Rhode Island will be unable to strengthen its middle class as long as it listens to the policy advocates for the 1%. As a close observer of the economic development process in Rhode Island and elsewhere, it is clear that those practicing economic development have an extraordinarily narrow view of development based on assumptions about planet Earth and Rhode Island that are no longer applicable.
Rhode Island is very unlikely to experience rapid economic growth. Our population is relatively stagnant, immigration and births roughly balancing deaths and emigration. Our infrastructure is old, we have not been a prime investment zone in 120 years. Climate change is going to make things quite interesting. Basing economic development plans on ever rising values of real estate creates the greater inequality that grinds down the economy even faster. The plan to give ever lower taxes to the rich does not work under these conditions. It lines the pockets of the wealthy as the rest of us get poorer.
Rhode Island is going to have to start its economic renaissance by accepting lower growth, sharing better, healing ecosystems, focusing on reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our food security. Free trade and a great business climate will not help communities in a low growth place. They increase inequality and speed up ecological damage.
Only an economy baed on ecological healing, economic justice, and economic democracy will bring prosperity to the communities most in need of it now.