The Whole Truth

Task Force Stirs Controversy in Warwick

Are local governments unknowingly or purposely hiding the truth from their residents?

How do you solve a problem if some don’t think there is a problem?

An debate is underway, and the sides are taking shape. On one side are the City of Warwick, its local newspaper, and state officials. On the other side are current and former Warwick city council members, a scholar from a nationally recognized think tank, National Review, and our own Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

A locally published interview with a member of the national pension task force, assembled by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, has caused a stir in Warwick, puzzling the Mayor, confusing the local paper, and leading to an online rebuttal. Even the Providence Journal has covered the action.

On May 24, the Warwick Beacon published an article from an interview with Eileen Norcross senior research fellow and lead researcher on the State and Local Policy Project with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, attempting to refute her warnings that the City of Warwick is not accurately representing the true scope of the liabilities in its locally administered pension plans. Norcross published a pie-chart depicting what she calculates as the true budget snapshot for the city. See the pie-chart here.

In citing Mayor Avedisian’s puzzlement by Norcross’s figures, and in misstating facts itself, the article is an example of the complexities involved in this important issue for cities and towns in Rhode Island.  A point-by-point clarification, “Wake Up Warwick,” was subsequently posted by Norcross as a rebuttal to the Warwick Beacon article.

Further, National Review Online has also published an article in support of Norcross’ perspective.

At question is the “discount rate,” or “rate of return,” utilized by most government agencies to value long-term pension liabilities. Many economists believe that government actuaries use higher rates than they should, which ends up understating the scope of the liability. If rates that are commonly used in private industry were to be utilized, the pension liability would be 2-3 times larger in many cases. What politician would want that kind of information to come out?

Is this arbitrary accounting practice done out of habit, or ignorance or, worse, is it done to purposefully deceive the public by kicking the can down the road and forcing future administrations to deal with the true scope of the problem?

The Center for Freedom & Prosperity takes the position that this debate — and this level of transparency — should take place in every city and town in Rhode Island. We strongly urge concerned citizens to publish or otherwise distribute the Open Letter to Municipalities: Tell Us The Truth previously published by our Center.

NY Times Echos Pension Task Force Warnings

The article below reinforces the concept that our Center’s pension task force has been saying for many months … that state and municipal entities are dramatically understating the true scope of their unfunded pension liabilities.


Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns


Few investors are more bullish these days than public pension funds.

While Americans are typically earning less than 1 percent interest on their savings accounts and watching their 401(k) balances yo-yo along with the stock market, most public pension funds are still betting they will earn annual returns of 7 to 8 percent over the long haul, a practice that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently called “indefensible.”

Now public pension funds across the country are facing a painful reckoning. Their projections look increasingly out of touch in today’s low-interest environment, and pressure is mounting to be more realistic. But lowering their investment assumptions, even slightly, means turning for more cash to local taxpayers — who pay part of the cost of public pensions through property and other taxes.

In New York, the city’s chief actuary, Robert North, has proposed lowering the assumed rate of return for the city’s five pension funds to 7 percent from 8 percent, which would be one of the sharpest reductions by a public pension fund in the United States. But that change would mean finding an additional $1.9 billion for the pension system every year, a huge amount for a city already depositing more than a tenth of its budget — $7.3 billion a year — into the funds.

But to many observers, even 7 percent is too high in today’s market conditions.

“The actuary is supposedly going to lower the assumed reinvestment rate from an absolutely hysterical, laughable 8 percent to a totally indefensible 7 or 7.5 percent,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a trip to Albany in late February. “If I can give you one piece of financial advice: If somebody offers you a guaranteed 7 percent on your money for the rest of your life, you take it and just make sure the guy’s name is not Madoff.”

Public retirement systems from Alaska to Maine are running into the same dilemma as they struggle to lower their assumed rates of return in light of very low interest rates and unpredictable stock prices.

They are facing opposition from public-sector unions, which fear that increased pension costs to taxpayers will further feed the push to cut retirement benefits for public workers. In New York, the Legislature this year cut pensions for public workers who are hired in the future, and around the country governors and mayors are citing high pension costs as a reason for requiring workers to contribute more, or work longer, to earn retirement benefits.

