Jobs & Opportunity Index November 2018 update- employment down 190 from the first-reported number for October, labor force dropped 208. RI in 47th place.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), November 2018: Employment and Income Diverging

November’s data for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) paints a bit of a mixed picture. The Ocean State is still 47th in the country, with seven of the 12 datapoints in the index updated. (Rhode Island remains the only state not updating its SNAP [food stamp] data, thanks to UHIP, although positive news suggest this may soon change.)

Employment was down 190 people from the first-reported number for October, and the labor force dropped 208. The number of jobs in the state also dropped, by 400. Turning to the financial results that make up JOI’s Prosperity Factor, total personal income in Rhode Island increased by an annualized $359 million from the prior number, while state and local tax collections increased $71 million. On the hopeful side, the number of Rhode Islanders relying on Medicaid decreased by 1,490 enrollees.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England. New Hampshire leads the region, in 3rd place, nationally. Vermont held 13th place, but Maine lost the step it had taken last month and fell back to 16th. Massachusetts and Connecticut both remained in place at 36th and 40th, respectively.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and both New England and the United States on JOI, which both increased in November. The third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate, which both decreased slightly.

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained 26th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns state lawmakers not to panic over the recent federal court ruling in Texas that Obamacare is unconstitutional.

Center Asks Lawmakers Not to Panic Over Texas Court Strike-down of Obamacare

Lawmakers Should Not Take Foolish, Knee-Jerk Reaction Steps
Conservative Alternative Plan Soon to Emerge

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns state lawmakers not to panic over the recent federal court ruling in Texas that Obamacare is unconstitutional.

“The ACA law will remain in effect throughout the lengthy appeals process; and there is also a good chance that the US Supreme Court will overturn the Texas ruling and continue to uphold existing federal healthcare laws,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It would be foolish to seek to codify Obamacare laws into state law. First, future court decisions are uncertain, and the Supreme Court would never suddenly cancel a law of such magnitude without providing a reasonable period of time for states to react. Second, the future of federal healthcare funding is legitimately in question, and any legislative action at the state level could soon find these same programs defunded at the federal level – Rhode Island could never afford Obamacare laws on its own.”

The Center, which has participated in multiple national meetings about a soon-to-be-introduced conservative alternative, suggests that a furious healthcare debate is again about to take place.

The progressive-left is pushing a fraudulently named “Medicare For All” boondoggle, which is really nothing more than an expansion of government-run Medicaid, with its added new 10%+ payroll tax, and the elimination of private insurance companies and all of their jobs.

The conservative plan, “Healthcare Choices Act” would block-grant to each state its federal share of healthcare funding and would require no new taxes. When combined with its own healthcare resources, states would have the authority to determine how best to help their unique populaces obtain insurance. This private-insurance based program will give patients more choices – at multiple price points – to customize a health insurance plan that works best for their unique situation.

The “Healthcare Choices Act” would continue to offer guaranteed insurance provisions and age-26 family plan protections, while also empowering employers, families, and individuals with expanded choices, and premiums up to 32% lower, with significantly lower deductibles. This plan would also protect the vulnerable. For those who still may not be able to afford the premiums, and for those with pre-existing conditions, generous subsidies would be available to make their chosen plans affordable. When necessary, Medicaid would continue to serve as the safety net.

The Center maintains that Rhode Islanders want to be free to choose plans that best meet their needs and not be limited to arbitrary plans forced upon them by government.

Throwing more money at the severe failures highlighted in this week's RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms to Rhode Island education failures.

Center Calls for Empowered Teachers and ESA’s as Part of the Solution to RI’s Education Failures

Teachers Should Leverage Their Newly Restored Rights

ESA Outlet for Concerned Families?

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity for years has been warning about the poor value state and local taxpayers have been receiving for their high public investment in public education. Throwing more money at the severe education failures highlighted in this week’s RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms.

First, the Center has previously suggested that public education can be the greatest beneficiary of the last summer’s landmark US Supreme Court Janus decision. By boldly taking advantage of their recently restored first-amendment Janus rights, and because unions can no longer force teachers who disagree with them to fund bargaining positions that tie the hands of educators, teachers have been empowered with a stronger voice to fight against ineffective policies. Teachers must be un-handcuffed by ending union-negotiated restrictions on how they are allowed to educate our children. Teachers must also demand a greater say about potential reforms that may improve educational outcomes. If teachers believe their unions are not helping to positively reform education, they now have the full-freedom and leverage to opt-out of paying any money to their union without fear of negative repercussions. Teachers, and all public employees can learn more at MyPayMySayRI.com.

