November 14, 2008

The Wrong Ideas

Justin Katz

You've probably already read or heard about yesterday's Providence Journal article about the lack of a sense of urgency among Rhode Island's leaders, even as other states move quickly to stave off economic oblivion. Part of that leadership apathy probably derives from an unwillingness to do what has to be done; the powerful of state are fishing about for solutions that won't rewrite the insanity out of our policies.

Representative Thomas Slater, who sits on the House Finance Committee, is hoping for an Obama bailout, pointing to "independent state agencies such as the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation," and whipping out the magic "consolidation" word. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer George Nee "worries that lawmakers rushing back to a special session might feel compelled to do something "stupid," such as scrapping the state's "defined-benefit" pension plan for state workers in favor of a 401(k)-type plan." What he offers instead is, not surprisingly, a handful of items from the unionist wish list, with a nod to the progressives thrown in at the end:

Nee suggests that lawmakers instead take steps to create jobs: allow full-scale casino gambling; accelerate road and college construction projects for which there are approved, but unissued, bonds; create a "marine trade development authority" to "look not just at an expansion" of the port at Quonset point, but "at all of the possibilities."

And, "revisit having a casino," he said yesterday. "Let's be real. Let's stop the pretense that we don't have one. Let's do it full scale ... and keep those people from Rhode Island from going [to] Connecticut." On the revenue and spending front, Nee said, Carcieri could make a serious dent by firing the 580-plus "contract employees" who have been hired to do the work of state employees across state government, while lawmakers could "suspend" a phased-in income tax cut for the state's wealthiest taxpayers. Of the promised tax cut, he said: "Everybody has to share in the pain."

Oh, Rhode Island has to create jobs, but Nee's attempt to corral them in an opportunistic direction would, at best, swirl the murky economic pool.

Even Republican Representative John Loughlin doesn't go the necessary distance. He speaks against tax increases, but what he offers as alternatives (in the article, at least) are some tweaks to higher education and the registry of motor vehicles.

Rhode Island has to ask itself why people are leaving and why businesses won't come here without specialized gifts from the government. The answer is obvious, as are the solutions: slash taxes, eliminate the bulk of regulations and other intrusions, and rebuild the state's infrastructure. After the last election, however, it's not unreasonable to be pessimistic about the willingness of Rhode Islanders to push for real change, but they're going to have to do face reality sooner or later.

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The answer is obvious, as are the solutions: slash taxes, eliminate the bulk of regulations and other intrusions, and rebuild the state's infrastructure.

1. Could you be more specific as to which regulations and other intrusions should be eliminated.

2. How does the infrastructure get rebuilt when first off you want to slash taxes.

Posted by: Phil at November 14, 2008 6:43 AM

I hope you were not actually expecting them to do anything. I hope you were not expecting anything different.

The voters are completely happy with the way things are now. They must be. How else do you explain most of them getting elected for another term?

I'd like to see your answers to Phil's questions too. Thank you.

Posted by: Rabbit at November 14, 2008 6:50 AM

Dear Rhode Island Morons,

I'll make this as simple, as use as many small words as I can.

Your state it 50 miles long as 30 miles wide. You can drive the whole thing in an hour. You DO NOT NEED multiple traffic tribunals, courthouses, DMVs, etc... You need ONE.

Now I know that you idiots like to pack a lunch and maybe book a hotel if you have to drive 'all the way' to Attleboro for something but maybe it's time to look at curbing your abject laziness in favor of actually running your state properly instead of building and maintaining multiple shrines to The Union.

How many millions of dollars are spent cleaning, heating and lighting these excess facilities? How many more employees are on the books than you actually NEED? All because the concept of driving 20 minutes to get your license renewed is simply out of the question? What difference does it make? You're going to spend hours in line due to the incompetent boobs behind the counter anyways. Take the day off like people in REAL states do.

And seriously, if you're not renewing your license with a ten minute visit to the nearest AAA branch you need your head examined.

Posted by: Greg at November 14, 2008 7:31 AM

I'll offer my two-cents worth:

>>1. Could you be more specific as to which regulations and other intrusions should be eliminated.


Eliminate the income tax and align our sales tax with MA. If NH can do completely without either, then it can be done, for it already is being done.

Compare our statutes and regs and permitting with NH, MA and NC and SC. Adjust according, including making RI a right-to-work state.

>>2. How does the infrastructure get rebuilt when first off you want to slash taxes.

