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Travis Rowley: The Cost of Liberalism

Saturday, December 29, 2012

 

Rhode Islanders were recently informed that “state regulators have approved higher rates for National Grid customers, and that “the typical Rhode Island household [will] pay 3.5 percent more for electricity and an additional 4.9 percent for natural gas.”

“Fair” and “reasonable” is how the rate hike was described by Michael D. LaFlamme, National Grid’s Vice President for Regulation and Pricing. LaFlamme offered his endorsement of the new deal despite the fact that “National Grid agreed to lower the rate hikes from what was originally requested.”

This may hurt Mr. LaFlamme’s feelings, but it is hardly comforting to be told that he (and probably all of those involved in the decision – National Grid, the US Department of Navy, and Rhode Island government) considers this new arrangement to be “a fair deal for our customers.” After all, how are customers and taxpayers to be certain that National Grid’s rates are as low as they could possibly be? Because National Grid “agreed to lower the rate hikes from what was originally requested”?

That’s it?

What if National Grid, fully understanding the nature of negotiation, purposely requested rate hikes that were unreasonable in order to increase their chances at a compromise that satisfied their true wishes?

The Providence Journal reported that LaFlamme “described the settlement as a reasonable compromise for all the parties.”

I bet he did.

Regulators

Mr. LaFlamme may be a decent guy, but why should Rhode Islanders trust this corporate actor? Because government actors – oh so known for their deep concern for the public’s pockets – were also in the room when the deal went down?

And are Rhode Islanders supposed to be relieved that “regulators” approved this measure, rather than elected representatives who could actually suffer consequences for voting in favor of this latest rate increase? What are the actual incentives that may compel a government regulator to do right by the public?

Furthermore, just how prolific are these people at making prudent decisions? Weren’t government bureaucrats, namely the Economic Development Corporation, largely responsible for the 38 Studios debacle?

By the way, are any of Mr. LaFlamme’s relatives among “the three members of the state Public Utilities Commission” who “unanimously voted in favor” of this settlement agreement?

I’m just asking. This is Rhode Island after all.

The Cost of Living?

In stark contrast to this central economic planning are private markets, which don’t allow corporations to “request” permission for price increases from government partners. While prices are continuously beaten down by the forces of competition, companies must ask the consumers for authorization to raise their rates.

Liberals, that’s called “power to the people.”

Whether altering the relationship between Rhode Island and National Grid is realistic or desirable, we again observe the reality that the rejection of capitalism causes injury to the poor and middle class; that the embrace of collectivism invariably leads to an increase to the cost of just about everything.

We often hear liberals wail over the “cost of living” (an arbitrary calculation if there ever was one). Perhaps “the cost of liberalism” is a more accurate expression – and more easily appraised.

After all, in addition to the unavoidable inefficiency of the progressive partnership that National Grid is involved in, we learn from a Providence Journal report that the “new rates have nothing to do with the price of electricity or gas. Rather, they relate to the operating expenses of delivering energy…including higher pension costs and the costs of adding 19 new electrical workers required under the minimum-staffing provision of a 2007 union contract.”

Unions. Go figure.

LaFlamme would go on to explain that the new “agreement also helps cover increases in municipal property taxes paid by National Grid, a figure that has gone up by double digits since 2008 and amounted to $40 million in 2011.”

Taxes. Go figure.

Nice work, Democrats. Just keep on taxing those “evil corporations.” Keep punishing all that “corporate greed.” It seems to be working out quite nicely for the “working class.”

Progressive Interference

National Grid’s rate hikes are not uncommon to companies who find themselves under assault by the Rhode Island Left. In addition to the strength of Ocean State unions and having to do business in a state whose capital city charges one of the highest business property tax rates in the country (second only behind Detroit), in July 2011 Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law the Henry Shelton Act – legislation that further socialized utility costs by forcing National Grid to continue their services for those who refuse to pay their bills.

The namesake of this particular legislation is the founder of the George Wiley Center, an “anti-poverty” (read: pro-poverty) agency whose “mission” is “to build a community that addresses human needs and redresses injustices” – fighting primarily for “social and economic justice.”

Yes, progressives believe that one man’s poverty is another man’s crime.

Flat out, the George Wiley Center is a socialist outfit named after a black radical who is widely regarded as the “father of the ‘welfare rights’ movement” – a ‘60s initiative that “pushed for a guaranteed living income” for every American. George Wiley was a Warwick native charged with the task of pioneering across the country the Cloward-Piven Strategy, which called for “swamping the welfare rolls with new applicants, beyond what the system could bear” in order to hasten a socialist revolution. The Cloward-Piven Strategy is best described as a “strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.”

