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Travis Rowley: RI’s Republican Revolution…Without the Republicans

Saturday, January 28, 2012


President Obama spent his first two years in office implementing a Democratically-craved, far-left agenda. This included a jobs-killing healthcare bill that over 1,200 politically connected companies have received waivers from, exempting them from participation; an intrusive and expensive financial regulatory measure referred to as Dodd-Frank; a wealth-squandering stimulus package stuffed with payouts to left-wing interests; cash for clunkers; the housing tax credit; union bailouts; state budget bailouts; auto bailouts.

As the Wall Street Journal reminded us this week, “For two years [Obama] had the largest Democratic majorities in Congress since the 1970s and achieved nearly everything he wanted…The only Obama priority [Congress] didn't pass was cap-and-trade, which was killed by Senate Democrats.”

With the economy still spiraling out of control in 2010 Americans elected scores of Republicans nationwide in an historic landmark election. This marked the largest seat change in the House of Representatives since 1948 and the largest seat change for a midterm election since 1938.

Yet, Democrats have been lambasting congressional Republicans lately for “obstructing” Democratic initiatives, refusing to acknowledge the possibility that the voters just might have sent Republicans back to Washington expressly for that purpose.

Furthermore, in spite of what Democratic rhetoric might suggest, Democrats don’t own Washington. Since January 2011, the Republican-controlled House has passed thirty bills intended to spur job creation, all of which have been snubbed by President Obama and Senate Democrats.

One might call that “obstruction.”

The fact of the matter is that Democrats know just how unpopular their policies are. So it was no surprise to see President Obama entirely ignore them during his State of the Union speech last week, deciding instead to suddenly champion tax breaks for manufacturing companies and lament costly regulatory burdens on American businesses – both Republican legislative traditions that Democrats could have initiated at the outset of Obama’s presidency.

Obama even managed to sound like an enemy of federal intervention, speaking sharply to the nation’s financial institutions: “The rest of us are not bailing you out ever again” and “No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.”

We see the recurring theme once again: It’s an election year. And, suddenly, everyone’s a conservative.

House Speaker Gordon Fox

We’ve witnessed the Democrats’ adoption of Republican policies in Rhode Island as well, albeit the Democrats’ maneuvering is less political than it is simply absolutely necessary here.

As it becomes more and more evident that decades of Democratic policies have delivered the Ocean State to the brink of economic collapse, we’ve seen Democrats curb welfare spending, shirk union calls for binding arbitration, and reject Governor Chafee’s proposal for drastic tax increases. Democrats recently sponsored Voter ID legislation, denied a gay marriage initiative, and – finally – overhauled the state’s diminishing and burdensome pension system.

Last week we even found out that several Democratic senators are sponsoring legislation that would – get this – reintroduce the death penalty in Rhode Island!

It’s almost as if Democrats finally stumbled upon the GOP’s website.

Last week on Channel 12 Newsmakers it was possible to mistake Speaker of the House Gordon Fox (D – Providence) for Sean Hannity. Fox told the panel of journalists, “Basically, I think government has to do its role of creating those conditions where businesses can thrive.”

Really, Speaker? You mean government’s role isn’t to spread the wealth around anymore? Well, surely we should pump more “stimulus money” into the state’s economy, right?

Not so fast. WPRI’s Ted Nesi asked Speaker Fox, “Maybe we should borrow 500 million dollars and repair a huge number of the bridges. I mean, so many construction workers [are] out of work.”

Fox responded, “You don’t want to make an artificial economy either. So you just want to take 500 million dollars and say okay we’ll make some short term jobs…[and] when that money is gone, therefore then those jobs are gone. That’s why my first premise is that…you have to change the long term conditions of Rhode Island. Rhode Island has historically been the first ones into recessions, we’ve been the last ones out of recessions.”


Okay, but the Democratic Speaker must be in favor of tax hikes on the rich, right?

TED NESI: “I’m hearing more and more that the proposal that’s gonna come forth from the left side of your caucus, and with the backing of the unions, is raising income taxes on Rhode Islanders who make more than 250 thousand dollars a year. Could you support that? Could you consider it?”

SPEAKER FOX“At this point, no…I’m open to discussing, seeing where it is, but I’m gonna have to see some real data, some real information on how that is not gonna further exacerbate our situation. Because if these are the decision makers who…[are] also creating jobs, adding jobs, and they’re doing something for the benefit of the state, I don’t want to just [say] you reach this line in your income and we whack you…People make decisions and this is a mobile society…People don’t stay in one place. The decision makers can choose to go anywhere in the United States. Especially with a little state like Rhode Island.”

TED NESI: “You’d never know you were a liberal Democrat from Providence [by] listening to you, Mr. Speaker.

FOX: “What does it mean to be a progressive? What does it mean to be a Democrat? These are different times. The economy has shifted this world. And I think we have to adapt to that. And I am talking things that, if you asked me ten years ago, I would never be saying what I’m saying.”

Hope remains in Rhode Island. Even Democrats can learn. It seems Republicans are winning the argument, just not the elections. This is Rhode Island’s Republican Revolution – without the Republicans.

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


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