Increasingly, over the years, I’ve become disenchanted with and cynical about groups that are supposedly active in politics to support businesses and the political philosophy that allows them to thrive without micromanagement from government officials. A sampling of reasons:
- When legislators placed a representative of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce on a commission to study the reduction or elimination of the sales tax, his most notable contribution was the opinion that it would be “a crime to threaten” a government revenue stream.
- When the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity proposed ways to reduce state spending by nearly a quarter-billion dollars (perhaps to invest in a sales tax cut or some other pro-growth policy), the RI Hospitality Association went to bat for big spending, mostly to maintain the annual six-figure sums the association receives from the state.
- When it comes to the state government spending over $100 million to get a government-run health insurance broker off the ground, the Cranston Chamber of Commerce joined with socialists in looking forward to the ability of government agents to take over health care completely (which is becoming more obviously the motivation as ObamaCare and the insurance exchange prove to be costly and under-performing debacles).
As I’ve summed it up multiple times, Rhode Island’s public square doesn’t have groups that advocate for constituencies — in this case, business groups that pressure government for the benefit of members — but a network of insiders who represent the government to their members. The “business voices,” and even most of our elected representatives, depend mostly on their government connections and unerringly put those connections before the well-being of the people they’re supposed to be representing.
Hopefully, cynicism can be healed with a group, like the Gaspee Business Network, that does exactly what we used to assume the chambers and other groups were doing.