Providence is #10 (Most Miserable City)

So sayeth Forbes:

Misery is defined as a state of great unhappiness and emotional distress. The economic indicator most often used to measure misery is the Misery Index. The index, created by economist Arthur Okun, adds the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. It has been in the narrow 7-to-9 range for most of the past decade, but was over 20 during the late 1970s.
There also exists a Misery Score, which is the sum of corporate, personal, employer and sales taxes in different countries. France took the top spot (or perhaps bottom is more appropriate) with a score of 166.8, thanks to a top rate of 51% on personal incomes and 45% for employer Social Security.
But aren’t there other things that cause Americans misery? Of course. So we decided to expand on the Misery Index and the Misery Score to create our very own Forbes Misery Measure. We’re sticking with unemployment and personal tax rates, but we are adding four more factors that can make people miserable: commute times, weather, crime and that toxic waste dump in your backyard.
We looked at only the 150 largest metropolitan areas, which meant a minimum population of 371,000. We ranked the cities on the six criteria above and added their ranks together to establish what we call the Misery Measure. The data used in the rankings came from Portland, Ore., researcher Bert Sperling, who last year published the second edition of Cities Ranked & Rated along with Peter Sander. Economic research firm Economy.com, which is owned by Moody’s, also supplied some data.

Here is the top Ten:

  1. Detroit, MI
  2. Stockton, CA
  3. Flint, MI
  4. New York, NY
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. Modesto, CA
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Providence, RI

Perception is reality, folks. Here’s what they say about Providence:

No. 10
Providence, R.I.
Rank
Commute times 69
Income tax rates 149
Superfund sites 111
Unemployment 121
Violent crimes 51
Weather 110
Misery Measure 611
Only New York City fares worst than Providence when it comes to income tax rates. The top rate for all of Rhode Island is 9.9%. Residents are fleeing the area, with a net migration of 20,000 out of the area over the past four years.

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Mike
Mike
13 years ago

“Only New York City fares worst than Providence when it comes to income tax rates.”
XXX
Well that part is WRONG. Both Modesto and LA as well as Stockton have a 10.3% income tax as they are in California, the “gold medal”- we are only the silver-though that may change soon.
All in all, it is no surprise to see Providence metro ranked right along with those other progressive run, third world infested sewers like NYC, Chicago, LA, Modesto, Flint, Philly and the king-Deeeeeee-troit. The real RI Future.

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

Upon re-checking the figures, while California has the “gold medal” for incomes over $1 million, RI has the “honor” of that job stifling title for incomes between $336K and $1 million. So the Forbes figures are right. Congratualtions progressives!!!

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

Take a bow, GOP governor and Democratid leadership.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Yup, the Constitutionally powerless, impotent, pointless governor is to blame.
Every once in a while, Rhody, you remind my why I’ve mentally placed you in the “Idiot liberal” category.

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

Greg, I will make an urgent, respectful appeal on your behalf to the governor to reconsider his funding cuts for state-provided mental health services. Sounds like the budget cuts will hurt you more than I.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

It wouldn’t matter, Rhody. He submits a budget and the GA ignores it. Every year. Always.
PAY ATTENTION.

George
George
13 years ago

Gents, this is more specifically about Providence. So shouldn’t we be bashing Cicilline? Go ahead Rhody, you go first.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
13 years ago

Can I go first??
I know Cicilline’s plan to deal with Providence – that would be – run for governor. What a clown!

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

I find the Cicclline bashing ironic, given his long feud with Providence firefighters.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Yeah, we should support the raving communist because he hates firefighters. Makes sense to me.

Monique
13 years ago

“given his long feud with Providence firefighters.”
This is one of my pet peeves with Mayor Cicilline.
A while ago, the Providence budget was put under heavy guard at Fort Knox with a shoot on sight order for taxpayers who try to approach, never mind review it. So I cannot produce a link to it.
But the last time I saw a copy of the budget (and stupidly did not bookmark it), as I recall, the combined police and fire portion was 19% while the school portion was 58%. The School Committee, responsible for negotiating contracts, is appointed by the Mayor. Nothing has been done by the Mayor or his School Committee to hold the line on the school budget – 58% of the budget – while he has had this “feud” with the fire dept – less than 19% of the budget.
He may well be doing the right thing by trying to re-negotiate the fire contract. But he needs to do the same thing with the school budget. Not only is it not enough that he ignores the school budget, it looks like he is bullying the smaller group of city employees in order to falsely create the illusion that he is holding the line on taxes.
And then – the icing on the cake – he goes crying to the state for more and more local aid to make up the shortfall he created.
Sorry, not buying it. The only responsible course of action is to ask everyone to participate in budget stabilizing measures.

michael
michael
13 years ago

It is my opinion that Cicilini holds no grudge with the firefighters. He just doesn’t care. Somebody had to be the token sacrifice to the “stand up to the unions” crowd, who better then the firefighters. His then chief of staff, Simmons has a long, ugly history with the firefighters, starting with Mayor Paolino. We had no current contract, thus allowing the mayor to manipulate the press into a demented David vs. Goliath slant.
There is plenty of room for savings in our contract, we are and have been ready, willing and able to negotiate. Cicilini is getting better mileage keeping this thing going.

