of our state. Do you think this is a proper use of taxpayer dollars? The government should include parents in the discussion when dealing with minors, not bypassing our families! This is a very disturbing trend. The #NOHPVmandateRI movement stands to reverse the HPV vaccine mandate in RI. Please watch the new videos of our interview now.

The Status Quo’s Boasts – And Rhode Islanders’ Complacency?

Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the nation. It ranks 48th on both the Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union and the Jobs and Opportunity Index of our Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity. It has virtually zero population growth, and it has suffered the ignominy of dozens of other near-bottom rankings. Despite all this, our Rhode Island political class appears content not to rock the boat. The question remains why are they satisfied with being in the bottom of the pack?

When we hear boasts that there were no broad-based tax increases in the recently passed state budget, we hear an attitude of complacency that is typical of the political elite, whose main goal is to perpetuate the status quo, as opposed to making the hard decisions that will improve the quality of lives of its residents. The irony, of course, is that our political leaders seem to genuinely believe that they have made major positive reforms. Maybe, relatively speaking, they just don’t understand what major reform looks like.

If Rhode Island’s complacency continues – both by our political class and by voters who re-elect it year after year – we will soon see Rhode Island lose one of its two congressional seats and shamefully slip to last place when it comes to renewing hope and opportunity for our families. Rhode Island needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet – on our own – for businesses, jobs and families.

In this wild and unpredictable year of national politics, the big question is whether or not the tsunami of public discontent will reach our Ocean State shores and compel voters to send a necessary jolt to our political class. Rhode Island politicians will not have the chance to change their act until next year. However, voters can lead the way by acting this year to deliver a clear message at November’s ballot box. I encourage you to continue to speak out against the status quo public policy culture in Rhode Island. Your voice is powerful, and things can change.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

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.

Happy 240th Birthday To America!

Happy Independence Day from everyone at the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity! As we celebrate the Fourth with our family and friends, it is important to reflect the principles that led to the American revolution. On this anniversary of the original Brexit, we must remember that “US-Away” happened because free people stood up to an imperial power and demand that their rights be respected. In our own time, people are standing up against the elites here in Rhode Island that want to micromanage our lives.

We should all be proud of our fellow citizens working to advance freedom here in the Ocean State. The recent opposition to the Brookings agenda is a good example. Because Rhode Islanders spoke out against RhodeMap RI and central planning, many of the crony corporate welfare deals were squashed before they could begin. The stadium deal and the superman building are two more examples of stopping corporate welfare in Rhode Island. There are reasons to hope. However, we must remain vigilant and continue to speak out. The political elites will continue to try to give special deals to their cronies.

When will the insiders learn? We are warning the status quo against seeking to devolve Rhode Island into a dependent appendage to the Boston economy, or to some other form of regional governance. The citizens of our state demand local control. Centralized plans are not the answer for the Ocean State. We urge lawmakers to reject the concept of a centrally controlled, regional bureaucracy that will infringe on the authority of locally elected officials. Rhode Islanders do not want intrusions into their own lives.

There are better solutions than the central planning of economies and the loss of local control. It is time to end the insider culture where the little guy suffers. As we saw in the recent Brexit vote, citizens are demanding more from their leaders. How many of us would say that the status quo public policy culture in Rhode Island is making anything easier on the average family? For too long, the political elites have thought they’ve known how to better run your life than you do. I encourage you to speak out against the status quo and remember that things can change here in the Ocean State.

And once again, Happy Fourth of July.

[Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

Going to the Heart of Costly Renewable Energy


In this podcast excerpt, I discuss with the Heartland Institute’s Donald Kendal and John Nothdurft the findings of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s new report on renewable energy that confirms a very poor cost-benefit return to Rhode Islanders of renewable energy. (Listen to the full podcast of our conversation here.)

Because 98% of Rhode Island’s energy is generated by natural gas, our state already has a comparatively small carbon footprint. Further reducing it to hit purely arbitrary renewable production targets would cost state ratepayers and taxpayers $141–190 million per year in production expenses alone – four to five times the EPA’s recommended cost standard.

