Russ Conway is longtime RIFuture blogger and a proud Providence Geek. Russ works in healthcare IT and loves data. When not grousing about progressive issues, Russ is an avid angler and open water swimmer/triathlete.

29 responses to “Blame Gina Raimondo? Not So Fast, Progressives”

  1. Pat Crowley

    Rising stars that use an Enron billionaires money to engage in class warfare against working people?  

    Russ, sorry man, but the more we find out about how this all went down, the more it stinks.  For example, the Arnold Foundation is run by the former Chief of staff for Dick Armey…yes, THAT Dick Armey, one of the key founders of the Tea Party, a man named Denis Calabrese, who ran a far right wing group in Texas called the Patriot group.  

    The person who writes all of the “research” that advocates for pension reform at Arnold sits in the George W. Bush Education Reform Chair at SMU in Texas and used to work for Mitt Romney when he was Governor of Texas.

    The intersection of corporate education reform and Wall Street trying to re-direct power away from working people back into their own hands should be enough to give progressives pause.  The fact that the argument was made along the lines of “its either your kids school or your teachers pension” should make every progressive cringe, especially now that we know that that message was bought and paid for by right wing billionaires from out of state with a well known anti-union, anti-progressive, anti-Progressive agenda. 

    The real question is…who was using who?  

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  2. cailin rua

    Who is Gina Raimondo?  I think that is the main question.  She hasn’t even been in office for two years.  She became a folk hero about two months after she was sworn in.  How does anyone rise that quickly?

    My advice to anyone concerned would be not to directly attack Raimondo. Gina is just one of the hydra’s heads. Follow the money instead. She is a public relations phenomenon.  The forces behind the various neo-lib movements, with the Orwelliam “reform” twist inserted into the name for these movements, are hoping the focus will be on Gina when anyone questions  the pension deal promoted by a local, very politically connected advertising agency with the help of just about all the corporate media and, of course, Engage Rhode Island which has become synonymous with the ad agency in question.  The most frightening thing about the pension reform putsch is the way public opinion has been so effectively manipulated by turning the public against anyone whose compensation has kept pace with the economy through the massive inflation of the seventies and the boom and bust cycles, thereafter.

    I think it is important to realize this is not just about teachers’ unions.  I think it is important to understand R I’s place in all these so called “reform” movements.   Rhode Island, and particularly places like Central Falls, is being used as a petri dish to see how far finance, real estate and insurance (FIRE) can push their neo-liberal policies so these policies can be tried elsewhere. This new player, Arnold, indicates very clearly how that works.  I think the people here should be very resentful of the shock doctrine tactics used by the pension “reformers” and education “reformers”.

    There needs to be change, for sure.  Unions have been asleep at the wheel for decades, unconcerned with anyone outside their own narrow interests.  That is why they have so much trouble getting the public behind them.  Unfortunately, the public does not understand just how well financed the neo-libs are, whether they be social conservatives or social liberals.  The “let them eat wedding cake” talking point is patronizing.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, both David Koch and Lloyd Blankfein support marriage equality.

    BTW, I voted for Jill Stein but would have voted for Obama if I lived in a swing state.  I consider that choice little more than extortion.  Free Bradley Manning. 

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  3. Samuel Bell

    Can we all agree that Gina is to blame for the very poor performance of our pension fund?  She only got a shockingly low 1.4% return.

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    1. Rhody Towny

      We would have done better if she just went to and bought t-bills or bonds.  

      Actually, the whole state would have done better if we followed that advice from the get-go. 

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      1. Samuel Bell

        Agreed!  Or why not Rhode Island bonds, which have slightly higher interest rates.  That would have the added benefit of driving down our borrowing costs. 

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      2. Sully

        This isn’t birthday money that is being invested, its a $7.5 billion funds with diverse investments. There is also a 10 member investment committee, which the general treasurer is the chair of, that decides what institution manages the funds, Raimondo doesn’t actually picks the long term investments.  

        The fund already invests about 20% of its assets in fixed income, which included things like municipal bonds and t-bills. Maybe she would have done an fraction of a percent better buying 10 year t-bills, but everything less than are selling at less than 1%, including a practical 0% return for 1 months notes. Perhaps she could have doubled the returns by using all of the the funds’ assets to buy $7.5 billion worth of 30 year notes which are selling at 3%, but we would then have to lower the expected rate of return down to 3%, which would make the unfunded liability explode. Also, there funds would just barely keep up with inflation. 

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    2. DogDiesel
  4. DogDiesel

    This is just another example of union retaliation plain and simple. It has nothing to do with her being a progressive and they certainly don’t care to hear her platform. Where was Pat and Rhody Town back in November when Fox and Paiva-Weed breezed through their respective elections unscathed. They’re the ones that introduced this legislation. Ironic they’re accusing Raimondo of attacking, bullying, fist pumping, and lying. It’s just more union lies and bullying. If they want to picket her fundraisers and scream from the hills, then it will only make her more appealing to everyone else. 

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    1. Rhody Towny


      I’m just a lowly student. I’m not in any union.  And frankly, I don’t like the Fox connection to EngageRI either.  I don’t know what, if any, connection Paiva Weed has.  Perhaps you could enlighten me.

      But I really don’t like Citizen’s United and the dark money groups.

      And there really is a billionaire somewhere in Texas who’s out to affect change in Rhode Island law.

      If you think that’s a-ok, then good for you.

      But I reserve the right to strongly disagree. 

