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June 1, 2015

How to interpret Pope Francis

What’s the deal with Pope Francis?

If you’re a Roman Catholic, you are obliged to believe that he’s the leader that God wants the Church to have right now. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, however, that does not mean every statement or action that he undertakes is infallible.

After all, people’s words and actions can have different consequences across the years than might seem probable while they’re happening. Think of Peter’s denial of Jesus. A pundit on the ground in ancient Jerusalem might have opined that Peter, the first pope, had all but killed the infant Church in the process of its messy birth. God had other plans.

Continue reading in the Providence Journal.

May 16, 2015

For the second year in a row, a budget for the Town of Tiverton, Rhode Island, submitted by Justin won the vote at the financial town referendum (FTR) — 1,535 versus 1,066.  The elector petition set expenditures for the town and schools at $48,476,958, resulting in an estimated tax levy increase of 0.9%.

Click here for the 0.9% budget petition.

May 11, 2015

Ignore the threats and lies; vote for budget #2

Supporters of higher taxes in Tiverton are saying a lot of negative things. They’re calling people who disagree with them “outsiders,” as if we don’t count in our own community. They’re threatening to take full-day kindergarten away from children. They’re lying about what the budgets do.

If you’re interested in the truth on these matters, see TivertonFactCheck.org.  My purpose, here, is to explain how Budget #2 — the 0.9% budget — is part of a positive vision for Tiverton.

Continue reading in the Sakonnet Times.

April 16, 2015

For its 2015 promotion of education savings accounts (ESAs) to provide school choice to Rhode Island families, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity developed the Rhode Island District Impact Model for Educational Scholarships (RI-DIMES) fiscal modeling tool to predict the effect on budgets on a school-district-by-school-district basis.  The model began with a formula developed by Cato Institute economist Andrew Coulson and worked with Providence College economics professor Angela Dills to apply it to Rhode Island and the basic parameters of legislation planned for proposal.  With substantial modification and heavy research into school-specific numbers, Justin brought the model to the point of being truly applicable at the school-district level and added a number of data outputs expected to concern stakeholders.  The final model also included a number of dynamic inputs that the user could change to test the effects of modified variables.

Click here for more on RI-DIMES.

April 9, 2015

Richard August invited Justin to appear on his public access show State of the State to inform viewers about recent and future developments with Rhode Island’s Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka ObamaCare) health benefits exchange, HealthSource RI.

March 31, 2015

Choice that helps R.I. students

Even advocates for school choice have to admit that Rhode Island’s public school districts have a point when they complain about the financing of charter schools.

Charters are new public schools funded largely with taxpayer dollars, and not only do they take all of the state aid allocated for each student, but his or her home district has to send along a large chunk of local money. That money goes, as charter opponents put it, to build a duplicate education system.

Continue reading in the Providence Journal.

March 21, 2015

Blank Check

Lyrics

Welcome home, where you been?
Winter here has been so long
Leaving this house is a sin
See it here, and we think:
“Golly gee, look at this place
That assessment’s a disgrace”
Taxing games can fix that mistake… ache

You are only here part time
You don’t feed our appetite
When you hear the door chime
We’ll take a look inside
It’s not unfair, it’s worth a shot
Like gambling houses and legalized pot
Grab your check book, that’s a start
Finding new cash is a politician’s true art

Our budget’s in the billions, as in millions with a “b”
We may not educate your childrens, but your house is by the sea
Ask any economist, he’ll tell you we’re insane
But you know we love taxpayers, like hunters love game

Cause our spending is reckless, we’ll tax you to the sky
And our legal system’s feckless, though our expats don’t know why
Ask any economist, she’ll tell you we’re insane
But we’ve got a blank check, baby, and we’ll sign your name

It’s a privilege, can’t you see
To have this perfect paradise
In the bill, on line twenty,
“Non-owner occupied”
Owning land is a franchise
You will profit when someone buys
We let you keep it, it’s not a right… oh, wait

Average people own land, too
Why let those leeches off the hook?
They won’t pay as much as you
But there are more of them
What a treasure we have found
A money tree built on the ground
More will come when your group leaves
Town council nightmare’s the governor’s daydream

Our budget’s in the billions, as in millions with a “b”
We may not educate your childrens, but your house is by the sea
Ask any economist, he’ll tell you we’re insane
But you know we love taxpayers, like hunters love game

Cause our spending is reckless, we’ll tax you to the sky
And our legal system’s feckless, though our expats don’t know why
Ask any economist, she’ll tell you we’re insane
But we’ve got a blank check, baby, and we’ll sign your name

Rhode Island’s done this since Berlin’s fall
You saw the writing on the wall
Rhode Island’s done this since Berlin’s fall
You saw the writing on the wall

February 27, 2015

RI’s Economic Development Shuffle

Lyrics

Well, Gina, she called me, just the other day
She’s our new Wall Street gov’nor, so I heard what she had to say
She said, “I need you to set Rhode Island right.”
So we made a few plans,
And shook a whole bunch of hands,
And the hors d’oevres were dynomite.