Is it any wonder, then, that members of the George Wiley Center admitted several years ago that they were “in the midst of a major battle…to get 60,000 more Rhode Islanders signed up for Food Stamps,” and are continuously found clamoring for every type of public benefit imaginable?

“[Our] enduring task is to help [the poor] find their own voice…for they are not powerless once they recognize that their numbers count,” members of the George Wiley Center have pronounced. These are the radicals who best understand Karl Marx’s instruction: “Democracy is the road to socialism.” These are the professional progressive activists who cry foul every time cuts to the welfare state are suggested, even as we discover that Rhode Island does more to spread wealth among its residents than any other state.”

While you go to work and raise your family, the George Wiley Center spends its time lobbying your elected representatives, training countless community organizers, and manipulating the minority community – “help[ing] with Spanish translation.”

These are the people behind the Henry Shelton Act – a law that created “a state fund to help low income families pay for their heating and lighting bills” and “authorize[d] the state to add a surcharge to the bills of ratepayers of up to $20 a year.”

Just how low would your National Grid bill be without all of this liberalism?


Travis Rowley is the author of The Rhode Island Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.

 

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Comments:

Winston Churchill would have found Mr. Rowley's insistent and uncaring conservatism "a tragedy." To be so young and to have all the answers for society's ills by simply eliminating any and all sources of funding to aid those in need. He doesn't preach reasonable approaches, he preaches the doctrine of selfishness. How completely lacking in compassion and a true sense of what community is all about. RI might very well be the most corrupt state in the union and it is definitely an economic and even educational backwater, but Mr. Rowley has no definitive plans to improve things beyond telling everyone, "hold on to your money with both hands and spend it only on yourself." How original...

Comment #1 by J. Ferreira on 2012 12 29

Travis I totally agree with what you have said but the question is where is the organization to combat the unions, socialists, progressives, and democrats? I don't even hear a word from the Tea Party in this state.

Comment #2 by Joseph P on 2012 12 29

Well said Travis.

The majority of Rhode Islanders desire a welfare state. Having elevated compassion to a political principle disguised as “progress” to be financed with other people’s money, liberals know no limits, constitutional or otherwise.

Only the realities of market forces limits what liberals consider “progress.” And so liberals seek to ameliorate the effects of market forces through artificial means, like unionized government employment, project labor agreements, binding arbitration, Obama Care, and the like. But these artificial constructs are unsustainable because they drive up government’s overhead costs to unsupportable levels.

That is where we find ourselves today: a majority of Rhode Islanders applaud the welfare state but can’t afford it; a liberal ruling class that knows no limits when spending other people’s money; the fewer and fewer remaining taxpayers changing their behaviors to avoid taxes.

There are contemporary examples of where we are heading, if only we bother to look. Greece comes to mind.

Comment #3 by Christopher Lee on 2012 12 29

There is no hope in RI. Most Rhode Islanders understand conservatism and free markets just as Mr. Ferreira does --- "the doctrine of selfishness." They will never acknowledge that their doctrine of redistribution is what hurts the most people. And that capitalism helps the most people. Even Rowley (who I find to be an extremely articulate conservative) can't break through Mr. Ferreira's mental barriers.

Comment #4 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 29

J.Ferreira you sound like a preacher such as Henry Shelton, I'm sure he had good intentions but fought to take others money to support his cause. Please don't try to drag Winston Churchill into this because there is no relevance. Obama talked about spreading the wealth well I choose to give to whom I please and like Travis despise those who feel they know what to do with my money better than me.

Comment #5 by Joseph P on 2012 12 29

Keep it going! I can't wait for the state to go bankrupt. Let it burn, baby!

Comment #6 by Jeff Scott on 2012 12 29

Looking forward to the collapse so we can start rebuilding asap. Keep it up Democrats.

Comment #7 by Chris Sands on 2012 12 29

Thank you Travis! Now I know who to blame for my electric bill-- the poor!
Lets wave the magic wand of the free market. It will fix the problem. Oh wait reality is saying something different. What is that you are saying reality?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-23/consumers-hit-by-high-rates-after-deregulation.html

Comment #8 by Real Clear on 2012 12 30

Such a brilliant retort, Real Clear. Now I don't believe in the free market anymore...just because you mocked it....while failing to actually articulate WHY the free market won't solve the problem....even after Rowley told everyone why it WOULD solve the problem.

You stupid coward. Make a stinkin' argument.

Comment #9 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 30

haha Jeremy!

I love how Real Clear distorts rowley's argument, that he "blames the poor." Yea, that's what rowley said.

Real Clear: "Lets wave the magic want of the free market. It will fix the problem."

