Days of Reckoning for the Salt of RI’s Earth

The point can’t be stressed enough that Rhode Islanders should understand the Washington Bridge debacle as a representative lesson on our state government.  For that reason, not the least, Mark Patinkin’s conversations with local affected business owners is an article to print and review periodically in the future.  Restauranteurs and venue owners bought and built their businesses with dreams of serving their communities.  They have plans for improvements that would employ local contractors; they want to know their customers; they want the future to be better because of their work.  And their revenue down by large percentages because of incompetent state government.

Perhaps the most–Rhode Island theme comes with this:

“We’re caught in the middle and nobody’s helping us,” said Steve. By “nobody,” he means the state. …

The only aid offered so far has been a low-interest loan from the federal Small Business Administration. But Bill Foeri told me that applying is arduous. And with a 4% interest rate after a grace period, it’s hardly a rescue package.

The state is offering debt, but these business owners don’t want debt.  “That sinks us faster,” says one.  They want grants, but that’s a trap, too.

Here’s the practical reality Rhode Island business owners have to understand:  Our state government is not there to serve you.  It’s there to take money from you.  To bleed you.  The business model of the state is to provide government services and funnel money to the key constituencies of the political machine (union organizers, lawyers, activists, partisans, etc.) and then to find others to pay the bill.  If you’re not a perpetual government dependent and you’re not among those key constituencies, your role is to pay the bills.  It is that simple and straightforward.

So, when the people who are supposed to pay the bills need genuine help, the RI Democrats don’t know what to do.  They can maybe get you some debt, which ensures your creditors profit (because they’re insiders), and they might even manage to pay your debt off for you, if it indebts you to the politicians for votes and somebody else can be made to pay.

But think of all the possibilities that aren’t even on the table.  The catastrophe is of the government’s making, so you’d think the threshold would be high for its response.  The legislature is in session right now.  They could cancel income taxes for affected businesses.  Better yet, they could suspend the sales tax for the area until the bridge is rebuilt; that would be an instant 7% discount for risking the traffic for shopping.  Parking restrictions could be lifted.  All regulations could be reviewed to lift those with the least benefit for the burden.  To speed things along, they could suspend at least some of the onerous labor rules that make public infrastructure so insanely slow and expensive in the Ocean State.

The list goes on and on.  The first thing they could do is convene a commission to (quickly) assess all the ways in which the big-government-state government could help these families.  I guarantee that a smart advocate with a mandate and a couple weeks could make up for most of the lost business with tax and regulatory relief.

But the politicians who run Rhode Island won’t do that sort of thing.  The businesses are supposed to pay the bills, and if government behaves differently during a state of genuine emergency, other people might begin to wonder why a government that is supposed to represent them isn’t always looking for ways to make their lives easier and better.  We can’t have that, now can we?


Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 3 and Photoshop AI.

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