Rhode Islanders also cannot afford the cost to the state economy in the form of lower employment levels or in the $670–893 million per year extracted in unnecessarily higher electricity rate payments by private sector businesses and families. When will the status quo learn?

Based on these findings, the Center has strongly recommended that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law. The EPA’s own cost standard highlighted in the Center renewable energy report demonstrates that state officials can set aside all renewable energy mandates with a clear conscience.

You Deserve Better Than a Losing Team

Lawmakers must understand that the people of Rhode Island are demanding that we move in a different direction. As the General Assembly session comes to a close, we have seen another year where the insiders ignore the voice of the people and continue to further their own special interest laden agenda. The big spending in the state budget must end, the backroom deals must end, and the public corruption must end if we are ever to see our state become prosperous again. Rhode Island families are being harmed by the lack of opportunity created by the elitists and the failed public policy culture.

What does the average family have to cheer about in this budget? The few provisions that offer minor relief to some are overwhelmingly outweighed by the huge special interest and corporate welfare spending. Things do not have to be this way.

What’s Really In Your Best Interests? CEO Stenhouse on the 2017 RI Budget

In this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?”, I talk about the 2017 RI Budget. There are better solutions than big spending in the RI State Budget. It is time to end the insider culture where the little guy is hurt. Only when the total relief package is bigger than new spending can we claim that Rhode Island is heading in the right direction.
The Ocean State must stop supporting special-interest spending policies. Instead, we must demand broad-based tax and regulatory cuts that benefit all. While we recognize the reductions in retiree income taxes, the corporate minimum tax, and trucker registration and beach parking fees, the Center notes that these cuts are themselves narrowly targeted and are more than offset by the increases in corporate welfare, new Uber and marijuana taxes, pre-K funding, and new special-interest bond initiatives.

RI Dept of Education Transgender Guidelines Continue Disturbing Trend of Government by Political Correctness

[The RI Department of Education has announced “comprehensive guidelines” with regard to transgender students, though the ProJo reports that it is not a mandate. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity this morning issued the following statement.]

While professing to protect students from bullying and to respect all students, the RI Department of Education (RIDE), via its June 2016 Guidance Document on Transgender Students, itself appears to have been bullied by the federal government; seeks to bully local school districts into conformity; and openly flaunts its disrespect of of other students.

In perpetuating a disturbing trend of ‘government by political correctness’, RIDE has succumbed to federal pressure and has adopted a one-size-fits-all position that may not be compatible with the morals held by many public school families. There may never be a more obvious reason to empower parents with additional choices to escape an increasingly politicized government school system that does not respect their personal values.

The repeated emphasis in the document on laws dealing with “discrimination” can only be seen as a heavy-handed threat to local school districts, who may choose not to conform, by elitist bureaucrats who believe they know what’s in our family’s best interests.

The open and blatant disrespect (page-9, paragraph-2) for the comfort level of the majority of students, in favor of the comfort of a tiny minority of students, along with the disdain for the rights of parents and the sanctity of the family (page-7, paragraph-2), is particularly alarming.

The Center maintains that no single statewide or federal dictate can possibly satisfy the varying sentiments among Rhode Island’s diverse array of local communities.

Related: Video commentary by CEO Mike Stenhouse on The Ocean State Current following release of federal “guidance” document in May of 2016.

What’s Really In Your Best Interest? Legislative Grants: Cheers to 10 Lawmakers, Shame on You.

In this episode of our debate series, “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I explore the recently publicized and controversial topic of legislative grants. Are lawmakers the only people at fault, or is there a larger, more fundamental problem at play? Legislative grants hand-out your taxpayer dollars to organizations in an arbitrary, yet highly politicized process.

Much of the media attention has focused on lawmakers who have applied for such grants in a corrupt process to gain favor with voters. In looking at the other side of the coin, however, I recognize the ten lawmakers in the General Assembly who have not applied for a single legislative grant this year in this video. Cheers to them!

