How Economic Development Should Work
Brian Bishop takes up the appropriate call to government when it comes to economic development: just get out of the way.
The last thing we need is a government-run Chamber of Commerce, a retread bureaucracy of fortune tellers picking winning businesses or sectors that will be offered state loans and regulatory absolutions. Rather, we should attract new businesses and nourish existing businesses with the level playing field of a better business environment.
You might think this is a time when we need an economic development agency more than ever. It’s not a military secret that Rhode Island is among the nation’s leaders in unemployment, a key indicator of a low-performing economy.
But it is also not a secret why. Corporate and personal income taxes are high, estate taxes are repulsive, energy costs are high, our education system produces a labor force with below-average skills, our legislature has empowered unions over management, our roads and bridges are in worse shape than other states’ at higher costs, our regulatory environment is stifling, and this all takes place in a good-ole-boy environment that breeds, at minimum, a perception of corruption.
In other words, our policies make us unattractive to business, and when you look at these problems you realize they are not to be addressed by the EDC. This systemic hostility to economic growth is brought about by the legislature and all the other departments of state government. These are the arenas where change must take place.
Of course, Jim Beale raises salient questions as we move toward implementation of necessary changes:
Does anyone believe that the Rhode Island General Assembly will enact the major structural reforms necessary to put this state on a new course — a path to prosperity for everyone instead of just their favored special interests: the public-employee unions, their relatives’ state jobs, and the Poverty Institute constituency?
Does anyone believe that absent such reforms — and therefore regime change in the General Assembly — that Rhode Island will not continue its decades-long economic decline?