The Slow, Painful Burn of a Dysfunctional Government
Yesterday, at lunch time, two younger carpenters were discussing the dirt-cheap real estate that’s available and one opined that now might be the time to buy, with values expected to increase in the near future. I suggested that they be cautious about assuming proximate economic recovery in Rhode Island, as if a healthy economy is some sort of natural state of being. In fact, I argued that a national recovery will drive Rhode Island deeper. Consider John Kostrzewa’s article in the Sunday Providence Journal focusing on one small business — long in local history — that has no option but to close its doors:
That’s one of the tragedies of Rhode Island’s recession, now in its third year.
Small businesses are disappearing at an alarming rate.
That’s important because of the clusters of jobs that are lost, and the income, sales, property and other taxes that will no longer be collected to pay for state and municipal services.
It’s also important because when the national expansion starts, there will be fewer Rhode Island companies ready to fill orders or provide services. It will take time for new small companies to organize, get financing and open to do business. That means Rhode Island’s recovery will be slower and shallower than in other states that compete for the same contracts.
I wouldn’t even count the delay in new businesses as the biggest concern: Rather, the likelihood that the sorts of people who would start new businesses and make them successful, as employees, will see recovery elsewhere as an opportunity to leave. Even if they don’t follow local news and politics as closely as we all do, they pick up the general reality that nobody in government (with the mild exception of the outgoing governor) is even making substantial noises about fixing what’s wrong with the state that they ostensibly run.
And the opportunity to make even minor shows of comprehension and concern are so plentiful that the negligence can only be deliberate. Back to Kostrzewa and the lamp shop that can’t:
“It’s not a friendly state to get people to come to,” [store owner Patricia Lena] said, “If anything, they leave.”
She mentioned the inhospitable business climate. She said the inventory tax on unsold lamps left on the shelves was costly. She said at one stage of the business she would have liked to hire more employees, so she didn’t have to work seven days a week. But the taxes, specifically under the workers’ compensation law, made the cost prohibitive.
The current General Assembly — whose members the last election gave no electoral reason to change — is more likely to increase the burden on such entrepreneurs with “living wage” legislation and the like than to respond to their plight. Brace yourselves, Rhode Islanders; we’re chasing an ignorant fantasy to the bottom of the well.