January 31, 2007

"You say, I only hear what I want to..."

Marc Comtois

Kate Brewster, executive director of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College:

“This is not a State of the State,” Brewster said, “but a state of denial. There was no mention of thousands of working families who are struggling with stagnant wages and skyrocketing costs of living.”
Hmmm. From the Governor's State of the State Address:
No state can prosper without a growing economy! Without growing employment, increasing wages, and improved profits, tax revenues cannot grow. Between 2002 and 2006, Rhode Island ranked second in private-sector job growth among all New England states.

And we ranked first in job creation since the end of the national recession in 2001. This slowed considerably in the last year - but ebbs and flows are inevitable.

Our per-capita income is among the fastest growing, and our median family income is $61,000, the 11th highest in the nation.

In recent years, we have developed an aggressive strategy to create an innovation economy that will grow higher wage jobs, and help provide a better quality of life for all Rhode Islanders.

Last year, the General Assembly joined with me and the Science and Technology Advisory Council to invest $1.5M in collaborative research. This research will support our economic development strategy.

A major economic development success this past year was the move of Alexion.

With us tonight is Jim Rich. Jim is the Site Director for Alexion Pharmaceuticals in Smithfield. The company moved to Rhode Island from Connecticut when they purchased the former Dow Manufacturing facility in Smithfield. They will begin operations in the spring of 2008, and just received FDA approval to produce Soloris, which will treat a very rare blood disorder. Initially, they will employ 80 people. Join me in welcoming Jim and this wonderful addition to our biotech community.

There has been a great deal of conversation about Quonset lately. Eclipsed in that debate is some exciting news about developments happening inside the park:

* There are more than 150 companies located at Quonset, with nearly 8,000 employees
* In 2006, Quonset saw $26M in expansions and job growth. The new, world-class manufacturing facility built by Hexagon/Brown & Sharpe was a major addition to the Park

A recent exciting announcement is that NOAA is evaluating Quonset as the home port for the nation's first ocean exploration ship, the Okeanos Explorer.

Combined with the Graduate School of Oceanography, it's research ship, the Endeavor - and the Inner Space Center - the Ocean State will become the nation's leading center for ocean research. This will bring more jobs and investment to Rhode Island.

Economic development will be an untiring, and relentless focus of my administration.

Nope, no good news here. I mean, how could "working families" benefit from economic development that makes the state more attractive to business? Pushaw!!! Instead, from its all-good-things-must-come-via-the-government mindset, the Poverty Institute would like to see more taxes:

1) "Reform Tax Expenditures", which are "credits, deductions, exemptions, exclusions or preferential tax rates that reduce tax liability for selected firms or individuals."

2) "Revive the Corporate Income Tax"

3) "Broaden the Sales Tax"

4) "Rescind scheduled elimination of 5% tax on capital gain income"

5) "Freeze the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax Phase-Out"

Yes, I'm sure that "thousands of working families" would be very happy to see the car tax stick around and see the sales tax "broadened." And increasing the tax burden on business sure will help out with "stagnant wages," won't it? And, finally, some of those "skyrocketing costs of living" wouldn't have anything to do with Rhode Island's already heavy tax burden--that Poverty Inc...er... Institute would like to make heavier--would they?

{My apologies to a certain Brown U. alum with cat-eye glasses}

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seeing how the poverty institute is funded by the state via RIC, perhaps one of the cuts the governor should consider is to the aforementioned "group-think" tank.

besides, wouldn't the state be able to better fight poverty if it were to apply the dollars designated for the Poverty institute to programs that actually DO SOMETHING rather than just sit and fume with archaic Great Society rhetoric?

Posted by: johnb at January 31, 2007 11:31 AM

The Projo always seems to find the Poverty Pimps pretty quickly whenever they need a stupid one liner, and they certainly didn't disappoint this time. What they're in "denial" about is that they need poverty or they don't have jobs. Why is the state of RI even in the business of financially backing them anyway? They seem ungrateful.

Posted by: Will at January 31, 2007 1:12 PM

Judging from the picture on the front page of the ProJo, one would have to conclude that those peopel are not undernourished. In fact, what they don't need is a health plan, what they need is an exercise program. Start walking - it's free!

Posted by: JSheehan at January 31, 2007 1:31 PM


Not exactly accurate (but not far off).

The Poverty Institute is located in the RIC School of Social Work building and according to RIC SSW’s accreditation application the PI receives "in kind" contributions from the school. The next office in the hall is for One RI - a coalition of 160 organizations. One RI develops a platform of legislation that is given to students for them to choose which bill they will lobby for (it has been previously documented that students are not allowed to lobby against them - http://www.anchorrising.com/barnacles/001535.html).