Throwing more money at the severe failures highlighted in this week's RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms to Rhode Island education failures.

Second, an outlet must be provided for families that want a brighter future for their children, which begins with a better education today. The Center’s “Bright Today” Educational Scholarship Account program (ESA), which was blocked by teachers unions in the General Assembly years ago, would empower parents to choose a better school for their children, by allowing limited dollars to follow the student to a private school of their choice. National studies have shown that such private school choice policies can improve educational results for participating students, without harming existing public educational outcomes. More information about the Bright Today ESA scholarship program can be found at BrightToday.org.

With ethics issues abound, we call on NEARI to authorize its own highly compensated union official, Sarah Markey, to resign from the South Kingstown School Committee.

Center Calls on NEARI to End the Ethics Drama in South Kingstown

NEA Scheme Would Create Continual Ethical Problems

Teachers Do Not Want Stigma of Being Tied to Corrupt Union Tactics

Providence, RI — With ethics issues abounding and an irreconcilable conflict of interest likely to result in constant recusals and committee actions that will be continually challenged as illegitimate, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity calls on the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) to authorize its own highly compensated union official, Sarah Markey, to resign from the South Kingstown School Committee seat she won in the November elections.

Generating intense local and statewide debate, most honest observers believe that Markey would find it impossible to balance her civic duties as a school committee member with her professional duties to preserve and grow union membership and compensation levels, necessarily at the expense of the taxpaying voters who unwittingly elected her.

“I call on my friend Bob Walsh to do the ethical thing here,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Understandably, government worker unions across the country are desperate to try to circumvent the loss of membership, money, and political power that will result from the landmark Janus ruling by the US Supreme Court. However, rigging the system by placing their union bosses as inside agents, who will only corrupt the democratic process, is an unacceptable tactic. This cannot be allowed to happen in South Kingstown or anywhere else in our state.”

The Center contends, with the NEA scheme now exposed, that Mr. Walsh should recognize that the gig is up and save the town from additional public embarrassment. Potentially furthering the fiasco, according to media reports, on Friday evening the school committee will consider firing the messenger – the law firm – that initially provided a sound legal opinion about the insurmountable conflicts of interest if Ms. Markey were to serve on the committee.

As the United States Supreme Court opined in its historic Janus decision last summer, virtually every action that a government employee union conducts is inherently political, as it necessarily involves public policy or public money. On a local school committee that deals 100% on issues involving public education, and its funding by taxpayers, Ms. Markey faces a hopeless conflict of interest.

National surveys show that public employees are often turned-off by the corrupt and unscrupulous tactics that their own unions sometimes deploy and that they do not want the stigma of such overt political actions tarnishing their personal reputations.

No longer required to pay any fees or dues to unions, and legally protected from recrimination or adverse consequences, public employees can learn more about their Janus rights at www.MyPayMySayRI.com.

The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform; reforms that should be codified via a constitutional amendment.

Center Recommends Constitutional Amendment to Codify Legislative Process Reforms

All Lawmakers Should Have a Greater Say in the Legislative Process

New “Reform Caucus” is Disingenuous

Providence, RI — The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform; reforms that should be codified via a constitutional amendment, according to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

“Now is the time to demand better government. Now is the time for General Assembly leadership to cede some of their excessive powers and to reform our government so that all lawmakers on Smith Hill are freer to represent the families and businesses in their districts. No more excuses,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It is far better that the many elected representatives have a greater say in the legislative process than to be pressured to support the agendas of the few in leadership.”

The Center supports the reform ideas previously put forth by Representative Jared Nunes (D, Coventry) as a good starting point. However, now, with the statewide debate gaining momentum, the Center recommends that a more permanent solution should also be considered.

In calling for a dual-legislative track, the Center’s primary objective is to ensure that elected Senators and Representatives will have greater capacity and freedom to represent their individual districts, rather than being compelled to back the personal agendas of Senate and House leadership.

The first piece of legislation would immediately implement certain reforms for the 2019 General Assembly session, while the second piece would call for a ballot-referendum in 2020, whereby voters could approve codification of those reforms into the Rhode Island constitution.

“The recently concocted ‘Reform Caucus’, led by progressive-left activists, is currently making disingenuous calls for similar reforms. It should be clear, however, that their motives are not for good-government purposes, but rather as a means to advance their radical agenda,” warned Stenhouse. “We must institutionalize these reforms in our constitution, because the ultra-left cannot be trusted not to reimpose authoritarian measures if they ever assume leadership control.”

