Political Class in Rhode Island: Living in a Land of Make Believe

Commentary (amended 7/15) 

See TV discussion on WJAR-10

What are we to make of recent legislative sessions and of our state’s political leadership? After all the talk from the Executive and Legislative about economic development, and comparing that with the virtual inaction we all witnessed, I have reached my own fanciful conclusion:

the Political Class in Rhode Island is living in a “land of make believe”

landofmakebelieveThe rest of us, taxpayers and business owners, are left to deal with real life.

Where are the jobs and the plan for economic growth we were promised? Consider …

In the land of make believe, the fact that over 50,000 of us are out of work does not inspire a need for bold public policy reform. In reality, Rhode Island is in the midst a severe Death Spiral, as fewer and fewer people are calling our state home, and those that remain and forced to support an ever-increasing budget burden … only perpetuating the downward spiral.

In the land of make believe, simply talking about economic development suffices as progress, while in the real world, we saw no major policy changes that gets onerous tax and regulatory burdens off our backs.

In the land of make believe, preservation of the status-quo budget is the top priority. In the real world, it is indeed this failed budget that has caused the Ocean State to be ranked so poorly in so many categories.

In the land of make believe, the myriad window-dressing bills and re-shuffling of the deck gives cover for legislators to hail that they helped our state. In reality, the 2013 legislative session further weakened the competitiveness of our already last-place state.

In the land of make believe, our generous social services spending provides critical support to the needy. In reality, ranking number one in terms of redistribution of wealth policies, Rhode Island is the most anti-family, anti-jobs state in the entire nation, depriving the needy of the opportunity for upward mobility and the financial self-security that they really desire.

In the land of make believe, providing a municipality with a statutory hammer to bully its local University into making payments in lieu of taxes is simply helping each side get together to work things out. In the real world, the state has stuck its nose into a place that it doesn’t belong and has created an non-level playing field that will make Rhode Island even a less attractive place for other non-profits.

In the land of make believe, raising the minimum wages helps low-income workers earn a few more dollars. In real life, this deprives jobs to others, particularly youth and families in need of additional income.

In the land of make believe, levying tolls and raising fees are just harmless means of finding revenues to pay for pet spending programs. In the real world, each of these money grabs results in yet another disincentive to some kind of productive economic activity.

In the land of make believe, a little bloodletting here and there in the form of new taxes and fees is healthy because it pays for some perceived good. In the real world, Rhode Island is suffering death by a thousand cuts.

In the land of make believe, it is considered a win-win to pay people NOT to work, via an expanded TDI family leave program. In the real world, actual businesses, workers and families know that this is a lose-lose scenario, forcing even further costs and loss of productivity onto an already strained private sector.

In the land of make believe, unionizing daycare workers will improve the quality of care. In real Rhode Island, unions will siphon off more dues from more workers and will increase their political power in the state.

In the land of make believe, state and local government officials hide behind assumed rates of returns for defined benefit public employee pension funds that are significantly higher than those assumed in the real, private sector world.

In the land of make believe, Obamacare and state exchanges were to lower the cost of health insurance. In the real Rhode Island, rates will rise by 12%.

In the land of make believe, a special session of the General Assembly is warranted to address a critical pension issue with a politically sensitive class of workers. Conversely, the fact that real world, average, everyday would-be workers face one of worst employment outlooks in the nation is not a cause for action, or even apparent concern … should be of concern to all of us.

In the land of make believe, passing National Popular Vote now makes ‘every vote count’ for Rhode Islanders in presidential elections. In the real world, our esteemed Political Class has voted to reduce our state’s collective clout in electing our nation’s leader by over 57%!

In the land of make believe, tolerance is a catalyst for economic growth. In the real world of economics, tolerance is not a variable in any economic formula that I have ever studied.

In the land of make believe, the political class believes that it is their responsibility to right every perceived wrong. In the real world, the unintended consequences of their policies are strangling us: We are more than capable of fending for ourselves if government would just get out of the way!

In the land of make believe, big government, with all its insider deals, special interest favoritism, and cronyism provides valuable services to certain citizens and businesses. In reality, we simply want a government that works for all of us, including the average little guy, not just for the special few.

There is one area, however, where the make believe land of the political class overlaps with the real world.

In the land of make believe, public officials are fearless that they will ever be held accountable for their actions or, this year, for their inactions. And, sadly, it is also true that in the real world Ocean State voters are not likely to ever hold their elected officials accountable.

On second thought, maybe it is we, ourselves, who are living in a land of make believe; by daring to hope that our elected representatives will someday have the vision and courage to make our dream of an economic recovery a reality; or alternatively, that if legislators continue to fail in this regard, that we will apply some measure of chronic political unemployment to them.

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