In addition to lowering the projected rate of return, Mr. North has also recommended that the New York City trustees acknowledge that city workers are living longer and reporting more disabilities — changes that would cost the city an additional $2.8 billion in pension contributions this year. Mr. North has called for the city to soften the blow to the budget by pushing much of the increased pension cost into the future, by spreading the increased liability out over 22 years.

Ailing pension systems have been among the factors that have recently driven struggling cities into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Such bankruptcies are rare, but economists warn that more are likely in the coming years. Faulty assumptions can mask problems, and municipal pension funds are often so big that if they run into a crisis their home cities cannot afford to bail them out.

The typical public pension plan assumes its investments will earn average annual returns of 8 percent over the long term, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Actual experience since 2000 has been much less, 5.7 percent over the last 10 years, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. (New York State announced last week that it had earned 5.96 percent last year, compared with the 7.5 percent it had projected.)

Worse, many economists say, is that states and cities have special accounting rules that have been criticized for greatly understating pension costs. Governments do not just use their investment assumptions to project future asset growth. They also use them to measure what they will owe retirees in the future in today’s dollars, something companies have not been permitted to do since 1993.

As a result, companies now use an average interest rate of 4.8 percent to calculate their pension costs in today’s dollars, according to Milliman, an actuarial firm.

In New York City, the proposed 7 percent rate faces resistance from union trustees who sit on the funds’ boards. The trustees have the power to make the change; their decision must also be approved by the State Legislature.

“The continued risk here is that even 7 is too high,” said Edmund J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research group for fiscal issues.

And Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist who has been an outspoken critic of public pension disclosures, said, “If you’re using 7 percent in a 3 percent world, then you’re still continuing to borrow from the pension fund.”

The city’s union leaders disagree. Harry Nespoli, the chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group for the city’s public employee unions, said that lowering the rate to 7 percent was unnecessary.

“They don’t have to turn around and lower it a whole point,” he said.

When asked if his union was more bullish on the markets than the city’s actuary, Mr. Nespoli said, “All we can do is what the actuary is doing. He’s guessing. We’re guessing.”

Vermont has lowered its rate by 2 percentage points, but for only one year. The state recently adopted an unusual new approach calling for a sharp initial reduction in its investment assumptions, followed by gradual yearly increases. Vermont has also required public workers to pay more into the pension system.

Union leaders see hidden agendas behind the rising calls for lower pension assumptions. When Rhode Island’s state treasurer, Gina M. Raimondo, persuaded her state’s pension board to lower its rate to 7.5 percent last year, from 8.25 percent, the president of a firemen’s union accused her of “cooking the books.”

Lowering the rate to 7.5 percent meant Rhode Island’s taxpayers would have to contribute an additional $300 million to the fund in the first year, and more after that. Lawmakers were convinced that the state could not afford that, and instead reduced public pension benefits, including the yearly cost-of-living adjustments that retirees now receive. State officials expect the unions to sue over the benefits cuts.

When the mayor of San Jose, Calif., Chuck Reed, warned that the city’s reliance on 7.5 percent returns was too risky, three public employees’ unions filed a complaint against him and the city with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They told the regulators that San Jose had not included such warnings in its bond prospectus, and asked the regulators to look into whether the omission amounted to securities fraud. A spokesman for the mayor said the complaint was without merit.

In Sacramento this year, Alan Milligan, the actuary for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, recommended that the trustees lower their assumption to 7.25 percent from 7.75 percent. Last year, the trustees rejected Mr. Milligan’s previous proposal, to lower the rate to 7.5 percent.

This time, one trustee, Dan Dunmoyer, asked the actuary if he had calculated the probability that the pension fund could even hit those targets.

Yes, Mr. Milligan said: There was a 50-50 chance of getting 7.5 percent returns, on average, over the next two decades. The odds of hitting a 7.25 percent target were a little better, he added, 54 to 46.

Mr. Dunmoyer, who represents the insurance industry on the board, sounded shocked. “To me, as a fiduciary, you want to have more than a 50 percent chance of success.”

If Calpers kept setting high targets and missing them, “the impact on the counties won’t be bigger numbers,” he said. “It will be bankruptcy.”

In the end, a majority decided it was worth the risk, and voted against Mr. Dunmoyer, lowering the rate to 7.5 percent.

