UHIP and a Picture of Rhode Island’s Feudalism


Here’s a thought: If the state’s massive computer Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), handled by Deloitte, was a bust and the state is having to sue the company working on its massive computer DMV project, handled by Hewlett Packard, maybe it’s not the companies, per se, that are the problem, but the incentives of government generally and the incompetence of Rhode Island government specifically.  Either way, the obvious solution for our society is to stop using government to try to solve our problems.

The personal anecdote around which the Providence Journal built the story at the first link only amplifies that suggestion:

Sandra Figueroa recently lost her job as a home care certified nursing assistant after her car broke down and she couldn’t get to her clients. She has three kids and a husband who makes minimum wage at a rehab center.

It costs her $3 each way to get to the office, and she said she has come every business day for the last three weeks. Most previous times, she said she was sent away at the door because the office had reached capacity.

She wants her food stamp allotment increased, but said it was reduced from $204 to $99 instead.

Rhode Island’s approach to economics and government has made it worth Mrs. Figueroa’s time to travel back and forth and sit in a government office every day for weeks rather than be out looking for productive work that she could be doing, either independently or as an employee.  I couldn’t have asked for a better human story to accompany the metaphor I put forward yesterday of the state government harvesting disadvantaged people for profit.

Furthermore, for the perfect illustration of the top of this feudalistic food chain, look no farther than our own Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.  She is so unpopular that candidates don’t want to be associated with her, and yet she’s sitting on $1.5 million in campaign donations and was just named a “New Englander of the Year” by a council of regional elites.  The rich and powerful think she’ll do things for them, while the middle class knows it’s being robbed and the poor and working classes sense that the progressive policies she supports are draining them of opportunity and dignity.  Yet, a system built on government dependency ensures that she, or somebody like her, will continue to run the government.

Instead of focusing on how state government can better take money from some groups and hand it to people like Figueroa, imagine a system that didn’t require licenses and hurdle jumping for every occupation, that didn’t use a minimum wage to forbid employers from hiring people unless it was worth an artificially high cost, and that didn’t take so much of the money that people earn through all forms of taxes and fees.

Without high registration fees, insurance mandates, and gas taxes, perhaps Figueroa would have been able to repair or replace the car that lost her her job.  Without a high (or any) sales tax, perhaps she would have been able to find a retail job to fill the gap, and perhaps the easy availability of retail jobs would drive up the wages for more-intensive jobs like her husband’s.  And perhaps if it weren’t so difficult to take up new occupations and maintain businesses in Rhode Island, the variety of jobs would match the variety of talents and needs of Rhode Islanders.

Figueroa wants another $105 per month in food stamps.  For that, she was willing to make it her daily occupation to travel to a government office for three weeks and wait.  Let’s say, instead, she had put in five hours per day at some job… any job… and would do so for an average four-week month.  To hit the $105 she wants, she would only have had to make $1.05 per hour, which she would have earned in an environment that undoubtedly presented more opportunity than sitting around in the hallways of government buildings.

The system that small-government, free-market policies would create would so increase the demand for workers and the opportunity for advancement that no jobs would actually pay so little, because it would be operating in an environment of competition, growth, and human flourishing. But powerful insiders prefer a system in which there is no opportunity and people like Figueroa are dependent on them, even if it means her effective minimum wage is so low.

Instead of allowing Rhode Islanders to generate jobs for the people who are here, insiders restrict the economy and hand out taxpayer-financed subsidies to attract jobs for people who aren’t here.  They do so because they want a system that produces a bunch of fancy jobs and wealthy people who can pay government to provide charity for everybody else, not the least because that will put the powerful insiders at the top of the chain, especially to the extent that even those who are economically successful are dependent on government for subsidies.

Rhode Island has been on this path much too long already.