The Business Climate and the Resistance

The Business Climate and the Resistance Greg Gerritt 8/10/16

The business climate obsessives in Rhode Island must be beside themselves these days as the resistance to the compressor station in Providence and the power plant in Burrillville continue to pick up steam. I have looked at a lot of business climate indexes. No index has ever explicitly had a category for public participation in the development process, so there is no 100% way to know how the public beating up the politicians and regulators until they can not permit a facility that would be really bad for the community affects the ratings. But I can almost guarantee that even though there is no specific category for the nature of the resistance to corporate control in a community, those who create the indexes and those who try to use them as a public policy club, find public participation in the permitting process an impediment to easy pickings. Therefore any state that would allow the public to stop bad projects must rank very low on the charts. Sounds a little bass ackwards to me. Wouldn’t you really want to live in a community in which the people were able to protect their community rather than a powerless one? One that can be run over by every crook and conman around or one in which the good science and protecting the community sets the standards? One where the politicians give your money away without oversight or one where the people can tell the politicians to stop? I hope we can agree on the answer.

My guess is that the ability of the community to resist stupid projects is factored into the regulatory process ratings, with public intervention being a regulatory hurdle that lowers your ranking. In other words Democracy not allowed if it gets in the way of business. And laws and regulations that actually set standards that have to be met are also not allowed even when an economy’s biggest assets are clean air and water and pleasant quiet communities or healthy forests.

Rhode Island, despite an economy that has a growth rate right about at the national median, gets beaten up on repeatedly for a bad business climate. This is further evidence that business climates have nothing to do with how your economy works. As author after author has noted, the underlying fundamentals of your community, including how pleasant a place it is to live  and your economic history, vastly overwhelm tax rates and regulations in current economic performance. In fact strong regulations seem to have a positive correlation with economic performance (though correlation does not necessarily prove causation) and tax rates have only a very marginal effect on growth rates.

So i want to say this very clearly. If the ability of the community to stop bad projects harms a business climate rating then the people who create them are totally clueless.

Think of how much more in the hole Rhode island would be if we tried to build a container port at Quonset based on the suggestions of the con men. Every politician in the state was sucked in, but the people stopped it. We did not get a chance to stop 38 Studios but if had been an transparent process it would never have flown. How about the Pawsox trying to skip town. How was that good for us? But stopping us gives us a black eye in the files of those who create the business climate. Maybe we need to throw those crooks out of the halls of government as our public officials are very susceptible to their charms.

And lets talk about the real climate. Based on Koch Brother funding for a variety of business climate indexes I am pretty sure that states with strong climate legislation always get a bad rating. But lets remember that the RI economy will crash and burn due to sea level rise, hurricanes, and food insecurity if carbon levels in the atmosphere do not start to go down VERY soon. Resilience is our only path to prosperity. Clearly the Resilient Rhode Island Act is abhorrent to the business climate fanatics who act as if resources are infinite, growth is infinite, pollution does not matter and climate change is a hoax the Chinese have perpetrated on us.  I guess that having a good school system that teaches real science must be bad for your business climate too.

So we are offered projects guaranteed to be bad for us, and the people say no. Gina, Governor Wall St, will your buddies take business away from RI if we stop the climate destroyers, or will you start believing us when we tell you that the Clear River Energy Center and the LNG compressor station at the Port of Providence are bad investments for Rhode Island, its people, and our planet?  If I were you I might stop quoting the business climate lobby and start reminding people how much the business climate lobby and their indexes work to help the rich steal from Rhode Islanders, destroy the climate, and harm our economy rather than benefit it. And that you are going to start paying attention to the wisdom of the community when it comes to things like this. Working for Wall St has failed us, its time you worked for us.

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