Center for Freedom Calls for End to Corporate Welfare in RI

38 Studios–Type Cronyism Is Not Capitalism


Put simply, crony capitalism is the transfer of public money to businesses and organizations through the peddling of influence. Cronyism gives free markets a bad name, since it can be difficult to determine whether true competition exists or the game has been rigged.

A more appropriate term might be “venture socialism” or the more familiar “corporate welfare.” Whatever its name, the concept involves a less efficient economy — making us all poorer and reducing economic opportunity for our citizens.

Download a PDF of the Policy Brief here.

Unfortunately, cronyism has defenders on both sides of the political aisle because its proponents are on the receiving end of the short-term benefits.  Politicians reward their “friends” with all kinds of publicly provided treasures, from subsidies to exemptions from regulations to loopholes in the tax code. In 2008, we witnessed hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the bailout of major Wall Street firms. A more-recent example of a half-billion dollar investment gone bad has given a name to politically correct green industry schemes: Solyndra.

Given its insulated political culture, Rhode Island is certainly not exempt from cronyist deals and boondoggles. Beginning in the 1990s, corporate giants CVS Caremark and Fidelity Investments have received a bevy of tax breaks and subsidies to build or expand national or regional headquarters.

During the last decade, debates raged about the $300-million-plus ratepayer-funded Deepwater Wind project, a Twin River casino bailout, and the $75 million loan guarantee to Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios. In the past week, Schilling’s video game company has offered a uniquely clear example of the risk that targeted public investments will never produce a positive return on investment for taxpayers.

Taxpayer or ratepayer dollars should not be randomly put at risk to finance politically connected corporate interests. It’s time to replace corporate welfare programs with a broad-based growth program.  It’s time to end the handouts and create a pro-job, pro-business structural environment for economic growth in Rhode Island.

Policy Recommendations

As just one step in reducing the size and scope of government in the Ocean State, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity recommends that the State of Rhode Island:

  1. End the practice of corporate welfare in the General Assembly
  2.  Defund the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), preventing it from spending or putting at risk any taxpayer dollars

One of the great mistakes to which policymakers often fall victim is judging public policy programs by their intent rather than their results. Such an approach minimizes the consideration that serious unintended consequences ought to carry in subsequent policy decisions.

Rhode Island should roll back many of its so-called economic development incentive programs, whether in the form of subsidies on the expenditures side of the ledger or loopholes on the tax side.  Any economic development program that cannot be objectively shown to create jobs that generate more in-state revenue than they cost should be repealed.

The savings from the ended programs should be used to enact across-the-board improvements of state competitiveness by reducing the Rhode Island’s stratospheric tax rates to more-competitive figures. For instance, Rhode Island’s corporate income tax rate and sales tax rate are the highest in New England, putting the state at a serious economic disadvantage.

Furthermore, ending the practice of cronyism will reduce the special interest and corporate lobbying that pervades Smith Hill and will send a message that taxpayer dollars can no longer be traded for political support and campaign contributions.


A key critique of market capitalism often revolves around the undue relationship between powerful corporations and the government, resulting in policies, legislation, and regulations that appear to benefit the well-connected at the expense of the public.  This critique — though often labeled an inherent failure of capitalism — is a function of an outsized government.

The relationship is intuitive: A government with more power over the economy creates more opportunities and greater rewards for lobbying. In turn, influence over an entity with the power to regulate, tax, and police brings access to competitive weapons not available in a free market.

Indeed, the lion’s share of blame for the current economic crisis can be laid at the feet of connected business interests’ feeding on the fruits of the public commons while pushing the risk onto the public.  National examples are most prominent in our minds.

When the housing bubble popped in 2008, Washington-connected Wall Street firms won taxpayer bailouts and bonus checks while the working Americans who paid the bill received pink slips and empty promises. And by most measures, those same firms are now more profitable than ever; industry data shows that President Barack Obama’s first two and a half years in office have been more profitable for Wall Street than George W. Bush’s entire eight years in office.

This is not simply a crisis of bad banks run amok, but an unsettling symptom of cronyism. Cronyism, by its very definition, implies a situation in which the system (i.e., the government and the institutions it establishes), rather than the choices of consumers, picks the winners and losers.

While Rhode Island’s economic climate is demonstrably bad for business (Rhode Island ranks 45th in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America 2011 index), a number of tax credits, incentive packages, and corporate welfare programs benefit a few chosen firms while the rest are forced to languish within a suffocating structural environment.

