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Travis Rowley: Democrats Want to Return to Failed Policies of the Past

Saturday, March 17, 2012


In an attempt to socialize the burden of high local property taxes, progressive Democrats are currently proposing an increase to the income tax rate for Rhode Islanders who may take home over $250,000 in a given year. Proponents of this tax hike claim that it would “recover $188 million in revenue,” and would “help lower and middle-income Rhode Islanders” by increasing the “funding to struggling cities and towns” – which would “lower property taxes on hard-working, less-fortunate Rhode Islanders.”

Supporting the efforts of Rep. Scott Guthrie (D), Rep. Maria Cimini (D), and Sen. Joshua Miller (D) is Jeffrey Thompson of the Political Economy Research Institute, who argues, “Wealthy households have reaped vast benefits from state and federal tax codes for decades now, and to look to them now for much-needed revenue is sound policy.” And Democratic Mayor of Pawtucket Don Grebien states, “We can’t keep strangling lower and middle-income Rhode Islanders with more and more property taxes while we continue to give tax breaks to those who need them the least.”

Democrats never learn. They still want to force Rhode Islanders to pay other people’s property taxes.

How We Got Here

Progressives remain under the delusion that Rhode Island’s high property taxes were suddenly caused by simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy and cutting state aid for cities and towns. But even when the state was savaging its wealthiest citizens with a 9.9% income tax, the state’s property taxes were among the highest in the country. In fact, it was many years ago that the General Assembly felt compelled to enact the state property-tax cap.

At the outset of former Republican Governor Don Carcieri’s first term it had already become evident that years of Democratic policies – including a heavy progressive income tax – had taken their toll on Rhode Island. Workers were suffering from a horrid business environment that extended statewide. Even with an income tax rate of 9.9% being imposed on the “wealthy,” tax revenues were plummeting while government expenditures were rising. One-time gimmicks were being used to balance the state budget. Former House Speaker Bill Murphy (D) was once forced to admit, “Over several of our budgets, it seems that we’ve been able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.” And Governing Magazine would soon report that “auditors haven’t issued Rhode Island’s financial reports a clean bill of health in more than 30 years.”

The progressive course was no longer sustainable. The jig was up. Among other things, the state’s anti-business tax code had to go. With Connecticut and Massachusetts offering significantly lower rates, even the Democratic leadership realized that an income tax cut would have to be the first baby-step toward a better Rhode Island.

Continuing to be challenged with annual budget shortfalls while attempting to become more competitive with neighboring states, “state aid to cities and towns” – one of the largest items in the state budget – would naturally be considered for cuts. And when state aid finally did land on the chopping blocks, Carcieri responsibly asked the Democratic General Assembly to free cities and towns of the unfunded mandates that had always endangered their own financial condition.

Time and time again, Carcieri insisted that municipalities be given the “tools” and “flexibility” they needed to balance their own budgets. The state was tightening its belt. Carcieri thought the cities and towns should be allowed to do the same.

Democrats resisted. And municipalities were forced to raise your property taxes.

It's time for every concerned citizen to investigate exactly why Smith Hill Democrats refuse to allow municipalities to govern themselves. The corrupt union autocracy they'd discover would be more than enough to offend even the most politically detached Rhode Islander.

Why Can’t Progressives Learn?

Progressives are fond of ridiculing the incremental tax cuts that began in 2006 by pointing to Rhode Island’s sluggish economy. United Food and Commercial Workers Secretary/Treasurer Jim Riley said, “When the General Assembly enacted the alternative flat tax option in 2006, they said it was going to help create jobs and stimulate our economy…But where are the jobs? Six years later, unemployment is still high, important services have been slashed and property taxes are disproportionately hurting lower and middle class Rhode Islanders. And the wealthy got wealthier. This tax policy has been a miserable failure for the vast majority of hard-working Rhode Islanders. It’s time to try a new direction.”

Of course, by “new direction,” Riley really means “old direction.” To steal a Democratic phrase, progressives want to “return to the failed policies of the past.” And they want to do so by sucking another $118 million out of Rhode Island’s private sector – a surefire method of further destroying the state’s business climate.