The Center calls on lawmakers from the left and the right to publicly back this legislative initiative, and for leadership to consider how they can be viewed as heroes by supporting these obvious good-government reforms.

Among the high-level goals that the legislation and constitutional referendum should seek to reform, include:

  • Less control by leadership over what legislation will advance, with more power provided to legislative committees
  • A more democratic process to ‘advise and consent’ over committee chair appointments and other leadership positions
  • An end to the corrupt end-of-session “cattle-call” votes, whereby dozens upon dozens of bills are rushed through committees and brought up for floor votes in the course of just a few late-night hours
  • A process that restricts the capacity of majority and minority leaders to ‘suspend the rules’ to circumstances where only true emergencies may occur, and with limited duration or scope.
  • An end – or significantly increased transparency – to the corrupt legislative and community grant process, which is often used as a coercive legislative sledge-hammer

October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index: More Slipping as the Weather Cools

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) reports have been noting for a while that the state’s economy hasn’t been living up to the hype. October didn’t change that story. The Ocean State is still 47th in the country, with nine of the 12 datapoints in the index updated, and the indicators suggest Rhode Islanders are growing skeptical of improvement. (Note that Rhode Island remains the only state not updating its SNAP [food stamp] data, thanks to UHIP.)

Employment was up a tiny 50 people from the first-reported number for September. Meanwhile, the labor force dropped 685, people unemployed for more than 15 weeks went up by 700, and those who are only able to find part-time work increased by 1,600. To balance that a little, the number of jobs in the state went up by 1,000, while 200 fewer Rhode Islanders said they were only marginally attached to the employment market. Of course, that may be because they completely gave up. The discouraging results for labor force and alternative employment measures were enough to cause a nine-place drop for the ocean state in the Job Outlook Factor.

At the same time, the number of Rhode Islanders relying on Medicaid went up 736 enrollees. The TANF (welfare) data was finally updated after more than a year and showed that the numbers had decreased by 920. We should emphasize, however, that this data still lags considerably, reflecting the results from June.

The first chart shows RI last in New England. New Hampshire leads the region, in 3rd place, nationally. Vermont held 13th place, but Maine advanced a step to 15th. Massachusetts slipped one, to 36th, while Connecticut stumbled two spots, to 40th.

October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index

The second chart shows the gap between RI and New England and the United States on October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index. The third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index

Results for the three underlying October 2018 Jobs & Opportunity Index factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI dropped to 26th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

NEW: Statement on MA Report re. Teachers Union Dues-Flow. Just 21% stays local in RI?

RI Teachers See About 80% of their Dues Spent on non-Local Salaries and Issues

Detailed Spending Report in the Works

Providence, RI — Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

According to a report released yesterday by the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts, only 16% of dues paid by the average Bay State teacher flows toward their local association. The lions share, instead, is funneled to the Mass. Teachers Association and the National Education Association (NEA). Worse for teachers, according to the federal filings of the NEA, AFT, and AFSCME affiliates, only about 20% of the “local” dues money goes towards bargaining or other representational activities.

In the Ocean State, a document obtained by the Center earlier this fall showed that just 21% of teachers’ dues may stay local; again with significantly larger portions flowing up the line to advance non-collective-bargaining-related state and national agendas.

“Understandably, most union members like their local union reps,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, “However, most teachers are probably not aware that 80% or more of their dues flow upward to support activities that do not directly help teachers and, as is often the case, political advocacy they strongly disagree with.”

Teachers, and any state or local government employee, who want more control over their family’s financial security, and who may have questions about their rights in the aftermath of the historic JANUS ruling by the US Supreme Court last summer, can find out more about their restored freedoms and their union’s activities at MyPayMySayRI.com. In short, the high-cost of union dues means less money in employees’ paychecks and more money towards a system teachers don’t control. @MyPayMySayRI

The Center published a letter from the Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA, a local NEA union), that not only showed the union misinformed teachers, but also showed that only $174 out of the $821 in proposed annual dues were to go to their local NEA association. In August, the Center published a letter from the Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA, a local NEA union), that not only showed the union misinformed teachers, but also showed that only $174 out of the $821 in proposed annual dues were to go to their local NEA association.

The Center is currently compiling detailed data on exactly how teachers union dues are being spent, including what political agendas and candidates are being unwittingly funded by the dues of teachers across the state of Rhode Island. An initial report is expected soon.

Center Opposes All Three Ballot Questions

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity urges Rhode Island voters to reject all three 2018 ballot bond questions as too costly, near-sighted, and overly geared toward special interests.