Pragmatist
Pragmatist
13 years ago

This is one of the silliest rankings I have ever seen. When New York, LA, and Chicago are listed as “miserable” cities, you really don’t need to read much more about it. What did Twain say about statistics?

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

I don’t know, Monique….
I found the budget pretty easy to find. Go to http://www.providenceri.com, choose “Finance” from the department menu, and click on the link to the approved budget for the current fiscal year.
Is there reason to think that the proportion of the Providence budget devoted to education is greater than that for similar cities, or that the ratio of education to fire is greater than that for similar cities? It’s a serious question….I’d like to see that evidence if it exists.
As for “crying to the state for more and more local aid”, I posted here a couple of weeks ago, in response to a post by Andrew, suggesting that Providence’s contribution to state revenue is at least equal, and likely larger than, what it gets from the state. I think it’s just as likely that Providence is subsidizing the suburban and rural districts than the revers. Andrew said he’d respond, but he hasn’t. I’d still like to hear the response.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

Oh yeah, and dittos to Pragmatist. Providence has its flaws, like most urban areas, but I love it.
I’ve lived in two of the other ten of Forbes’ “worst” cities: Chicago and Philly. Both are marvelous, fun, and exciting places to live.
I give Forbes a D- for their rankings.

Monique
13 years ago

Thank you, Thomas. This time, I bookmarked it.
My point was not the ratio of the school budget. Or actually, it is, in a different way.
Total 2007/2008 salaries for the Fire Dept:
$24,606,919
Total 2007/2008 salaries for the School Dept:
$191,806,256
Another issue is that as the School Budget is so much larger, small cost savings in that dept would have a much bigger impact on the overall budget problem than cost savings in a smaller dept. For example, one percent saved in the category of Fire Dept salaries would equate to $246,000. One percent saved in the category of School Dept salaries would equate to $1,918,000.
Of course, it is necessary to look to the entire budget for stabilization, not either/or of these. The Mayor has chosen instead to focus on only a small portion of the budget and, seemingly, as much for p.r. purposes as anything. It is irresponsible and dishonest of him to do so.
http://providenceri.com/finance/docs/Approved_Budget_2008.pdf
http://www.providenceschools.org/dept/fin/files/391952F698444B8381BFED31B8409CDE.pdf

Andrew
13 years ago

According to data compiled by the state, Providence is on the lower end of what it spends on education, in the 50% range.
Here’s the raw data. (Note: I don’t think the chart includes charges for towns with separate fire-districts).
But then again who really needs education or fire protection. The important thing is that we divert as much state tax revenue as we can to Providence, so the city government can pay people like John Simmons lifetime salaries for 10 years of service, because without those kinds of spending practices, no place in Rhode Island will be able to become a place worth living in.
And I haven’t forgotten that I owe you an answer, Thomas…

Andrew
13 years ago

I’ll try again.
Here’s the raw data, with a properly formatted link.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

Andrew,
My earlier comment about the cost to the state of Providence schools, relative to Providence’s contribution to the state economy, was made in a good faith hope for a serious debate. I have had some respect for the seriousness of your posts here, so I’ll look forward to your response and ignore the gratuitous remark about Simmons.
Meanwhile, here’s a bit more to add to my previous comment. The 2000 census report on commuters gives the following results:
Of 110,615 jobs in Providence, 33,938 were held by Providence residents, but 66,510 were held by R.I. residents from outside Providence. (The other 10,167 were held by out-of-state residents). In eight of the state’s 39 towns outside of Providence, more residents worked in Providence than any other town, including the worker’s home town.
Of Providence’s 67,169 working residents, 25,551 worked in RI towns outside of Providence. After subtracting these out-commuters from the in-commuters, Providence provided a net 40,959 jobs to non-Providence Rhode Islanders in 2000.
At an average 2006 salary of $45,434 for Providence jobs, Providence would have provided a net outflow of $1,860,931,206 to residents of other towns.
As I said earlier, It is only possible to say that the suburbs are subsidizing Providence by looking solely at the expense side of the equation and ignoring the income side. If critics want to insist that fairness requires not transferring money from one community to another, then what is really unfair is that people who derive their income from Providence’s robust economy use that money to pay property taxes to finance their suburb’s schools, and then say “isn’t it terrible that those Providence people want our money to educate their children. This money belongs in Barrington (or E. Greenwich or whatever).”