The Welfare Evaluation Project produces the “research” that supports One RI’s platform of legislation. WEP is funded by DHS.

But the RIC Foundation funds the Poverty Institute. According to Guidestar.org, the RIC Foundation claimed mission is "to encourage and receive gifts on behalf of RI College that provide financial support for the improvement and expansion of RIC."

The IRS 990 form asks for the top 5 highest paid employees. They only list 3, Kate Brewster (Exec Director), Linda Katz (Policy Director) and Ellen Frank (Sr. Economic Analyst) all from the Poverty Institute.

On page 11 of the 2005 - 990 form it asks, "during the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum?" They answered "no."

This is “interesting” as these 3 individuals are also registered lobbyists (http://www2.sec.state.ri.us/lt_filing/lobbyTracker2.0/public/viewreport/?report=21&user=1166).

Dawn Nardi, One RI's only employee (as far as I can tell) is also listed as a lobbyist for "the Poverty Institute." Where does the $ for One RI come from? Do they report RIC’s “in kind” contributions?

Clearly there is some hanky panky going on. Is this something to pursue/investigate?

For those interested, write Kate Brewster (kbrewster@ric.edu) and ask her for their financials. If they refuse, remind them that there is a substantial fine for refusing.
For those interested in the accreditation application, I can provide a copy of the 2500 pg report (pdf) if you send me a blank cd (email cspf@cox.net). It is particularly interesting when you read that they held off hiring a professor and the dean until they could find a suitable “person of color.” That sounds like discrimination to me.

Posted by: WJF at January 31, 2007 2:08 PM

Excellent work, WJF. Thank you for the clarifications regarding their sources of funding -- which of course, will never be enough for them. I think we shall have to look into this further.

Posted by: Will at January 31, 2007 2:21 PM

The Welfare Evaluation Project is also located in the halls of RIC SSW (just down the hall from One RI).

Posted by: WJF at January 31, 2007 2:29 PM

pss. It is my understanding that when Guy Dufault developed Working RI, at the same meeting they developed One RI. Type in the One RI website (www.oneri.org) and see where it takes you. See the connection yet?

If you are a union member, do you approve of your dues funding these efforts?

Posted by: WJF at January 31, 2007 2:51 PM

"On page 11 of the 2005 - 990 form it asks, "during the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum?" They answered "no."

This is “interesting” as these 3 individuals are also registered lobbyists ..."

I got a little lost. You're talking about the RIC Foundation here, right, WJF?

Is the RIC Foundation a 501c(3)? If they are, they have violated their status in a major way by engaging in political lobbying.

Posted by: SusanD at January 31, 2007 8:57 PM

Yes Susan, The RIC Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 and they list Kate, Linda and Ellen as their employees (who are registered lobbyists).

501 (c) 3's are allowed to lobby but it must be limited (approx 5-15% of their activity/funds). The problem is - 1) they say they do not lobby, and 2) by my guess, their employees spend more than 5-15% of their time trying to influence legislations.

But in RI who is going to enforce the law? Mollis? Lynch? Do you think they want to upset the poverty pimps?

Posted by: WJF at February 1, 2007 7:58 AM

Try Robert Corrente. It is federal, not state law that the Poverty Institute and RIC Foundation appear to be breaking. Maybe you can even get the public sector labor unions -- you know, the people whose pensions the poverty advocates have thrown under the bus in the past (and perhaps will try to do so again) -- to drop the dime on Kate and her crew.

Posted by: John at February 1, 2007 1:57 PM

Oh, I get it... hours and hours of professional resarch and analysis... nah, we can dicount that.... a 30 minute speech by a guy who gets an armed driver and three pensions.... YES, he's the guy we'll listen to...

Posted by: Pat at February 2, 2007 7:10 AM

Pat, by all means, let's disregard the Governor.

Let's continue driving businesses out of the state. Continue adding to our bloated local and state government. Continue adding recipients to the rolls of social programs. Don't get real about public pensions (still fiscally the second worst in the country).

And when it all collapses and there is no money to pay the excessive public payroll and pensions or shell out to character destroying social programs, many of us will be standing on the sidelines applauding fiercely.

Because in point of fact, Rhode Island taxpayers have no obligation to fulfil promises made by politicians who were purchased by the recipients of all this public largesse. And you're absolutely correct that the Governor should stop working so hard to do so.