Question 1, the largest bond question, would put Rhode Island significantly further into debt by spending a whopping $250 million to repair school buildings (and would ask for another $250 million in 2020), and is also flawed because it:

  • Bails out irresponsible city/town and school officials who have misappropriated existing local tax receipts by neglecting to address school building repairs over the years.
  • Lacks any long-term vision or strategy in planning for the anticipated educational environments of the future.

“Of course, no one wants unsafe schools,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, “but when we are talking about this much of a new burden on taxpayers, it is imperative that we are strategic in how we deal with this problem.”

More details on Question 1 below.

Question 2 asks taxpayers to fund $70 million in non-vital new higher education facilities that would mostly benefit other states, as far too many of our college and university graduates end up leaving the state in search of meaningful work. Until we develop a growing economy that can absorb new young workers entering the jobs market, this bond spending would not provide a good return on investment.

Question 3, an extension of the RhodeMapRI scheme, advances a dubious green-economy strategy by spending $47.3 million on a multitude of politically correct sustainable-development projects.

Special-Interest Government Spending Does Not Replace Grassroots Development. All three ballot questions are designed to help special-interest cronies. Because of Rhode Island’s dismal business climate, including a burdensome tax and regulatory structure, our state’s economy is not attracting enough grassroots private money for major capital projects. Instead, seeking work and dues from their employees and members, construction company insiders and labor union officials continually pressure government to spend taxpayer money on unnecessary public-works projects. Taxpayers also suffer a “double hit” because, unlike privately-financed projects, these government-funded boondoggles require abnormally high “prevailing wages” and mandate other costly pro-labor mandates.

Already Too Much in Debt. All three ballot questions would worsen an already burdensome debt problem. Historically, Rhode Islanders pass almost all bond questions that make it to the ballot, and no indications have emerged that this election will be any different.  If anything, consensus that the Ocean State’s public schools are in deplorable condition is translating into even-greater-than-usual consensus that we ought to saddle taxpayers with another $250–500 million in debt.

Broadly, Rhode Island is relying too heavily on debt to cover its bills.  The Mercatus Center at George Mason University puts Rhode Island’s long-term liabilities at 90% of the state’s assets, which is higher than the average state.[1]  Truth in Accounting’s State Data Lab gives Rhode Island a D for finances, with $8,288,881,000 in bonds and other liabilities, plus another $4,316,527,000 in pension and other retirement liabilities.[2]  A recent Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council (RIPEC) report finds Rhode Island already among the worst states when it comes to debt per capita and debt per income.[3]

More debt is not the answer to the Ocean State’s problems; it is a major problem in itself.  Adding $589,462,045 in principal and interest by passing the three ballot questions will make it worse.

The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities must be more prudent with the tax dollars they already collect — for example, prioritizing school-building maintenance over more frivolous projects.

More on Question 1. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity agrees that our education infrastructure is in lamentable shape, but we encourage Rhode Islanders to vote to reject Question 1’s new borrowing on the ballot.

Wrong to “bail out” irresponsible local officials. Focusing on the biggest ballot question — the $250 million school construction bond — the incentives that it would create will be damaging, as well.  Making this money available to local school districts that have been negligent in maintaining their infrastructure will only reinforce their habit of letting basic maintenance slide in order to fund other priorities, like above-market-rate increases to government worker compensation.  The legislation allowing these bonds to go on the ballot provides insufficient incentive for our cities and towns to change their ways. Further, it is unfair to ask state taxpayers to bail out local communities.

What do the “education futurists” say? Taking an even broader view, we should also question the wisdom of making these massive investments when our society is changing so quickly.  What will education look like 20 years from now?  What sorts of spaces will students require?  The weight of debt will hinder Rhode Island’s ability to adapt and to innovate in the future.

The Center does not believe it is prudent to burden Rhode Islanders with decades of new debt in order to rebuild an arguably obsolete, century-old school model, especially when new educational-environment models are rapidly evolving.

Many “education futurists” no longer envision that large and cold school buildings with walled-off classrooms will be how our children will be taught in the coming years. Creating more-productive learning environments that take advantage of ever-evolving Internet and other technologies could mean that home-based or large online-lecture type instruction may increasingly become the norm. This educational vision would require a far different kind of school campus than what this half-a-billion taxpayer-funded bond might be wasted on.

The Center is not aware of, but is open to review, any kind of long-term strategic educational plan that would justify massive investment in a potentially soon-to-be defunct school model.

