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Travis Rowley: The Rhode Island Left: Clamoring For Absolution

Saturday, July 13, 2013


After the Democratic General Assembly passed an annual budget several weeks ago that failed to enact any significant transformation to the State’s economic structure and strategy (despite promises to do so), this writer told Rhode Islanders to “prepare themselves for more reports and studies that show their state still lagging far behind the others in terms of crucial economic measurements.”

Sure enough, this week we heard of a “new state-by-state study conducted by the Reason Foundation [that] found that only Alaska's roads are worse than Rhode Island's.” And CNBC’s annual “Top States For Business” report placed Rhode Island at the #49 spot – a report in which “thirteen of the top 14 best states for business and economic competitiveness are led by Republican governors” and five of the bottom six are led by Democratic governors.

WPRI reporter Ted Nesi carefully broke down the CNBC rankings, drawing conclusions such as this: “Basically, in the areas where Rhode Island is good it’s not that good – but in the areas where Rhode Island is bad it’s really bad (at least if you trust CNBC’s methodology).”

Comparing Rhode Island to Minnesota, a “blue state” with a high “quality of life” ranking, Nesi asked, “If the General Assembly’s Democrats are ideologically committed to Minnesota-level costs, what did they do during this year’s legislative session to make sure they achieve Minnesota-level quality, too?”

Bob Plain, editor of the far-left news blog RIFuture.org, had a similar quandary: “There is one thing that troubles me about this ranking every year, and that’s that Rhode Island doesn’t do better in quality of life. This year we came in at 20” (good, but not that good, as Nesi explained).

I’m just guessing, but perhaps the conditions of the State’s roads and bridges contribute to such a mediocre ranking. Even all the bike-riding liberals must be pretty frustrated by now.

Or maybe it has something to do with Rhode Island being one of the highest taxed states in the country, with one of the highest “costs of living,” yet somehow has some of the most underfunded public pension systems in the country and some of the worst-performing public schools.

Capitalism and Quality

Without a doubt, Ocean State progressives are having a difficult time reconciling the State’s decrepitude with blue state policies.

Rather than admit to the failures of progressive government and leftist ideology as a whole, Plain instead makes lame excuses for Rhode Island’s stubborn deficiencies. “Simply because of our small size and lack of abundant natural resources,” Plain contends, “we’re never going to beat South Dakota or Texas at attracting miserly CEOs.”

Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that “CEOs” view Rhode Island as a place overrun by too many bigoted socialists – people who champion a 9% corporate tax rate, who are on a relentless crusade to increase income tax rates on high-income earners, and who publicly denounce successful entrepreneurs and businessmen as “miserly.”

I don’t know. Just spit-ballin’ here.

Plain goes on to actually find a way to celebrate Rhode Island’s lackluster business environment – referring to the CNBC study as the “annual ranking of states I’m glad I don’t live in.”

“Point being,” Plain argues, “we don’t have a lot in common with the states that do well in this study” – the top 5 being South Dakota, Texas, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Utah. These are states that Plain “would not want to relocate a business no matter how much you paid me.”

Plain has now convinced himself that Rhode Island doesn’t even have the capability to establish an enviable private sector. Nor is it desirable if that means – plug your nose for a second – becoming more like Utah!

Plain now maintains that Rhode Island only has “the potential to have the highest quality of life in the nation” and that’s “where the Ocean State should be focusing its attention.” Of course, this is something that a left-wing ideologue can’t imagine would actually go hand-in-hand with a thriving business environment.

Yeah, I mean, history is quite clear: There’s simply no correlation between free-market capitalism and people’s standard of living.

The Collapse

As pathetic as it is to pretend that Rhode Island lacks its own natural economic advantages, Plain still raises an interesting point while doing so.

Putting aside the insult this leading progressive hurls at five beautiful states that millions of people call home, let’s presume that what Plain observes is true, that – for the most part – “coastal” areas and places with “a vibrant tourist sector” live at the bottom of CNBC’s ranking, while also being more desirable places to live. Plain asks, “Is this an anomaly or is tourism secretly bad for business? Or does CNBC just not accurately factor tourism into their rankings?”

Under Plain’s own assumptions and prejudices, rather than decide that CNBC failed to “accurately factor tourism into their rankings,” isn’t it more reasonable to conclude that governments that preside over the most spectacular parts of the country are simply more able to get away with devastating their business sectors because the population is likely to be more drunk and distracted by the natural landscape – understandably more tolerant, patient, and probably oblivious to the missteps of their elected leaders?

Tourism isn’t bad for business. It’s just not enough. No single industry makes an economy.

Wouldn’t this be a sensible explanation to Plain’s observation? And couldn’t this be what happened to Rhode Island?

In my estimation, beautiful Rhode Island provides proof that – even in places that Bob Plain considers to be getting gipped on “quality of life” rankings – the day of reckoning ultimately arrives for any region that continuously doubles-down on progressive policies. Counter-intuitively, depriving the state of funding and bureaucratic power is not what overwhelms the public sector. Rather, enriching the state eventually impoverishes the state.

A large and powerful public sector, in the end, devours itself. The public roadways begin to crumble.

This is Rhode Island’s lesson: No amount of environmental beauty can withstand the Left’s steady stream of economic pollution forever.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island left.


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