Yea, lower prices for everyone wouldn't help the poor.

Comment #10 by Drew M on 2012 12 30

This article is not about free markets. The Gas company and Electric companies are utilities. You can't go to any market for utilities they are just like the government, to just take your money by way of back room deals. That is the point he is making. Most workers in this state have seen their incomes actually reduced, but it is fine fore the utilities to continue to spend and get raises just like the government does. Get it?

Comment #11 by Joseph P on 2012 12 31

This is for Real Clear, you wouldn't know the poor if you tripped over them. The Obama poor are those who can never get enough without ever having to work for it. How many people today who are playing the VICTIM card? Obama won't be happy until every last dime is spent of the actual working man's income.

Comment #12 by Joseph P on 2012 12 31

I was watching a wildlife documentary the other day. One of the subjects of the piece was the moose. These mighty creatures are often killed not by predators like wolves or bears, but by ticks. Thousands of these micro vampires can infest their host and collectively suck so much blood that the moose dies.

It's an apt metaphor for what could happen to our state and nation if the progressives are allowed to continue to their end game of socialism -- one tiny tick at a time.

Comment #13 by Art West on 2012 12 31

National grid is a stunningly powerful corporation. They make billions of dollars a year in profit. They get millions of dollars from in grants and subsidies from state and federal government agencies. They have over 25,000 employees in many countries. They eat state governments for breakfast. Especially weak and broken RI. They have enough money and power to manipulate markets however they want. Those facts and more are missing from this article. They can and will raise rates wherever they want regardless of what politicians or the people want.

Your blame of "Liberals" and "democrats" and "The Left" is wrong. You have an incorrect perspective. You are a part of an echo chamber whether you like it or even know it.

Way to bring "socialism" and food stamps into this article. You should be ashamed of yourself and I sure hope that you do not call yourself a journalist.

Comment #14 by theboston liberal on 2012 12 31

Um, "theboston liberal" ---- The point here is that if you want to stop National Grid (an evil corporation, according to the left) from hurting the public, free markets is the solution. Right now RIers suffer under a statist set-up (call it "liberalism" "fascism" "progressivism"...doesn't matter). So the writer is correct to blame "the Left"...They are the ones who advocate for central planning, and the rejection of capitalism. They are the ones who continuously empower the corporations. Advocates of free-markets (GOP, Tea Party, conservatives, etc) are the ones who force corporations to compete, and don't allow them to establish corrupt relationships with the government!

To use your words, "you have an incorrect perspective."

Comment #15 by Drew M on 2012 12 31

boston liberal,

The state's PUC must approve any rate requests. If what you're saying is true, then why did the state PUC grant National Grid's latest request?

Why did this state regulatory agency, as a true champion of the middle class, then not deny the rate request?

You're well aware how liberal and tax loving and union favoring our Democratically controlled state government is. It seems your liberal champs in truth have no problem passing the costs they foist onto utilities onto the middle class they claim to protect.

Comment #16 by Art West on 2012 12 31

Maybe National Grid didn't bride them enough to accept their request? Who knows? You scratch my back I'll scratch yours. That how politics work, right? I'm sure RI politicians are well aware of what a rate increase will do to the people of RI, but they did it anyway. If you think that for ONE SECOND that a republican tea party conservative would have done any different you're living in delusion.

Free markets is the solution from stopping a national grid rate increase? Wow. That's quite a summary. I can't remember the last time I heard that one. "To stop a corporation whose revenue exceeds $25 billion a year and has a virtual monopoly just add more companies to compete against them." Good luck with that philosophy. Try opening up a utility company in RI or MA and see what happens.

"Advocates of free-markets (GOP, Tea Party, conservatives, etc) are the ones who force corporations to compete, and don't allow them to establish corrupt relationships with the government!" --Give me one real world example of this.

Comment #17 by theboston liberal on 2012 12 31

Is "theboston liberal" for real?? Free markets and Competition don't result in lower prices? "Good luck with that philosophy"????? Give you an example of conservatives advocating for competition and free markets???? Seriously?? Is this a practical joke??? Okay, just to humor you, I'll cite the opposition to OBAMACARE -- advocating instead for state barriers to be dropped for the purchase of health insurance.

Comment #18 by Drew M on 2012 12 31

"theboston liberal" --- a "republican tea party conservative" wouldn't have done the same thing because HE WOULDN'T HAVE ESTABLISHED THIS TROUBLESOME SITUATION IN THE FIRST PLACE. THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A FREE MARKET. That's not how "politics works" if you don't allow a fascist system to be established in the first place.

What a dolt.

Comment #19 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 31




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