Targeted incentives are sometimes viewed as legitimate instruments for economic development, but a genuine program for broader growth would allow the state to close many of these loopholes in favor of broader reforms that ease the economic burden across the board.

The Research

Every day, taxpayer money is being funneled to organizations and enterprises that someone in government has decided are worthy of patronage, whether they need it or not.  Worse, this kind of cronyism is not merely limited to a series of one-off deals, but is systematized on every level in the form of grants, tax credits, sweetheart loans, loan guarantees, and other preferential treatment.

According to, a left-leaning economic development accountability resource, Rhode Island taxpayers paid out almost $50 million in related costs for fiscal year 2010, including:

  • Corporate income tax rate reduction for job creation
  • Enterprise zone tax credits
  • Job training tax credit
  • Manufacturing and high-performance manufacturing investment tax credit
  • Motion picture production tax credit

Worse, disclosure and reporting on these programs are well below what anyone would expect in return for $50 million.  In a series of transparency benchmarks measuring program outcomes, data availability, and accessibility, the average Rhode Island program produced a woeful score of only 36 out of a possible 100 points.

These are only a few of the higher-priced programs.  At present, a startling number of programs are on the books to divert taxpayer money to targeted businesses and industries, accounting for tens of millions in additional handouts with little or no objective standards or accountability. Some of the others include:

  • Distressed Areas Economic Revitalization Act and Enterprise Zone Program
  • Jobs Development Act
  • Rhode Island Public Rail Corporation
  • Child Day Care Facilities in Industrial Parks Grant Program
  • Jobs Training Tax Credit Act
  • Urban Infrastructure Commission
  • Mill Building and Economic Revitalization Program and Tax Credits
  • Jobs Growth Act
  • Petroleum stockpiling program
  • Small Business Advocacy Council
  • and many, many more.

While each carries a plausible justification and positive intended outcome (who could be against child care?), they are all simply variations on the crony-capitalism theme.


John Stossel, the libertarian journalist of 20/20 fame and program host on Fox Business News, penned a provocative and compelling piece for Reason magazine in March 2004 titled “Confessions of a Welfare Queen.” Rather than documenting now-familiar stories of individual welfare abuse, as the allusion to Ronald Reagan’s famous “welfare queen” quip suggests, Stossel turned his sights on the multilayered fabric of lavish subsidies for the rich and cronyism.

From bizarre payouts to beachfront homeowners to abuses of eminent domain to unfair subsidies for agro-corporations, Stossel explains how these programs are not examples of market failure, but simply the symptoms of the increasing investiture of power into government, especially over ever-greater swaths of the economy.

Americans who decry cronyism as a betrayal of the social contract are correct: The iron triangle linking lobbyist-rich companies and organizations, campaign contributions, and government policy is a burden on our economy and a drag on our democracy. Too often missed, however, is that regulatory solutions just hand over new car keys and more drinkable money to the hooligans who repeatedly steer the economy into a ditch.

The only solution that can work is to limit the government’s ability to mismanage taxpayer funds; that means cutting back on the size, scope, and domain of government. The most vocal opponents of ending cronyism are, predictably, those who benefit most from the system. They, along with well-meaning but misguided allies, will generally contend that targeted systems of tax breaks and incentive programs are useful for directing policy mechanisms toward specific, concerted ends and that Rhode Island needs these incentive programs to be nationally competitive.

Two fallacious premises support these arguments: first, that public policy instruments are the best available means of achieving common ends and, second, that a labyrinth of programs is a suitable way to attract and develop economic activity. These fallacies, in tandem with the frenetic and sound-bite oriented nature of contemporary media, contribute to the idea that most problems have public sector solutions. This is particularly common in the realm of economics, precisely the area over which a market capitalist system would give the government the least control.

Again and again purported plans for “economic development” have been used to justify programs and incentives that ultimately do little to boost economic growth.  But because spending and special-project support create the illusion of forward movement, beneficiaries can brand the efforts as “doing something.”  What corporate welfare actually does, however, is to tip the scales toward the already rich at the direct expense of the poor and middle class.

