Commentary

The unrelenting drumbeat of cynicism about public service seems permanent. Call it "dysfunction," or a "culture of corruption"; it's a widely held view of Albany. It's not true. There is corruption and there is ineptitude and there is manipulation. But the statewide electeds, and the Legislature, are by and large peopled who honestly try to do their best.

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, East Egg represents inherited wealth and privilege, while West Egg represents wealth earned through innovation and hard work, a distinction at the core of the American ideal. We have always embraced a dynamic capitalism, marked not by stasis but rather “creative destruction,” lionizing trust-busters as heroes of competition.

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Thomas Piketty’s wildly popular new book, “Capital in the 21st Century,” has been subject to more think pieces than the final episode of “Breaking Bad.” Progressives are celebrating the book — a

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I've joined the widening group of those fascinated with the scandal surrounding New York Yankee pitcher Miguel Pineda's use of pine tar to get a grip on things. I'm not sure why; it's a demonstrably trivial incident. But I suspect it's an insight into how we treat important things as well, and it certainly has captured public attention.

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The digital economy has given us new ways to be both part time entrepreneurs and consumers, in what enthusiasts call the Share Economy. Have a spare room? You can rent it out to strangers via Airbnb.com -- or use Airbnb to find cheap lodging. You'll meet fascinating new friends, and most likely nothing bad will happen.

Do you need a taxi? Use Uber or Lyft to hail a passing driver and catch a ride for less than the cost of a cab. Or supplement your income by becoming that driver.

For more than 30 years, the right has been throwing long passes. The Democrats, with some fine individual exceptions in the Senate and House, have been playing an incremental game, eking out gains of a few yards at a time and often being thrown for big losses.

Guess which side has been winning.

Four decades ago, supply side economics was a joke. The idea that cutting taxes on the very rich was the key to prosperity had been laughed out of the debate as "trickle down economics." Now low taxes on the rich -- even the dead rich -- are national policy.

Some people are grousing about how most of Rhode Island doesn’t get to vote for the House speaker, though he’s considered the state’s most powerful politician.

But lawmakers elect their leaders in Congress and other state legislatures. So there’s nothing unusual about the fact that new Democratic House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello now wields more power than if he were simply representing part of Cranston.

Our political class is feuding about whether Rep. Paul Ryan is a racist. Rather than fearing that this donnybrook degrades political discourse, we should welcome it.

Ryan sparked the controversy when he blamed poverty on “a tailspin of culture” in our “inner cities,” while  invoking for support Charles Murray, notorious for postulating the genetic inferiority of blacks. Within hours, Rep. Barbara Lee rebuked Ryan for launching “a thinly veiled racial attack.”

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New York is on the cusp of adopting a campaign finance reform that would amplify small donations with matching funds, reducing the power of big special interest money over the state's politics. It would also allow New Yorkers to claim the mantle of the first state to take back their democracy in the era of Citizens United and unprecedented campaign spending.

But adopting Fair Elections would accomplish something else badly needed in our democracy: more diverse representation in our political leadership.

While attention focuses on Paul Ryan’s remarks about inner city culture, another dog-whistle theme continues its slow roil: food stamp abuse. More even than Ryan’s twisting narrative, the brouhaha around food stamps helps make clear that conservatives seek to conjure a much bigger bogeyman than “lazy” minorities.

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