This week the news was how great the startup culture in Rhode Island is. We have the infrastructure to help new businesses get off the ground, and there is lots of success. This is contrasted with the continual drumbeat about how bad the business climate is and how hard it is to grow businesses in RI. Which is it guys????
Maybe a simplistic question, but one that goes to the heart of the misinformation about the RI economy that the media and the wealthy persist in stating. The biggest misinformation is what a business climate is. The exact definition is how much a state, community, or national government is willing to kowtow to the rich and allow them to run roughshod over the health and safety of the community and how little the rich have to pay in taxes to maintain the health and prosperity of the community.
Business climates are one of the tools the rich have used to beat all of us around the head by telling us that we shall have nirvana if only taxes on the rich are low enough and there are no onerous regulations on business. There are a couple of things wrong with this model, one of which is that we are constantly told how important the place of Rhode Island is to our competitive advantage. People love our beaches, farms, rivers, and old cities, but the only way to make money is to redevelop real estate, and for that we need to undo wetland regulations.
Another of our contradictions is that we see on a daily basis is that the rent is too damn high, but falling real estate prices are anathema to our future. Which is it guys?? Do we want more homeless folks, more people who can not afford a place to live? Or is rewarding speculation and too big to fail banks by creating more bubbles in real estate?
Which is going to do more for our economy, affordable housing for everyone or speculative bubbles for the banks to profit from? The rent is still too damn high and ought to come down a lot seems much more important for our future.
The list goes on and on, but I will offer one more example and call it a day. Current policy in RI favors the rich. Incomes for the rich are skyrocketing while the rest of us fall further behind (see the rent is too damn high). Nearly all of the growth in income has gone to less than 10% of the population. But in the consumer society we live in rising inequality slows the economy as most folks do not have more money to spend. The more unequal an economy gets, the less well it works. So why does policy in RI flow in that direction?
Is Rhode Island ready to openly talk of its contradictions?