Ultimately, government remains wedded to the language and practice of inputs — what it gives and does — because it has very little competence generating or measuring outcomes.  Advocates tend to point to inputs as measures of success — the dollars spent, the teachers hired, the police stations built. Then they trumpet or downplay economic trends, educational accomplishment, and as suits their needs.

Tax breaks and incentives may seem like positives from the input side, but their non-anecdotal outcomes show them to be generally a waste of money.


It’s hard to argue against economic development.  Who doesn’t want the economy to “develop”? But the sad truth is that sending public money to politically-connected organizations, interest groups, and companies on the basis of poorly measured and ill-defined goals is more of a handout than a strategy.  If Rhode Island is serious about promoting economic growth, this kind of piecemeal approach should be seen as expensive and insufficient.

Instead of using targeted tax breaks, incentive grants, and other wizards’ tools to trade away taxpayer funds, Rhode Island should focus on creating a growth-oriented structural environment.  That means replacing isolated pockets of preferential treatment with an across-the-board slate of policies to support growth:

  • Reduced tax rates
  • A more nimble and versatile education system to produce a highly trained workforce
  • Eliminated regulations, streamlined when they are absolutely necessary

Any economic development program that cannot be objectively shown to create jobs and generate more in-state revenue than they cost should be repealed. The savings should be allocated to more general improvements, especially lowering taxes.

Rhode Island’s corporate tax rate remains the highest in New England and is tied for third highest in the country, after Washington, D.C. and Illinois.

Rank in New England

Corporate Tax Rate (%)

Rhode Island






New Hampshire













Another area in which Rhode Island is uncompetitive is its state sales tax, which is the highest in the region and tied for second in the country. A study to be released shortly by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will demonstrate that eliminating the sales tax would have the highest “bang for buck” of any reform, creating tens of thousands of jobs and paying for over half of its cost with the increased tax receipts of a larger economy.

Rank in New England

State Sales Tax Rate (%)

Rhode Island















New Hampshire




These are just a few of the low-threshold starting points for reform. If Rhode Island seeks to distinguish itself as a pro-growth state, it should depart from crony capitalism and unleash the true capitalistic forces in the state.  Fortunately, much of the government cost of the necessary policy changes can be borne by elimination of the special deals and crony-capitalism style programs that infest our state with false promises of a better tomorrow.

To the population more broadly — to the people of Rhode Island — there will be no cost, but rather the benefits of a thriving economy.

Stenhouse joins Scott Rasmussen at NYC Pension Symposium

Advancing Liberty, Creating Change

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity served as a panelist at a public employee pension symposium on May 18, 2102 at the Harvard Club of New York.

“Advancing Liberty, Creating Change” is a City Symposium co-sponsored by the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies.

Stenhouse served on a panel, discussing the true scope of state and local pension plans, the politics involved, and the coalitions formed to promote the need for reform.

The keynote speaker was Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports. He is a political analyst, author, speaker and, since 1994, an independent public opinion pollster.

Scott Rasmussen and Mike Stenhouse

Occupational Licensing Policies Hurt Low Income Workers in RI

Cosmetologists require 10 times more training than Emergency Medical Technicians

The state of Rhode Island has earned yet another poor grade in a national study of an important business category, illustrating how the state makes it more difficult and costly for low-income earners to embark on new careers. The study, released last week by the Institute for Justice (1) , measures regulatory burdens in the form of licensing requirements and fees for “low-income” occupations.

According to the study, Rhode Island licenses 49 of the 102 “low-income” occupations, which ranks the Ocean State with the 13th most burdensome regulatory system in the nation in this category and the 2nd highest burden in New England.

“This burden is especially harmful to many people who would prefer to start new careers and earn paychecks instead of receiving welfare checks,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. “In most cases, landing a job should simply entail proving to the employer that you’re talented and honest. In too many instances, Rhode Island applicants also have to also prove themselves worthy to the state, by conforming to its arbitrary standards. Who’s really in charge of our lives?” inquired Stenhouse.

An “occupational license” is government permission to work in a particular field. To earn the license, the aspiring worker must clear various hurdles: earn a certain degree or type of education, complete specialized training, pass an exam, attain a certain grade level, pay fees, and more.

In the 1950s, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed the government’s permission to pursue his or her chosen occupation. Today, that figure stands at almost one in three.