We’re good, y’see,
My friends and me,
We’ll develop the economy.

We all know Rhode Island should grow at a faster pace,
But we paid our dues, man, and we don’t want to have to race.
The good news is, there’s a central planning bus.
So we’ll call all our old schemes new,
And tilt the board more for just us few,
And pray the state will outlive us.

Don’t need everybody.
My friends and me,
We’ll develop the economy.

Each gear has to fit:
Government, business, welfare advocate.
It’s a fine machine; don’t mess with it.

Not just talking pride.
We’re all safe inside.
If we go opening doors, where will we hide?

They say that a mind’s a terrible thing to waste
I’m not one to argue, long as they’re molded to my taste.
My business model, see, it’s got specific needs.
Don’t care if they’re white or brown,
Long as they keep my expenses down,
And the K-12 grows them up like weeds.

When wages freeze,
My friends and me,
We’ll develop the economy.

We’re the leaders who lead,
My friends and me,
We’re developing the economy.

February 12, 2015

Back to college and before, one sure-fire motivation to draw Justin toward writing has come from statements that he takes simply to be false, and research-driven responses to others’ analysis and commentary has characterized his blogging from the start.  In early 2015, the possibility that data on job creation versus job destruction might undermine common wisdom caught his attention and launched him on an extended review of the evidence.

What Job Creation Versus Job Destruction Says About Rhode Island’s Economy

In his latest Saturday column, WPRI’s Ted Nesi highly recommends a new blog called CoffeeBlack RI.  RIPR’s Ian Donnis seconded the recommendation on Twitter.  Such recommendations aren’t surprising.  Both Ted and Ian have always been very supportive, among mainstream media types, of Anchor Rising and other non-mainstream blogs.

When Paul Dion, Director of Revenue Analysis for the state government, chimed in to emphasize the recommendation, however, it piqued my interest.

Continue reading on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current.

New Companies Versus Established Companies Matters

In the first post in this series, I looked at why a new, anonymous Rhode Island commentator takes too narrow of a view of the state’s job creation, breaking down the state’s data into hirings versus firings.  It isn’t a contradiction to suggest that he or she also takes too broad of a view, considering the data from a different perspective.

Continue reading on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current.

Income, Wages, Medians, and Totals Bring Light, Too

So far, in this mini-series of posts, I’ve argued that Rhode Island’s high job creation rate (compared with Massachusetts) is more indicative of its unhealthy job destruction rate than of a healthy business climate and that evidence suggests that RI’s job gains are in large part just bursts of effort from new establishments that tend to struggle after they open their doors.  Separately, I’ve argued that Rhode Island’s employment trend is one of established companies gradually absorbing the entrepreneurial economy, which both drives out self-starters and the hyper-motivated and hinders our ability to find a new direction for our state’s economy that would benefit everybody.

Continue reading on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current.

At the close of the previous part of this series, I ended with the claim that the insider culture in Rhode Island may be helping some established people maintain their standard of living (somewhat), but the system is driving out exactly the people with the most incentive to innovate and work.  One obvious place to look for some light on this claim (once you’ve stumbled across it, of course) is the Nonemployer Establishment Statistics data set that the U.S. Census provides on an annual basis.

Continue reading on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current.

February 2, 2015

PolitiFact Can

Lyrics

Who could take a true thing
Sprinkle it with spin
Cover it with context ’till the truth is wearing thin?

PolitiFact.  PolitiFact can.
PolitiFact can because they write it like it’s news
And make the bias sound good.

Who can take a fact check
Put it to a vote
Help out politicians who are rowing the same boat?

PolitiFact.  PolitiFact can.
PolitiFact can because they write it like it’s news
And make the bias sound good.

Those reporters pick ev’ry little trick
From pedantry to omission
You could say it’s just their mission
We all know they’re really always out there fishin’

Who can troll on Twitter
For Sunday’s front-page spread,
Make you think their beat is building talking points instead?

PolitiFact.  PolitiFact can.
PolitiFact can because they write it like it’s news
And make the bias sound good,
And the bias sounds good because the media thinks it should.