Welcome to the Era of Dependency
I have a question. Once the dust settles on the big grandchildren’s money drop heading the states’ way, how is our failed public finance system going to maintain all of this on top of the infrastructure and assets that it currently struggles to keep in one piece?
To Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, new federal investment in his city means streetcars.
Not the RIPTA buses with the fine wood trim that resemble trolleys. But real trolleys running on rails along city streets. He sees crater-pocked Bridgham Street in the city’s Elmwood section and dozens of other neglected city streets and sidewalks finally repaved and refinished.
In Warwick, Mayor Scott Avedisian sees a new bridge over Mill Creek on Tidewater Drive, and maybe a boardwalk and a handicap-accessible pier at Gorton Pond, a freshwater pond that is a popular spot for bass fishermen and beachgoers.
In Pawtucket, Mayor James E. Doyle sees something that young city residents have been dreaming about for well over a decade: a skateboard park in the heart of the city, right across from McCoy Stadium, at Joseph Jenks Junior High School.
It’s the dawn of a new era of big government, and big government spending. Millions of federal dollars are expected to come to Rhode Island as part of an economic stimulus plan.
The certainty of the windfall has inspired local cities and towns to dust off development plans, some long-held and many that may have just never had the money to begin with, in the hopes that maybe, finally, they’ll see the light of day.
Perhaps the most important whisper to heed comes from our Congressional delegation, which doesn’t think the current borrow-and-spend plan is big enough. It’s a sort of trap we’re in:
- If the stimulus money doesn’t boost the economy, the powers who be will insist that the windfall wasn’t big enough, and nobody down the money-grubbing line will be inclined to disagree.
- If the stimulus money has a mild effect on the economy, the powers will say the same thing, and states will have all sort of new items and programs for which they have no real prospects of continued funding.
- And if by some miracle throwing borrowed money at the country really does revive the economy, it will be seen as having validated the principle, and the practice will be continued in good times and amplified even more in bad.
Some would argue that this monster will be something worse than ineffective.
Through it all, the spectacle of hearing officials of every layer of government, right down to small-town school committees, place their hopes and dreams in a federal check writer is evidence of that malignant addiction to receiving. Yes, it’s the dawn of the Era of Dependency, and not a few paths that lead from here into the future begin the end of the United States of America.