Having Found the Last Bastion
On my way to the jobsite, the other day, I stopped at CVS because it’s the only store in which I’ve found my preferred brand of pencil and, because it caught my eye in passing, I picked up a copy of the latest Rhode Island Monthly. It occurred to me, as somebody trying to keep up with happenings in our state, that I ought to subscribe to the magazine. Reading through the January edition, however, led me to reconsider.
The rag looks well positioned to be the last bastion of received the-sky-ain’t-falling wisdom. One need go no farther than Ellen Liberman’s article on page 29 (page 11, if one subtracts full-page advertisements) (emphasis added):
In 1729, Jonathan Swift suggested that the Irish could alleviate their poverty by selling their babies to the wealthy British to be eaten. A well-nourished one-year-old, he suggested, would make “wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.” A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public is now a classic work of political satire.
Pureeing poor children into the plat du jour seems to be the only measure policymakers missed in their zeal to slash spending. In the last two years, Rhode Island, once a national model for the care of its most vulnerable children, took significant steps backwards.
In what sort of a setting — and to what audience — can it be straight-facedly stated that the General Assembly “slashed spending”?
I’ll note, here, that I’ve had a soft spot for Ms. Liberman ever since she presented me as a Rhode Island Diogenes back in November ’06, and I enjoyed our conversation for that interview. I’d also note that her piece was not the sole stimulus for my impression of the magazine. The latest cover story, by Sarah Francis, “The Rhode Island Red Awards: The dumbest, weirdest, and most outrageous moments of the year,” continues the tone. Governor Carcieri and his executive branch are clearly cast as the central source of ineptitude and waste in the state, even to such detail as the following:
Rhode Islanders spent nearly $2,000 a month to pay the rent on a lobbyist’s D.C. office that stood empty for almost two years. Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal defended the $50,000 expense saying, “The governor believes we should maintain that office because if we ever gave up the lease we would never get it back.”
No mention is made of the General Assembly’s $70 million gift to Chief Justice Frank Williams. In fact, no mention is made of the legislature at all, except for its “law allowing seventeen-year-olds to be tried as adults.” In fact, I didn’t see a single legislator mentioned by name anywhere in the magazine, outside of the socialite section.
Little wonder Ms. Liberman believes her readers would find it newsworthy that the “state’s child welfare community” predict as “future consequences” of cuts to their bread and butter “increased homelessness among young adults, mental illness, child abuse and crime.” If Ms. Liberman wishes to present another side, I’ll gladly speak with her again to offer the personal testimony that a failure to transform RI government will likely lead to increased homelessness (am I still a “young adult”?), mental illness (as some readers of Anchor Rising might wish to testify, as well), and crime. I’d also present Ellen with my own application for a statue:
“We have requested that the administration sit down to craft a thoughtful plan to make FIP a better workforce plan,” says Kate Brewster of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College. “That request was denied. We hope their solution is not to make the program more challenging for families who desperately need it.”
It is sad to those who walk through this great state when they see the malls, the street and triple-deckers crowded with poor women followed by three, four or six children, all in outfits from Ocean State Job Lot and draining our budget with their unceasing demand for healthcare, child care and court translators.
I think that everyone can agree that this prodigious number of children is, in the present deplorable state of Rhode Island, a big problem; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the state would deserve a public statue in his honor.
My plan for Rhode Island is to listen very carefully to the solutions that Kate and the Brewsterites propose… and do the opposite. Increase the cost in effort of free-ride programs. Encourage personal responsibility, and foster real consequences for intransigence. The phrase “social stigma” comes to mind. In tandem, decrease the disincentives to be productive citizens, which would require removing some of the stigma flung at successful businesses and individuals.
Liberman jokingly suggests that we tax children and put them to work; that would be less abusive than the dark futures of dependence and stagnation to which Rhode Island currently leads them, and to which the General Assembly seems inclined to drag the rest of us. Perhaps a subscription to Rhode Island Monthly can be justified purely as a window into the minds of the last demographic likely to come to this realization.
In the meantime, perhaps we at Anchor Rising ought to come up with our own “dumbest, weirdest, most outrageous moments of the year.” I’d start, but just the thought of sorting so many previous posts gives me a headache.