Rhode Island Policy Reporter

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A look at the lousy situation Rhode Island is in, how we got here, and how we might be able to get out.

Budget Demystification!
Fiscal Derring-Do!
Economic Jiggery-Pokery!

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RIPR is a (paper) newsletter and a weekly column appearing in ten of Rhode Island's finer newspapers. The goal is to look at local, state and federal policy issues that affect life here in the Ocean State, concentrating on action, not intentions or talk.

If you'd like to help, please contribute an item, suggest an issue topic, or buy a subscription. If you can, buy two or three (subscribe here).

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whole site RIPR back issues

Available Back Issues:

  • Aug 09 (38) - How your government's economic policies have worked against you. What a fake nineteenth century nun can teach us about the tea party protests.
  • Jun 09 (37) - Statistics of optimism, the real cost of your government. Judith Reilly on renewable tax credits. Review of Akerlof and Shiller on behavioral economics.
  • Apr 09 (36) - Cap and trade, the truth behind the card check controversy, review of Governor's tax policy workgroup final report.
  • Feb 09 (35) - The many varieties of market failures, and what classic economics has to say about them, review of Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.
  • Dec 08 (34) - Can "Housing First" end homelessness? The perils of TIF. Review of You Can't Be President by John MacArthur.
  • Oct 08 (33) - Wage stagnation, financial innovation and deregulation: creating the financial crisis, the political rhetoric of the Medicaid waiver.
  • Jul 08 (32) - Where has the money gone? Could suburban sprawl be part of our fiscal problem? Review of Bad Money by Kevin Phillips, news trivia or trivial news.
  • Apr 08 (31) - Understanding homelessness in RI, by Eric Hirsch, market segmentation and the housing market, the economics of irrationality.
  • Feb 08 (30) - IRS migration data, and what it says about RI, a close look at "entitlements", historic credit taxonomy, an investment banking sub-primer.
  • Dec 07 (29) - A look at the state's underinsured, economic geography with IRS data.
  • Oct 07 (28) - Choosing the most expensive ways to fight crime, bait and switch tax cuts, review of Against Prediction, about the perils of using statistics to fight crime.
  • Aug 07 (27) - Sub-prime mortgages fall heaviest on some neighborhoods, biotech patents in decline, no photo IDs for voting, review of Al Gore's Against Reason
  • Jun 07 (26) - Education funding, budget secrecy, book review of Boomsday and the Social Security Trustees' Report
  • May 07 (25) - Municipal finance: could citizen mobility cause high property taxes? What some Depression-era economists had to say on investment, and why it's relevant today, again.
  • Mar 07 (24) - The state budget disaster and how we got here. Structural deficit, health care, borrowing, unfunded liabilities, the works.
  • Jan 07 (23) - The impact of real estate speculation on housing prices, reshaping the electoral college. Book review of Blocking the Courthouse Door on tort "reform."
  • Dec 06 (22) - State deficit: What's so responsible about this? DOT bonding madness, Quonset, again, Massachusetts budget comparison.
  • Oct 06 (21) - Book review: Out of Iraq by Geo. McGovern and William Polk, New rules about supervisors undercut unions, New Hampshire comparisons, and November referenda guide.
  • Aug 06 (20) - Measuring teacher quality, anti-planning referenda and the conspiracy to promote them, affordable housing in the suburbs, union elections v. card checks.
  • Jun 06 (19) - Education report, Do tax cut really shrink government?, Casinos and constitutions, State historic tax credit: who uses it.
  • May 06 (18) - Distribution analysis of property taxes by town, critique of RIEDC statistics, how to reform health care, and how not to.
  • Mar 06 (17) - Critique of commonly used statistics: RI/MA rich people disparity, median income, etc. Our economic dependence on high health care spending. Review of Crashing the Gate
  • Feb 06 (16) - Unnecessary accounting changes mean disaster ahead for state and towns, reforming property tax assessment, random state budget notes.
  • Jan 06 (15) - Educational equity, estimating the amount of real estate speculation in Rhode Island, interview with Thom Deller, Providence's chief planner.
  • Nov 05 (14) - The distribution of affordable houses and people who need them, a look at RI's affordable housing laws.
  • Sep 05 (13) - A solution to pension strife, review of J.K. Galbraith biography and why we should care.
  • Jul 05 (12) - Kelo v. New London: Eminent Domain, and what's between the lines in New London.
  • Jun 05 (11) - Teacher salaries, Veterinarian salaries and the minimum wage. Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
  • Apr 05 (10) - Choosing a crisis: Tax fairness and school funding, suggestions for reform. Book review: business location and tax incentives.
  • Feb 05 (9) - State and teacher pension costs kept artificially high. Miscellaneous tax suggestions for balancing the state budget.
  • Dec 04 (8) - Welfare applications and the iconography of welfare department logos. The reality of the Social Security trust fund.
  • Oct 04 (7) - RIPTA and DOT, who's really in crisis?
  • Aug 04 (6) - MTBE and well pollution, Mathematical problems with property taxes
  • May 04 (5) - A look at food-safety issues: mad cows, genetic engineering, disappearing farmland.
  • Mar 04 (4) - FY05 RI State Budget Critique.
  • Feb 04 (3) - A close look at the Blue Cross of RI annual statement.
  • Oct 03 (2) - Taxing matters, a historical overview of tax burdens in Rhode Island
  • Oct 03 Appendix - Methodology notes and sources for October issue
  • Apr 03 (1) - FY04 RI State Budget critique
Issues are issued in paper. They are archived irregularly here.