In Rhode Island, under the guise of public safety, the state government took $732,298 from taxpayers in FY 2011 to fund the Department of Business Regulation’s Commercial Licensing and Racing and Athletics program (2) . The program oversees the licensing and regulation of myriad professions and trades, slapping fees and regulations on thousands of Rhode Island employers and workers. In many cases, the Commercial Licensing program governs the requirements necessary for employment in a profession, inhibiting some Rhode Islanders from pursuing the careers of their choice.

The Commercial Licensing program regulates real estate agents and appraisers, auto body shops, salvage yards, glass installation, upholsterers, auctioneers, liquor wholesalers, breweries, wineries, sewer-line cleaners, mobile-home dealers, trailer park operators, and health club workers as well as other businesses and professions.

Supporters of the Commercial Licensing program may claim that the organization has a role in keeping customers safe. In truth, the program creates a disincentive for competent workers to begin new careers or for employers to hire them, while forcing companies to raise prices for consumers across the state.

On average, prospective workers and employers in Rhode Island pay $164 in fees, lose about 211 days — about seven months — to education and experience, and take one exam. A handful of Rhode Island occupations require excessive training requirements compared with other states. For example:

  • Rhode Island has the most burdensome laws for HVAC contractors, requiring over five years of experience. The average across licensed states is less than two-and-a-half years.
  • Rhode Island is one of only eight states to require that truck drivers and city/transit bus drivers possess driver’s licenses for a year or more prior to licensure. It is also one of 20 states with a similar requirement for school bus drivers, and Rhode Island’s is among the longest, at three years. Other states require only tests, fees, a minimum age and in some states a short course or training session for these occupations.

Some of Rhode Island’s requirements also appear overly burdensome compared to other occupations that the state licenses. For example, it takes only 37 days of training to become an emergency medical technician, but nearly twice that time to earn a manicurist license. Barbers, cosmetologists, skin-care specialists and massage therapists must undergo even more training.

Rhode Island could expand employment prospects for many job-seekers by reducing or removing overly burdensome or needless barriers to low- and moderate-income jobs. Per the Competitiveness Report Card release for Rhode Island earlier this year by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the Ocean State already grades an “F” for overall Business Climate, with five Fs and one C- in related subcategories. The D- grade in this subcategory would further deepen the problem.

The following table shows the study’s analysis for Rhode Island.

Institute for Justice Analysis of Rhode Island Licensing Requirements

The study also reveals the arbitrary and irrational nature of licensure across the nation:

  • Most of the 102 occupations are practiced somewhere without government permission and apparently without widespread harm: Only 15 are licensed in 40 states or more, and on average, the 102 occupations are licensed in just 22 states — fewer than half. This includes a number of occupations with no self-evident rationale for licensure, such as interior designer, shampooer, florist, home entertainment installer, and funeral attendant.
  • Licensure burdens often vary considerably across states, calling into question the need for severe burdens. For instance, while 10 states require four months or more of training for manicurists, Alaska demands only about three days and Iowa about nine days.
  • The difficulty of entering an occupation often does not line up with the public health or safety risk it poses. For example, 66 occupations have greater average licensure burdens than emergency medical technicians. The average cosmetologist spends 372 days in training; the average EMT only 33. Such inconsistencies give good reason to doubt that many licensing schemes are necessary. These inconsistencies may reflect not the relative public health and safety risks of occupations, but instead the lobbying prowess of practitioners in securing laws to shut out competition. State policymakers should review current and proposed licensure schemes to determine whether they truly serve the public or instead fence out competition. As millions of Americans struggle to find productive work, one of the quickest ways legislators could help would be to reduce or remove needless licensure burdens.

End Notes:

(1) “License to Work”, Institute for Justice , 2012,

(2) State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. “Budget Fiscal Year 2012.” p. 67

The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech and other vital individual liberties and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government. Founded in 1991, IJ is the nation’s only libertarian public interest law firm, pursuing cutting edge litigation in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government. The Institute’s strategic research program produces social science and policy research to inform public policy debates on issues central to IJ’s mission.

The Ocean State Current to Hire Investigative Reporter

The Ocean State Current, an online news bureau and a division of the non-partisan think thank – the Rhode Island Center for Freedom of Prosperity – announced today that it plans to hire an investigative reporter to complement its existing online content. The Current is actively conducting a search and is now accepting applications.