Posted by: SusanD at February 2, 2007 9:57 PM

And those hours and hours of research have led to the determination that we can't just focus on cutting the budget and we also need to "improve Rhode Island's revenue system." Of course, a look at the Poverty Institute's web site doesn't reveal too many proposals for cutting the budget. Nope, they're all about proving that RIers aren't taxed enough or exhibiting that there has never been a tax cut that they've liked.

Look, I can agree with cutting some loopholes and looking into the real benefits gained by various tax incentives (like for the movies). But then I see other "solutions". Like taxing businesses more (the fact that businesses prefer to be located in low- tax states continues to be missed, apparently. They aren't going to choose RI just because...). Or raising the sales tax...er...I mean "broadening the sales tax base."

Rhode Island should bring its sales tax into the 21st century.Over the past decades, the share of consumer dollars that buy services rather than goods has increased substantially--to almost 60 percent in 2002, up from 44 percent in 1969. But Rhode Island taxes only one household service, cable TV, compared with an average of 15 services taxed in other states. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that taxing all "readily taxable services" could increase Rhode Island's sales tax revenues by as much as one-third.
Heck, maybe I should hand it to the Poverty Institute. Their "broadened" sales tax is actually sorta "flat" and would apply to everyone (rich and poor alike) equally, like a consumption tax. Then there is the recommendation to "reconsider scheduled cuts to the personal income tax." Tell me again how taking more money out of the pockets of RIs "working families" (like mine, for instance) by taxing more services and holding the line or increasing RIs already high income tax is going to help them?

Or would it be better for working families to keep more of their own money (no broadened sales tax, at least hold the line on income tax); for the state to work towards attracting more businesses to Rhode Island by making it more business friendly (that means tax incentives, remember--we're competing against other states); which would attract more businesses, who would compete with each other for RI workers, which would lead to increased competition for workers that would translate into to higher wages, which would lead to higher tax revenue, which could be used to help out those who are less fortunate.

So, after all of that research, the Poverty Institute just keeps coming back to the same solution. Give us more of your tax dollars and this time--we promise--it'll really make a difference! Haven't we been trying this for a while now?

Its' too bad that the Poverty Institute is so locked into the politics of class warfare and class envy. They have been so fixated on the quick fix, short term solution of higher taxes to increase "revenue" that they can't seem to understand that there is a way to raise revenue and lower taxes. But they don't want to hear that.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at February 3, 2007 9:58 AM

"So, after all of that research, the Poverty Institute just keeps coming back to the same solution. Give us more of your tax dollars and this time--we promise--it'll really make a difference!"

The "we just haven't spent enough" mentality is weak. Just look at the Lakota Indian Reservations in South Dakota. Homes are free, education is free, health care is free, and everyone gets a monthly stipend. As a result the illiteracy rate and the mortality rate are both amongst the highest in the nation. Fetal alcohol syndrome is rampant and it looks like a third world country.

Posted by: WJF at February 3, 2007 10:24 AM

>>compared with an average of 15 services taxed in other states.

IF I were the Poverty Institute, I wouldn't start down the path of citing other states' tax systems as a justification for RI to emulate - for overall this would compel RI to CUT taxes AND expenditures.

The PI could care less about "working families" - they only care about "public sector 'working' families," i.e., their own and those whose "livelihood" is a welfare check.

The Poverty Institute has about as much credibility as Jesse Shakedown Jackson.

It's amazing that there are still morons that lend any credence to what either has to say.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at February 3, 2007 4:37 PM

"Just look at the Lakota Indian Reservations in South Dakota. Homes are free, education is free, health care is free, and everyone gets a monthly stipend. As a result the illiteracy rate and the mortality rate are both amongst the highest in the nation. Fetal alcohol syndrome is rampant and it looks like a third world country."

Wow. Social programs taken to their extreme. And they don't work.

Question for our elected officials: What exactly are we trying to encourage and/or achieve with social programs? Look, if they had a social program for childless office managers, I'd probably participate and work less hours. It's human nature. It's not clear to me, though, that either I or the state would be better off.

Posted by: SusanD at February 3, 2007 4:44 PM

Boy. We could spark an entire conversation on the fact that the Poverty Institute's online archive folder is named "matriarch," couldn't we? Sounds like something a college feminist club would do.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 3, 2007 6:40 PM

Heh, you saw that too, huh Justin? I mean, I could see it being the "parent" directory...but jeez. Could you play any more to stereotype?

Posted by: Marc Comtois at February 3, 2007 7:24 PM

At last, we are beginning to realize our vision of a matriarchal society. We have empowered our sisters to establish male-less families with targeted social programs.

The last step is Operation Komodo Dragon. Stem cell research combined with sufficient federal grants should allow us to achieve human parthenogenesis.

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