While “roasting” the news of 2016 on WPRO, one of the guys joked that Rhode Island politicians constantly talk about “jobs for Rhode Islanders,” but whenever they’ve got an actual job to fill, they look to out-of-state individuals and firms. Even more broadly than that, though, journalists oughtn’t let this particular talking point slide by as easily as it does.
The point was emphasized, for me, when shortly after hearing progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo use the phrase on Newsmakers, I caught the panel on RIPR’s Bottom Line emphasizing how these companies have people commuting down from Boston, and how that’s a recruiting tool. Here’s Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy:
The companies that really are in the information technology business, they employ people who live in Boston and take the train down, take Amtrak down. (They’re not taking the MBTA; they’re taking Amtrak down.) And it’s actually a recruiting point.
So the question: Was GE, for example, wooed into Rhode Island by the governor’s sales pitch, or did the massive company simply maximize its taxpayer subsidies — adding Rhode Island’s handouts to those already secured in Boston — by breaking off a piece of its business to put in Providence, with the expectation that it wouldn’t change much for business or employees except the direction in which they headed when they left their Massachusetts homes? Some of them might even work from home, or even “telecommute” from a Boston office.
If so, yeah, maybe RI gets a cut of the income taxes, but that’s about all the benefit we get from those employees. Meanwhile, we’re taking money out of the pockets of Rhode Islanders that we could otherwise use to advance and improve our own lives and communities.