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What do 38 Studios and pension reform have in common?

This morning, I taped an appearance on WPRI-TV's "Newsmakers" to discuss my recent cover story calling out the biggest problem in Rhode Island public life circa 2012: amateurism.

The story, among other things, suggested that the part-time General Assembly is ill-equipped to vet the big - and sometimes bad - ideas foisted upon it.

On "Newsmakers," I noted that a political observer I'd spoken with suggested that the disastrous 38 Studios deal - the state's $75 million loan guarantee for an unproven video game company that ultimately went bankrupt - and Treasurer Gina Raimondo's push for landmark pension reform were two sides of the same coin.

In both cases, a figure of significant star power - former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling headed 38 Studios and Raimondo had emerged as an extremely popular figure - was able to push a momentous proposal through a legislature without much pushback.

Of course, the two cases are different in vital respects. One can make a much better argument for the virtues of pension reform than the 38 Studios deal.

And pension reform is not a perfect case study in a legislature unable to vet big ideas. The General Assembly's fiscal staff, which reviewed the plan, is pretty well regarded; it's the non-fiscal staff that's most in need of improvement.

But I think there's some value, on a macro level, in the comparison. In both cases, the bulk of a relatively ill-informed rank-and-file went along for the ride. And the state can do better.

Here's the video from "Newsmakers." I'm on starting at 14:30. 

 

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