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The Rhode Island Policy Reporter is an independent news source that specializes in the technical issues of public policy that matter so much to all our lives, but that also tend not to be reported very well or even at all. The publication is owned and operated by Tom Sgouros, who has written all the text you'll find on this site, except for the articles with actual bylines.


Creative Commons License Tom Sgouros

Fri, 31 Mar 2006

New issue out

  • How do we cut health spending when our economy depends on it? by Greg Gerritt
  • What does it really mean that Massachusetts has more rich people than RI does?
  • Why might the median wage in Rhode Island mean something different than the median wage in Massachusetts or Connecticut?
  • Are poor people flooding into Rhode Island to take advantage of our welfare laws?
  • Review of Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

Didn't you mean to subscribe a while ago? No time like the present.

09:30 - 31 Mar 2006 [/y6/ma]

Thu, 23 Mar 2006

School choice in Milwaukee

How's it really going after 15 years of experience with vouchers that allow parents to opt out of the public school system? There was a column about this by John Tierney of the New York Times last week, praising the successes of choice in that city. But last year the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published a seven-part series on the subject. You may be interested to hear what it had to say.

Many thanks to the Daily Howler.

12:56 - 23 Mar 2006 [/y6/ma]

Tue, 21 Mar 2006

Defining protectionism down

When, you might ask, did foreign ownership of domestic companies become equated with international tariffs? "Protectionism" used to refer only to the second. But now defenders of the Dubai port deal and many other inequities of the current world economy want it to refer to the first as well. See here.

20:56 - 21 Mar 2006 [/y6/ma]

Wed, 15 Mar 2006

Bird flu spreads how?

Bird flu is now found in Europe, after having spread from SE Asia. Quick, what migratory birds winter in Asia and summer in France?

Answer: probably none, which is why the bird flu is probably caused and spread by industrial farming practice rather than wild birds and backyard flocks. See here for a report from GRAIN an advocacy group that supports sustainable agriculture, among other things.

11:56 - 15 Mar 2006 [/y6/ma]

Mon, 06 Mar 2006

Are we driving rich people away?

Much is made lately of a statistic that says that 1.86% of Rhode Islanders report more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income to the IRS, while in Massachusetts the comparable figure is 3.06%. The implication is that short-sighted tax policy is driving rich people from our arms to tax havens like Massachusetts. (These are numbers for the 2004 tax year.)

This could be the truth. On the other hand, it seems that the comparable numbers for 2001 are 1.67% and 3.18%. In other words, we have more rich people now than we did in 2001, and Massachusetts has fewer. So tell me again how we're driving them away?

To be quite honest about it, the comparable numbers from 1997 are 1.24% and 2.09%. So the rise is almost exactly comparable in both states. Which is to say that there's no evidence that we're attracting rich people, but there's little evidence that we're driving them away, either.

The whole thing is predicated on the idea that more rich people means more prosperity for all of us. This is just another version of the trickle-down story that Ronald Reagan's allies sold to a gullible public in the 1980's. On what evidence do people believe this to be true? There is little enough that one unavoidably suspects this is a species of religious belief.

There is counter-evidence, though. The article just below points to data that show that rich people have been inimical to the interests of their employees over the past 30 years. That's data, not religion.

10:02 - 06 Mar 2006 [/y6/ma]

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