Leaving aside Riley’s convenient omission of a deep recession spawned by reckless housing policy, Riley’s irreverence for relief for Rhode Islanders who were being unduly over-taxed for years perfectly demonstrates Democrats’ tyrannical temperament and their lack of economic imagination. If Democrats aren’t taking other people’s money in order to spend it how they see fit, they can’t fathom a scenario where the rightful owners of that wealth would do anything that might be of any societal or economic benefit – like, say, start a business.

What makes Democrats so certain that, without the 2006 income tax cuts, Rhode Island’s economy wouldn’t have eroded even faster than it did? Don’t they know that states with much more conservative tax codes are faring much better than Rhode Island?

If Democrats can’t see it – if Democrats can’t control it – then Democrats don’t trust it. The “tax and spend” process is something tangible that progressives can witness, manage, and manipulate. But the free market, well, that’s just too much freedom for the peasants to handle.

Rhode Island is dealing with an entire party of simple-minded elitists armed with a naïve faith in themselves to run your life better than you can.

And they’re going to go get someone else’s money to help them do it.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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The money quote and it doesn't just apply to Rhode Island. Just look at the elitist in the White House:

"If Democrats can’t see it – if Democrats can’t control it – then Democrats don’t trust it. The “tax and spend” process is something tangible that progressives can witness, manage, and manipulate. But the free market, well, that’s just too much freedom for the peasants to handle.

Rhode Island is dealing with an entire party of simple-minded elitists armed with a naïve faith in themselves to run your life better than you can."

Comment #1 by Common Sense RI on 2012 03 17

Ultimately, the problem with progressive Democrats is there is no limiting principle to their spending philosophy. They never spend enough money; consequently, their need for more money is insatiable. There is always another program to start or fund requiring the patronage hiring of still more government employees. No need for auditing or efficacy because they are spending other people's money, not their own. And the majority of RI voters fall for it because they are bribed with their own money! Eventually, however, like Thatcher once said, you run out of other people's money. There is a point of diminishing returns. Despite increases in taxes and fees, less money is collected because people find a way to circumvent high taxes and fees - they move, change their behaviors, or cheat. That is where we are today. The mere half of the populace that pays any taxes at all are sick and tired of the waste, fraud, and spending without limits.

Comment #2 by Christopher Lee on 2012 03 17

just keep voting democrat and the state will keep going inthe same direction it has the last 40 years,

Comment #3 by john paycheck on 2012 03 17

My weekend comic relief !!!

Comment #4 by Daniel Dupuis on 2012 03 17

Failed policies, Remember the Great Depression.
How long will the GOP pull the wool over voters eyes.

Comment #5 by Real Clear on 2012 03 18

The Great Depression? The Great Depression was in part caused by protectionist trade legislation enacted by Republicans back then but like the kind that Democrat unionists support today. FDR and his free spending policies did NOTHING to solve the Great Depression. His policies actually prolonged it. World War II brought an end to the Depression. So before you spout cliches educate yourself on history and economics first.

Comment #6 by Common Sense RI on 2012 03 18

Why bother educationg onself when one can live happy and deluded? Just pull the 'D" lever and let the mana flow....for a while,anyway. Real is why Dems control this state...

Comment #7 by Mike Govern on 2012 03 20


where were we in 1999?
where are we now?

Its obvious now the Bush tax cuts only served to make the rich richer and create a deficit

but what most of you seem to have forgotten is our general assembly drank the same kool aid our congress did then

they have been cutting taxes for the rich substantialy EVERY year since

AND the amount the state has not received from this policy every year is almost exactly the amount the deficit has been in this state every year

Dems vs GOP?!
that argument is just a distraction
there is absolutely no quality control by the Dem party in this state, most Dems are right wing, and they are the ones in this state who instituted this failed policy

Comment #8 by Joe Shmoe on 2012 03 24

Joe--thanks for the fact-free opinion. Dems in RI are right wing? Seriously. Laughed so hard I think I hurt myself...

Comment #9 by Mike Govern on 2012 03 24

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