Stop diverting the gas excise tax money to the general fund. Cut pensions, perks, patronage jobs and the rest as necessary to use the gas tax for what it was supposed to be for in the first place.

Posted by: tom W at November 14, 2008 7:35 AM

How about terminating the status of Kate Brewster,Pickpocket-in-Chief and her gang of merry marauders as unelected members of the General Assembly.And those hundreds of patronage jobs?They should be gone yesterday.Maybe Judge Pfeffer's decision body-slamming the ACLU will make some illegal aliens head for other pastures,hopefully back home,wherever that may be.
The Judiciary is obscene-Frank Williams'little Roamn Empire operates regardless of the state's economy-to paraphase Farragut-"damn the deficits,full speed ahead with the gourmet kitchens,etc".Greg NAILED it.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 14, 2008 8:05 AM

The answers are indeed obvious but since the crooks in power don't like the answers they just keep asking different questions!

Posted by: mike at November 14, 2008 9:16 AM

Greg did nail it. It amazes me how the people that tell us to be "more patriotic and pay more taxes" and "how there will be some pain" are the same butt wipes that exempt themselves from the insidious and burdensome taxes that they attach to us. What dumbfounds me is how anyone can justify having to work harder and harder for less and less? How did any of these idiots ever get re-elected? Why are people so afraid to say that enough is enough. I work hard for what I have. I deserve what I have. I own my own business and don't need anyone to negotiate a contract for me spelling out what I will and won't do. I don't think I owe a person that chooses to sit on their ass all day a piece of my pie! Yes, get rid of the patronage jobs, the services that could all be put under one umbrella, make one centralized school district, fire all of these leech teachers that have their hands out all the time for more at my expense. I for one am sick of it. Good job if everyone else would finally get mad maybe we could get somewhere.

Posted by: Bill at November 14, 2008 11:25 AM

How about we leverage the infrastructure we have? Over the past several years there have been many expensive upgrades to Quonset Point/Davisville. Quonset Point has a rail connection to Amtrak that now has high bridges to accommodate tall rail cars. The 403 connector is all but complete for quick and easy access to Rte 95. Its pretty beat up, but the longest runway in the state is at QP. And you could add more shipping - NORAD is planning on ramping up its car import terminal (that may go slower than they like due to the current general unpleasantness). Surely there must be some additional shipping that could be acceptable short of the dreaded container port. Best part is, this will take mostly marketing (much lower cost than rebuilding other infrastructure)and political resolve to keep the most NIMBY of "stakeholders" under control.
I do think the marketeers need to have a full bag of concessions to offer. I hate that, but given how busted the state's business climate is, it is essential.

Oh, and how about a LOOP-style natural gas terminal offshore along with the wind turbines? Pipe it onshore - we already have natural gas pipelines here. Avoids the issue of shipping it up the Bay.

Posted by: chuckR at November 14, 2008 1:29 PM

Instead of throwing rocks from behind a boulder why don't you answer Phil's questions?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 14, 2008 5:57 PM

You well know the answers OldTimeCommie-
fewer workers, less pay and benefits, no pensions, less welfare, nothing for illegals and anchor babies, bigger class sizes, layoffs of police, fire, teachers, etc. Plus consolidation. Make RI a unitary entity governed by a 100 man unicameral legislature. No mayors, city councils, school commitees, police and fire chiefs, city solicitors, Director's of Protocol, zoning and planning boards, etc.
Lower the sales tax to 5% to recapture the millions lost to internet and cross-border sales. A strict property tax cap with NO WAIVERS.

Posted by: Mike at November 14, 2008 7:21 PM


I've been looking at the sites of your fellow progressives, and here's what I found:

The Poverty Institute website notes that general revenue is forecast to be down by $234 million. Ocean State Action recommends raising taxes that they estimate will bring in another $77 million. Even they admit this falls far short of what is needed to close the "huge" budget deficit.

To achieve this goal, they add "help from the Federal Government" (with no mention of who will pay for that help -- e.g., foreign investors, high income taxpayers, and/or the printing press) and "targeted spending cuts" -- code, I presume, for its time to cut aid to cities and towns and consider throwing our public sector union allies further under the bus.

Any thoughts on this agenda? Think it will work?

Posted by: John at November 14, 2008 8:22 PM

One more item, Mike. True equality. Public sector compensation and bennies which are in line with, not superior to, those of the private sector. This includes specifically merit-based pay and raises.