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  5. Pat Crowley

    Obama has been HORRIBLE on union issues. Radically so in some cases.  Arne Duncan has set education back in this country decades. His support for the firing of the CF teachers was unconscionable.  Race to the Top is one of the worse things to happen to education since No Child Left Behind.  I think his embracing of corporate education reform is a reason I would not consider him a progressive and is a real reason why a unified progressive movement cannot launch in this country.

    I truly hope a second term changes course.    

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  6. leftyrite

    People have gotten accustomed to disgrace. Benumbed.

    Therefore, to some, the Enron scandal was just a blip on the radar screen.

    And, besides, John D. Arnold was not prosecuted.

    Does that mean that he was not involved?

    Did he go to work most days?

    Did he take money and bonuses out of the company?

    Did Enron, when it finally went down, take multi-billions of public pension money with it?

    Did it pretty much bankrupt its own privately pensioned employees?

    Was Arnold interfering with California public pensions, even as another wing of his company fraudulently created rolling electrical blackouts and brownouts in order to make billions?

    Does John Arnold produce wealth or does he merely make bets in order to benefit, primarily, himself?

    The answers are researchable, but most of them are obvious–and disgusting.

    Eighty thousand million dollars, conservatively rounded off, I’m sure, is too much money to just go up in smoke. That’s what Enron cost the economy and the regular people who worked for it. 

    All too many financial criminals just walked away–some with bonus money.

    Russ Conway, straighten somebody else out.

    We now know that Gina Raimondo is a good mom, a rising star politician, and a person who takes filthy money from even filthier billionaire gamblers, in her job as state treasurer. 

    Anyone who has some shred of ethics and morals knows that she is disgracing herself, her job, the pensioners and active public workers of Rhode Island, and the state itself.

    Progressive? Hell no.



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  7. Aaron Regunberg

    Russ, I’m not sure I understand your argument that “there are other Democrats who do things that suck, so progressives in RI should like Raimondo.”

    Rahm Emanuel is actually very similar to Raimondo, it would seem to me–socially liberal, but highly conservative on labor and economic issues. He sucks. I’d do anything in my power to keep him from being RI’s Governor. Why should the same not apply to Raimondo? (And by the way, I feel the same way about Obama as Pat does–but, to be fair, that comparison doesn’t work either; it’s a lot easier to be a progressive statewide official in deep-blue RI than a nationwide official).


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    1. DogDiesel

      Well, you all still liked David Cicilline so why not?

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  8. Craig OConnor

    Let us please not forget to blame the Democratic leadership of the General assembly for enacting Raimondo’s travesty. we can blame her all we want, but Gordon fox (the fake progressive if ever there was one one) and Paiva-Weed are to blame. they made it happen, just like they let 38 studios happen, just like they let kids get cut off RIte Care, just like they supported tax cuts for the rich elite, just like they sided with predatory payday loan vultures over working people, just like they mutilated funding for higher education, just like they…you get the point.
    It is time for progressives to actually hold accountable the two people who have done the damage, with Raimondo and the rest as accomplices.

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  9. Jonathan Jacobs

    I agree insofar that Ms. Raimaondo is not solely to blame. However I see her as the most outspoken and ambitious member of the pension reform team and is doing her best to bully this through by any means necessary in order to further her political career. She has embraced the role of spokesmodel for pension reform. Chafee, Fox, Paiva-Weed, DaPonte and a number of other GA members are equally as guilty of acceptance of less than forthright tactics in order to disenfranchise those with contractual retirement entitlements at the in exchange for the support of the RI masses who have clung to their last place aversion mentality due to poor economic circumstances caused mostly by those same Wall Street investors with whom Gina shares her bed.

    Comparing Obama to Raimondo is like comparing the little league pitcher for East Greenwich’s All Star Team to Josh Beckett. Bad argument. Bad.

    I think one of the reasons the backlash against Raimondo is so impassioned is for just the reasons laid out in previous responses. Progressives do not, once again, want to be fooled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We want real reform on tax equity, pension-moral obligation, union ressurection and rebirth of Rhode Island’s middle class.

    And what the heck does Rahm Emannuel have to do with anything when it comes to RI pension reform and Gina Raimondo? I can’t remember ever having the opportunity to vote for or against that man. Perhaps you would like to blame Obama’s re-election on ACORN as well.

    As a fighter one is taught that, when assaulted by multiple assailants, take down the strongest one first and the rest will be wary to even continue the fight. Raimondo, with her outspoken ambitious nature and actions is the strongest assailant right now and progressives will fight her in order to make an example of the leader of this pack. We’ve already turned our back on the spineless Governor. He’s not even worth it.     

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  10. simon846

    What concerns me is that she constantly repeated how important it was to her to have a process that was inclusive of all with a stake in pension reform, yet when the consultant actuaries were brought to tell their story, no one was able to question or challenge any of the assumptions used in the model she approved.

    For example, survival curves for different classifications of state employees would show that not everyone is living as long as some suggest.  Solutions that force blue collar workers of low education and less privileged backgrounds to retire at a later age only looks fair if one assumes they will live as long as Gina. 

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    1. DogDiesel

      Just curious but did the unions hire any actuaries? I don’t recall any testifying. 

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  11. simon846

    I do not believe the unions hired their own until recently. You would have to get that from Mr. Walsh or someone at the Local 93.

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  12. Pat Crowley

    Indeed one was hired.  And testified.


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  13. simon846

    Looks like there were three assumptions tested, survival of state employee, re-amortization of pension liability, and performance projections. Hard to tell whether these were addressed in the drafting of the original legislation or whether the union consultants were outlining their case for the courts that there were other more reasonable options that could have made less draconian changes in the pensions for state workers. Thanks for sharing, I must have missed this when i canceled my subscription to the ProJO.

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