The full-time position will be tasked with developing and publishing investigative and human interest news stories having to do with public policy and should have a demonstrable related background.

 “We are pleased to be able to expand our journalism operation to include a dedicated journalist who will track down stories that may be of interest to Rhode Islanders”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO, for the RI Center for Freedom.

The Ocean State Current, which can be viewed at, is presently managed by Justin Katz, Managing Editor, who had previously founded Interested journalists are asked to send their resume and an introductory letter to Mr. Katz at



Free-market think tank seeks student interns

2017-18 INTERNSHIP Opportunities: Virtual positions available (contact the Center for more details)

THE RI CENTER FOR FREEDOM & PROSPERITY, Rhode Island’s premier public policy education and research center, seeks ambitious students who would like to sharpen their writing, debating, researching, media and event-organizing skills and learn more about state and local government. If you have a strong interest in political science, public policy, economics, business, history, English, journalism or communications, we encourage you to apply for a RI CENTER FOR FREEDOM internship today.

The ideal intern has above-average writing and/or editing skills and a basic understanding of current events; knowledge of contemporary RI and American history is helpful. A valued quality is an appreciation for – and understanding of – individual liberty, the free market, property rights, and limited government. Intern responsibilities may include: writing for publication, light public policy research, administrative tasks, editing RI CENTER FOR FREEDOM publications, and event planning.

Internship hours are flexible; they can be tailored to fit school, athletic and work schedules. Internships are unpaid positions; however, the RI CENTER FOR FREEDOM will, to the best of its ability, work with those students who wish to receive academic credit for their internship. Additionally, the CENTER FOR FREEDOM offers its assistance in obtaining internships with market-oriented organizations in Washington, DC and around the country. Further, the CENTER will provide information about seminars and scholarship opportunities open to students interested in the principles of liberty.

To apply for a ‘virtual office’ internship, please complete the following steps:

  1. Prepare and send to a minimum 400 word cover letter describing why it is personally and professionally important for you to work with an organization like ours that seeks to advance individual, economic, and educational liberty.
  2. Send your updated resume to the same email
  3. In addition to your cover letter, suggest specific initiatives of the Center, or issues that are of particular interest to you, that you might wish to work on during your internship, and why you believe your are a good fit for that task.

For more information about the internship and THE RI CENTER FOR FREEDOM & PROSPERITY, please contact the CENTER at .


Would you tax Big Papi off the Red Sox?

Would you tax Big Papi right off the Red Sox?

Quick Links: Ernst & Young report – taxing the rich will cost jobs

Those who support the onerous tax structure that has ruined our state’s economy have wheeled out a new poll that shows public support of increased taxes on the rich … out of fairness, of course. Our Center has already shown how this tax increase would cost even more jobs for RI and further hamper our already struggling economy.  So let’s try another angle …

Imagine the Red Sox as a last place team having already lost many of its superstars to free-agency. Now imagine that the Red Sox decide to levy a tax on its superstar players like David Ortiz (Big Papi). After all, it’s not fair that Ortiz should get all those at-bats where he can hit home runs, RBIs, and otherwise produce results for the team. No, instead, Big Papi should give 9.9% of his at-bats to players on the bench, who don’t get to play as much. That would only be fair, right?

But consider if it would help or hurt the Red Sox if one of their top producers didn’t get as many at-bats, and instead, those at-bats went to a lower producing teammate? How would Red Sox Nation feel about that?

Then imagine it’s the end of the year, and Ortiz is a free-agent. Is he more likely to re-sign with the Red Sox, who will tax his at-bats by almost 10%, or might he decide to sign with the Yankees who will not tax him at all? Would the Red Sox, with their “at-bats tax”, be able to attract other free-agents to replace him? Again, how would this help the Red Sox?

The same questions can be asked about our state’s “rich”: How is it good for Rhode Island if we limit the capacity of our top producers to invest in our economy? How is it good for us if we make it less attractive for our top businesses and individuals to remain in or move to our state?

Just like the Red Sox, Rhode Island should embrace and encourage our best performers, not give them reason to reduce productivity …  or even leave outright.

In sports, teams actually give bonuses to incentivize performance. In Rhode Island, those who defend the status quo want to to do the opposite. Imagine yourself as a “fan” of Rhode Island … how would you choose to treat our own Big Papis?