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

I don’t get why deriving one’s income from Providence has anything to do with having the town the employee lives in subsidize our capitiol city. For one thing Providence’s businesses need the workforce as much as the workforce needs an employer, so that’s a wash. They both need the other. How can it be claimed that one party still owes the other something that hasn’t been addresses by their voluntary agreement to enter into the employer/employee relationship? It’s even more of a stretch, then, to claim that the city where one of the parties is located owes something to other. Though if there is any argument to be rationally made if would have to be, since the cost of educating public school children far outpaces any other government cost, that any subsidizing going on between these two groups should be going to the town that, as a result of this employment arrangement, possesses the bigger burden of the education costs incurred. That would be the town where the employee lives, not the town that the employee works in, since it is the only the employee who could potentially place children in the school system.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

Frank, You say, I don’t get why deriving one’s income from Providence has anything to do with having the town the employee lives in subsidize our capitiol city. The anti-Providence argument frequently seen here goes something like this: 1) Providence gets more per student in income-tax-produced state aid than do suburban and rural districts 2)When income tax receipts from suburban/rural citizens are used to fund Providence schools, those towns are “subsidizing” Providence education 3)This is unfair to those towns because each town somehow “owns” the state income tax dollars of its residents and they should not be used for the children of other towns. If you read my earlier comment (if not, I’ll ask that you do) you’ll know that I believe the way of thinking that pits “my town” against “your town” is mistaken. However, if we must play that game, we should ask not only where the tax dollars go, but also where they come from. When you do that, you’ll see that Providence provides a large net flow of income to the rest of the state….somewhere around $2B, which is roughly 10% of the total income of state residents. It strikes me as unreasonable for non-Providence residents to say “we’ll take this income from Providence (and use its services while there) back to our suburb, use it to pay our property taxes to fund our schools, but Providence schools must shift for themselves.” For one thing Providence’s businesses need the workforce as much as the workforce needs an employer…. Exactly! But, the anti-Providence crowd has been unwilling to recognize that that the workforce, and the state, needs Providence, or at least that the state benefits because Providence produces a large net outflow of money to them. That money gets used to pay property taxes in outlying towns… Read more »

Andrew
13 years ago

1. My comment John Simmons couldn’t be possibly any more on point with respect to the topic being discussed. The residents of Providence have every right to vote in a government that moves money away from things like education and fire and police protection to pay for luxury items like Simmons’ lifetime pension, or for a full-time statehouse lobbyist, which most other RI cities and towns manage to do without. But they don’t have a right to demand that their spending on their luxury items be subsidized by taking money from other communities.
2. I don’t believe in my town versus your town thinking. It is the mentality that cities and towns — and that governments in general — own their residents incomes that creates the problem mentality. That’s why I am a big proponent of cross-district choice within the public system.
3. Incentives do matter, which suggests that’s it’s a mistake to give a municipal governments of any size a large pool of money, taken from people who are not allowed any say in how that money is spent.
4. Take Providence out of the equation for a second. Pawtucket and Woonsocket don’t have municipal economies nearly the size of Providence, yet they receive almost as much state aid, per-pupil. West Warwick is close. Should they be slated for major aid cuts in your system?
5. Finally, one point of clarification: In your system where people are expected to pay municipal taxes based on where they work, everyone who works in Providence will be able to vote in Providence municipal elections, correct?

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

1. My comment John Simmons couldn’t be possibly any more on point with respect to the topic being discussed. The residents of Providence …. don’t have a right to demand that their spending on their luxury items be subsidized by taking money from other communities. The only way this could be relevant to this discussion is if in fact Providence is spending your money, i.e. that other communities are in fact subsidizing Providence. That, however, is precisely the point under debate. I disagree that they are. 3. Incentives do matter, which suggests that’s it’s a mistake to give a municipal governments of any size a large pool of money, taken from people who are not allowed any say in how that money is spent. I agree with you about incentives, but we are talking here about the use of state income tax receipts. Each voter in the state has exactly the same amount of say in how the funds are allocated across cities and towns. As to specific expenditures made by the towns, I don’t get a vote in how your town spends the money it receives either. Your argument is that Providence is spending your money, but that again assumes the issue under debate. My argument is that Providence is only spending your money (more than your town is spending Providence’s money) if Providence is consuming more state income tax receipts than it is producing. My evidence says it is not, though some towns are…possibly yours. With regard to education, as I pointed out before, Providence jobs generate roughly 27% of the state’s income and gets roughly 27% of the total aid to local schools. I just did the same thing with the 2006 total state aid to cities and towns. Providence’s share is 27.8%. My conclusion remains that… Read more »

Mike
12 years ago

A great resource – many thanks!

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