Posted by: Monique at November 14, 2008 8:24 PM

Had a distracting day today, what with ambiguously losing my job and all. Answers:

1. This is something that requires thorough combing of the law. Everywhere one looks, in Rhode Island, it is harder and more expensive to do things. Plumbers take longer to become Masters. Hopeful teachers must jump through more hoops. Doctors must pay more for insurance. All of this sort of thing should be benchmarked, if not eliminated.

2. Obviously, we would have to slash spending as well, so as to devote more of it to infrastructure.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 14, 2008 9:18 PM

Frank Caprio, of whom I'm not a huge fan, has actually scared me and made some sense. He's been on talk radio a lot lately and he's clamoring for those indignant Paiva-Weed fluffers to get their Democratic hineys back to work. Now, I realize that Caprio is bucking for the Governor's spot but geez, isn't he making sense at this time?

One of the first actions I would take is to make the sales tax rate EXACTLY like Massachusetts. I've live in RI all my life and I don't think I spend 5% of my disposable income in RI because of the tax rate. I do not buy my gas in RI either.

Why oh why did the brain dead cockroaches in RI elect the very same people back in power while adding a few more to pack the benches? Isn't this like the old punishment method of the '20s where the father would take switch to a kid all the while the kid had to say, "Thank you papa. May I have one more, please?"

Posted by: Roland at November 15, 2008 1:12 AM

I liked TomW's answer about the excise tax. Greg makes a decent point also about the waste of the various offices available to customers. I've always wondered if it's really profitable to have a Dunkin Dogballs on every corner in RI too. Citizens bank branches seem to be everywhere. Sorry to hear all's not well for Justin on the work front. I would like to offer one "intrusion" that I think should be removed although there are doubtlessly many more. That would be E Verify.

Posted by: Phil at November 15, 2008 5:25 AM

I like the way E Verify always gets tagged as a villainous program when it is intended to support the enforcement of AN EXISTING FEDERAL LAW.
It seems to me that most people who oppose E Verify support open borders or at the very least a massive,indiscriminate amnesty for illegal aliens.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 15, 2008 11:32 AM

I would say that for countless small business owners E Verify represents an unwelcome intrusion into their hiring practices. One more hoop to jump through to satisfy demagogic politicians and their chicken little followers.

Posted by: Phil at November 15, 2008 8:34 PM

Phil-we live in a nation of laws.There are a lot of unwelcome intrusions in our daily lives.Even checking out a library book.
Why don't you just state your dislike of immigration laws and be done with it?
You won't feel lonely.A lot of people seem to think that immigration laws exist outside the rest of the legal continuum.You can ignore them because it feels good.
Those who believe in those laws are not necessarily "chicken littles" or "demagogues".
You don't hear me calling those with your attitude "anarchists".

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 15, 2008 9:11 PM


You are right. You and I may have very differents thoughts about immigration
but the reason I picked such a hot button example was to illustrate how laws , regulations , and what Justin calls intrusions can be seen differently by different people. There are those who feel protected from the actions of those who feel as though their freedoms have been abridged. There are many shellfish regulations and restrictions that many of my associates despise but the shellfish consumer who knows nothing about such things enjoys the product without getting sick.
Recently there was an article published in the Prov. Journal about the growing number of outdoor wood furnaces and the calls for restriction on their use in densely populated areas because of the smoke stack hazards. There are many more examples I could give you to demonstrate that Justin's half cocked notion that we do away with regulation with a wave of his hand is both uninformed and ridiculous.
I retract the chicken little crack but not the demagouge label from the Guv.

Posted by: Phil at November 16, 2008 8:20 AM


It perpetuates our state's problem to demand that all broad ideas be immediately articulable in specifics. Of course the laws have to be combed, not tossed, but you have to pick up the law book with that intention, and that's what I'm suggesting.

The specifics, by the way, are among the many things that I'd love to get elbow-deep in if I were able to make a career of this. For now, however, I can only give broad principles and specific suggestions as they pass before me.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 16, 2008 8:33 AM


The specifics of issuses are debated in the democratic bodies hopefully after a process of public hearings that educate those who will vote. I've attended and testified and lobbied lawmakers and have found most willing to listen even though they were on in favor of the position I held. I understand the concern that we can over regulate and impede economic activity in the process. I am not an apologist for government. I, like you do not wish to immerse myself into all the workings and specifics. I will agree with you as to your stated broad principles if the aim is to simplify or improve. I don't agree that taxes should be slashed.

Posted by: Phil at November 16, 2008 10:13 AM
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