2018 Middendorf “Pillar of Freedom” Award Winner

View previous winners here …

Dr. Daniel Harrop

2018 J. William Middendorf “Pillar of Freedom” Award Honoree

With a lifelong record of helping people both professionally and philanthropically, Dr. Daniel Harrop personifies the three pillars that our Center’s annual award is based upon: 1) Entrepreneurial or free-market business leadership, 2) Civic engagement, and 3) Record of philanthropic giving or charitable organization volunteerism.

In the area of professional accomplishment, Dr. Harrop, for many decades, has been a leader in the Rhode Island medical community as a certified psychiatrist. With a B.A. and M.D. from Brown University, along with an MBA from the Edinburgh Business School, Dr. Harrop is a licensee or certified member of over a dozen psychiatric and medical associations in numerous states. In addition to his private practice Dr. Harrop has served as President of the RI Psychiatric Society and the RI Catholic Medical Society, was a faculty member at the Brown University and Harvard Schools of Medicine, a staff member at RI and Butler Hospitals, and was RI Medical Director for United Behavioral Systems at United Healthcare. Additionally, dozens of other professional associations, publications, presentations, staff work, and leadership are not listed here.

With regard to civic engagement, Dr. Harrop is one of Rhode Island’s most honored members of the Catholic Church, having been knighted into the church’s distinguished “Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre” in 2008 by Pope Benedict. He is also a Grand Knight in the Providence Knights of Columbus.

Dan also served as President of the Brown Club of RI as well as the Brown Faculty Club, among other civic leadership posts; and he is the only active member of the original ‘medical advisory board’ appointed in the 1980’s in response to Rhode Island’s ‘workers compensation’ crisis. To top it all off, he’s also a Notary Public.

Harrop is President of the Sons of the American Revolution, and has held leadership roles with the Sons of the Union, Veterans of the Civil War, and the RI Historical Society. He currently leads an initiative to raise awareness about the Battle of Rhode Island during the American Revolution; not to mention a Board member of the Nathaniel Greene Homestead Assoc.

Dr. Harrop has further been a shaman of Ocean State politics since 1980, when he co-chaired RI Physicians for Reagan, and more recently as a major donor to the RI GOP and as chair of the Providence GOP. He was a two-time candidate for Mayor of Providence and for General Assembly – and self-funded his campaigns – just so the Republican brand would be on the ballot. Dr. Harrop was also a successful litigant against the RI Board of Elections when he challenged and defeated, as un-constitutional, a state law that capped annual political gifts from individuals.

Philanthropically, Dr. Harrop is one of the larger donors to the Catholic Diocese of Providence and is a patriarch in support of the Christian Holy Land. He funds a major scholarship in his name at the Brown Medical School and also funded “Harrop Theater” at his alma mater, Bishop Hendricken High School. Many more charitable gifts not listed here.

But “Doc” claims, other than donating his time and treasure to his faith, that his most fulfilling act of civic responsibility was serving as founding Chairman of the RI Center for Freedom of Prosperity, which has become the state’s leading voice advocating for the free-enterprise system and challenging the policies of the entrenched status quo. Quite simply put, without Dr. Daniel Harrop … our Center would not exist.

Polarized and passionate, yet civil, debate is healthy for our democracy.

Polarized And Passionate, Yet Civil, Debate Is Healthy For Our Democracy

CEO Mike Stenhouse argues that polarized and passionate, yet civil, debate is indeed healthy for our democracy in a recent OpEd in the Providence Journal. Click on the button below now to read the full version on their website. 

Following the recent Providence Journal-sponsored “Publick Occurrences” panel discussion at Rhode Island College, I’d like to share some thoughts I did not have the chance to put forth.

The premise – “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and the polarization of public discourse – gives us two factors to consider: 1) disagreements over the role of government and 2) level of civility of debate. Most panelists agreed there have always been divisive political issues in America: the Federalist Papers, slavery, civil rights, the Vietnam War, etc.

Polarized and passionate, yet civil, debate is healthy for our democracy, no matter the topic or how deep the divisions. But sadly, our nation’s history is riddled with violent incidents – even war – over some of those debates.

Worse, there is an increasingly pernicious national culture that makes today’s debates even more divisive than yesteryear’s.

As the panel discussed, we have become a tribal nation, of sorts. Special-interest and identity-politics factions are constantly seeking special benefits. Activists-for-profit and well-funded organizations exploit divisions to stoke public rage. Social media allow hate-filled word-bombs to be safely lobbed from behind internet devices. Educational and judicial systems eschew historical and constitutional values to conform with political correctness fads. And biased media irresponsibly fan the flames.