The Average Guy Pays: Insider Schemes Are Disruptive To The Marketplace

Your family deserves to live in a state where they have the freedom and opportunity to achieve greater prosperity. The only thing that stands in the way of this happening is the status quo public policy culture in Rhode Island. For too long one voice has dominated the public debate, and it has led to a series of political scandals and corporate welfare handouts. It is time to end the culture on Smith Hill that rewards the chosen few, while the rest of us are left to suffer under their high tax and spend culture. Both the left and right can agree that we can do better than more handouts from the insiders.

Corporate cronyism does virtually nothing for the average family and it adds the further insult of forcing the average guy to pay for it. Governor Gina Raimondo’s stated goal is to restore Rhode Island’s troubled economy through big handouts to target industries. But is there any proof that this approach will work? Rhode Islanders already saw a similar idea fail in the 38 Studios disaster. The people of our state cannot afford another government run fiasco where our hard earned tax dollars are used to further the status quo’s agenda.

Recent research from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), directly implies that New York’s failed “Start-Up NY” program is likely a bad omen for Rhode Island’s similar RI Innovates plan. After a $53 million national advertising blitz, Start-Up NY created on net only 76 new jobs. The Start-Up NY program demonstrates the failure of government directed economy and corporate cronyism. Further, as ALEC points out, this elitist, insider approach towards economics is not only unfair, but it is disruptive to the marketplace and may actually shrink the overall jobs pie.

Imagine an Ocean State, where it would be easy for our family members to achieve their hopes and dreams. I don’t think too many would say that status quo public policy culture in Rhode Island is making anything easy for us. For too long, the political elites have rewarded their cronies, and made it harder for new business to take hold here in our state. This needs to change. I encourage you to speak out against the cronies and the handouts that further their own personal interest instead of what’s really in the best interest of you and your family. Please have a happy and safe Memorial Day, and remember all those who have served.

What’s Really In Your Best Interests? Overreach in Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Directive

On this episode of, “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I discuss President Obama’s recent transgender bathroom directive. The administration’s directive regarding transgender access to bathrooms in public schools can only be viewed as a blatant threat and yet another assault against the cherished American cornerstones of federalism, local governance, individual rights, and transparent government. Rhode Islanders should speak out against this growing federal intrusion.

Regardless of how you feel about transgender access to facilities, the process by which this executive action will be implemented is nothing short of pure corruption.

If ever there was a time for school choice, to empower parents with the choice to escape schools that do not respect their personal values, that time is now. This increasing trend of arbitrary and unconstitutional government by activist and elitist executives, often a direct affront to the values of the very people they claim to represent – is dangerous to the cornerstones of our great American democracy.

What’s Really In Your Best Interests? John Marion of Common Cause RI on the Ethics Commission

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I sit down with John Marion of Common Cause RI to discuss the Ethics Commission. We talk about the growing coalition to restore the Ethics Commission in Rhode Island. The resolution being proposed will put forward a change to the RI Constitution to be approved by voters. With recent examples of bad behavior by the RI General Assembly, Rhode Islanders should ask themselves if a restored ethics commission is really in their best interests.

The Clean RI coalition is composed of almost two-dozen groups. This resolution does, in fact, restore the full jurisdiction of the ethics commission despite the speech and debate clause. Common Cause argues that the controversial moratorium should be set aside and placed into a separate statute. This is an important piece of the puzzle of good government in the Ocean State. We encourage you to speak out on the issues affecting your family in Rhode Island.

A Status Quo of Elitism


In this short video, I sit down for State of the State with John Carlevale to discuss the elitist attitude of the status quo in Rhode Island. When will the political class listen to the people of our state? For too long, the public policy debate has been one sided, and denied Rhode Islanders opportunity. The insiders want to keep increasing their big government policy, and refuse to hear other ideas. During the RhodeMap RI battle, the insiders refused to listen to citizens and put our homes at risk. Policy should be decided with many voices giving their input into the process. When many opinions are considered, we are able to craft more effective public policy. Rhode Island will have to change if our state is ever to become a place where people are free to achieve their dreams.

