I have seen a steady stream of words claiming that if Rhode Island would just do what the rich folks want us to do, everything would be okay. Rather than calling it doing the bidding of the 1% the think tanks give it a bit of a veneer and call it the business climate. Whatever you call it, the prescriptions called for by the propagandists for the ruling class are almost exactly the opposite of what Rhode Island needs to create prosperity. According to a variety of authors including the Business Curmudgeon and Kansas Inc, the Kansas state agency tasked with economic development, there is absolutely no evidence that undoing environmental regulations does anything useful for the economy, and cutting taxes has an effect so small that you probably would not notice. The Business Curmudgeon is very clear about how little value is generated by these reports
” In fact, we are reluctant to touch any state or city business climate studies–although we will. With very few exceptions, most should never be read. Period! Most rankings are little more than bullets fired at an enemy–and like all bullets, they should be dodged. Most indexes and rankings will decide for you what is valued in a business climate and toss out all the rest. … in the process the reader becomes cannon fodder in the polarization of America. If nobody read this stuff, it might eventually go away. – See more at: http://journal.c2er.org/2013/02/business-climate-revisited/#sthash.Tmn6uY6w.dpuf ”
On the other hand there is an abundance of evidence linking strong regulatory climates with healthier economies beginning with Stephen Meyers classic 1991 study. The innovation generated by the need to clean up, combined with efficiencies generated by not throwing things away, has had a huge positive effect on many bottom lines even before we discuss the economics of the health and well being benefits that strong regulations bring. A number of studies have shown that the various sections of the Clean Air Act provide economic benefits ranging from 4 to 1 to 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance in our communities.
Beyond bludgeoning us with the business climate, economic development efforts in Rhode Island are mostly misguided because they seek goals that do not match current conditions There is pretty good evidence that places like Rhode Island that saw their industrial development peaks more than 100 years ago, have sprawled away from urbanism, and have few natural resources that can be mined or drilled for have a long term drop in growth rates that are not amenable to reversal by business climate methodology. The more Rhode Island thrashes around for growth by giving the rich the tax cuts and loose wetland regulations they want, the less likely we are to achieve community prosperity.
Understanding the slow growth environment we find ourselves in, and understanding that in order to achieve prosperity iRhode Island will need to heal ecosystems, reduce economic inequality ( the literature on how rising inequality undermines economies is growing rapidly) , reduce our use of fossil fuels, adapt to climate change and dramatically improve our food security, one has to wonder why so many in government and business continue to offer the same tired formula they have offered Rhode Island for 30 years, when all it has brought us are things like 38 Studios and nearly brought us a billion dollar debt for a white elephant container port in Quonset that was only averted when the people rose up to stop the elite from acting stupid with our money.
Clearly following the business climate think tanks prescriptions will prevent us from reducing inequality and getting ready for the changing climate, The World Bank has recently discovered that in low income communities making sure the fruits of development accrue to the community rather than get captured by outsiders, and practicing economic democracy, in which the community members have a voice and a vote in how money is invested in the community, is the only way to create the triple bottom line win-win-win our communities need.