The Young and Unemployed
As the old song goes, the children are the future, and in discussing the effects of our graying workforce, John Kostrzewa worries about Rhode Island’s:
Eleven percent of the 107,108 people ages 22 to 29 who lived in Rhode Island in 2008 moved out in 2009. That’s 11,200 young people.
The numbers are even scarier when you break out college educated Rhode Islanders.
One in five who were here in 2008 had left in 2009, largely because they couldn’t find a job.
Kostrzewa’s mainly addressing the effects of our long-running downturn, but since I arrived in the late ’90s, it’s been the common wisdom in Rhode Island that young adults had to leave to find opportunity. The Great Recession just exacerbated what was already a problem, and as factions fight over slices of the public pie and beneficiaries demand that the pie be expanded through taxation, necessary priorities come into stark relief.
After all, what’s the point of Rhode Island’s generous “investment” in education if the products of our efforts — highly educated young adults — simply leave? Increasing taxation and making it harder to do business in the state in order to prop up an inefficient educational system of questionable quality has the steps backwards. The state has to reorder its priorities, and the people who make public decisions (and those who pull their strings) are manifestly disinclined to do so.
Commenting to my morning post, yesterday, Dan offered a compelling simile:
Fixing Rhode Island’s cyclic financial problems at this end-game point in time is like trying to remove a horned toad that has inflated itself in crack deep between two jagged desert rocks while it bites and hisses and squirts defensive blood at you out of its eyes. Any herpetologist knows that once it has retreated in there, it’s too late and it’s time to move on to another location. Lots of other states to choose from in the United States.
Or, as Mark Patinkin put it, while explaining that RI’s elected leaders have to do what’s necessary, even if it means the end of their political careers:
One can say many public employees — especially those doing risky jobs like cops and firemen — deserve such pensions. Even I think they do. But sadly, we are past the point of talking about “deserve.” We’re in the realm of “afford.”
Pensions are only a heavily bleeding part of the wound. Rhode Island has to make subjective notions of fairness and desert secondary to functional possibility. Social services have to be curtailed; the education system has to stop being managed under the assumption that more money means better results; and regulatory manacles have to be removed from businesses, even if it means that the state no longer micromanages everybody’s safety and, yes, even if it means that people get rich.