Why Freedom & Prosperity? CEO Stenhouse on State of the State

The people of Rhode Island want a government that works for every citizen of our state, not just the insiders and the special interests. With the recent challenges faced by RI’s political class, it is important to remember that there are real alternatives than the culture of big government here in Rhode Island. Recently, I appeared on the State of the State and discussed the work being done by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The mission of the Center is to return government to you, the people, by opposing special interest public policy and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives through economic competitiveness, educational opportunity and individual freedom. Your family deserves more than the worn out ideas of ever increasing state revenue and big spending.

Our vision is to see Rhode Island as a destination of choice to raise a family and build a career, with a thriving business climate, abundant jobs, and a world-class education system. The Ocean State will only achieve this mission by changing the status quo. You can be a part of that by speaking out often on the issues that effect your family. Please watch the new three minute video now.

What’s Really in Your Best Interest? Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI)

This week on “What’s Really in Your Best Interest?”, we examine the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s new Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI.) (RIFreedom.org/JOI)

My guest this week is Justin Katz, the Research Director for the Center and Managing Editor of the Ocean State Current. Justin is the creator of the JOI measure, a new tool designed to give lawmakers a broader view of Rhode Island’s economy than the traditional unemployment rate.

JOI is a national index of states that incorporates three major factors, comprised of over a dozen variables derived from government reported data:

1) A proper measure of employment as it relates to labor force,
2) A measure of job/employment levels as compared with public assistance rolls, and;
3) A measure of personal income as compared with government tax receipts collected

Please watch the video now and see this months post on JOI here.

What’s Really In Your Best Interest — Cooler or Warmer?

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interest? ” I discuss Rhode Island’s Cooler & Warmer fiasco. This rollout is yet another instance of government incompetence in the Ocean State. The arrogant response by Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration was perhaps even more telling; oozing contempt for those of us who honestly felt little connection with their marketing scheme. For years, our Center has been promoting family-friendly policies that directly benefit all Rhode Islanders, while opposing government-centric special interest deals for corporations, unions, and other insider groups. Rhode Island families deserve better than their elitist schemes.

The 6/10 Green Gateway: Yet Another Bait-And-Switch

The Governor sold us a toll plan that was to repair Rhode Island’s decrepit bridges and roads. We were not sold a green vision, especially one that hands-out hundreds of millions of dollars to the special interests. The Green Gateway is yet another example of a big government boondoggle in the Ocean State. Taxpayers were purposely deceived via this bait-and-switch charade that was always about cronyism and advancing a federally-planned sustainablist vision, that will likely cost you far more than anticipated.

Once again the state government rammed through their agenda, without due process and without considering credible alternatives. Where was the public discussion of the massive tunnel, the green-space theme, and the ‘bus-lane-to-nowhere’ components of the DOT plan during the toll debate? Each of these formerly hidden components would result in massive construction and union related spending that would detract from spending on other unsafe bridges and roads.

Like the toll bill itself, the Green Gateway is an obvious hand out to special interests, and fails to consider alternatives. In the past year, the Center, along with other groups, have proposed various viable alternatives to the Governor’s proposal, including P3 partnerships and pay as you go funding, all of which have been summarily rejected. Now, likely the 6-10 “boulevard” concept as well as other calls to simply repair the existing 6-10 infrastructure will be rejected by the insiders. Your family deserves better than the closed public policy culture in Rhode Island.

Lawmakers should be furious that they voted to fix Rhode Island’s infrastructure, and now the focus is on such a small percentage of the deficient bridges. The tolls revenue should not be used to advance a radical federal sustainable development agenda. We cannot ignore the issues with this plan. Do we really trust the RI DOT to come in on time and on budget with this project? It is time for the status quo thinking on Smith Hill to change; we cannot afford to continue to lock the people out of the process though the elite’s schemes.

[Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.]

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