Keeping the Productive Class, Not in Government’s Interest


Roger Williams University Professor Thomas Lonardo has picked up a thread of the apocalyptic Rhode Island tapestry that I noted about a decade ago:

However, a major part of the Rhode Island population typically associated with middle- and upper-middle-class taxpayers seems to be ignored, the 35-to-54-year-olds. This group makes up 26.8 percent of the population. Although income class distinctions are a moving target, it is assumed that the middle- and upper-middle-class income range is $75,000-149,999, with 27.4 percent of the households in Rhode Island in this range.

‘The modest overall decline of the Rhode Island population of 1,365 from 2010 to 2013 may not raise concerns. What should be of concern is the decline in the 35-54-year-old population by an astounding 16,567!

This is another way of getting around to describing what I’ve called the productive class.  If I could pick any age range, I’d probably go with something closer to 28-50, but that’s a minor and largely arbitrary distinction.  The point is that this is the age range during which people make something of themselves.  They go from being on the lower rungs to getting near their full potential.  It’s a lot of human initiative, sweat, time, and investment, and as people climb those rungs in large numbers, they bring the economy up with them.

Lonardo sticks to thinking of people in their groups, so I don’t think he quite gets to the heart of why the productive class is important.  It’s not about employers versus employees and everybody fitting in their groups.  As in physics, the real action happens with acceleration.  I think, therefore, there’s a simpler answer to this question:

Why doesn’t retention of this taxpayer class seem to be a primary focus of our elected officials? Maybe because the solutions that make a public opinion impact beyond an election cycle are not worthy of consideration. Possibly because solutions include difficult decisions and bold comprehensive strategies addressing the myriad of troubles facing the state such as: high taxes (including fees and surcharges), substandard roads and bridges, underperforming public schools, etc. 

Fundamentally, the problem is that the government can only help the productive class by relinquishing control and taking care of the basics.  The government would have to get out of the business of telling people what they can do in every minute aspect of their economic lives and start taking care of boring stuff like infrastructure.  

People accomplishing things create a competing source of power and authority to that of government in a way that people who already have a lot of money or who have almost no money at all cannot match.  Indeed, the already-wealthy have incentive to work with government to keep the upstarts out, while the poor represent a client-and-voter base for the government.

  • D. S. Crockett

    When the money starts drying up, leftists turn to higher taxation to make up for the lost revenue. They will not find ways to restructure because it is easier to perpetuate the status quo than take the pragmatic way out. The latter is also alien to leftist instincts. It’s in part ignorance, part leftist indoctrination. Let’s face it, the American population has been indoctrinated over the past 50-years to help others. Ann Rand was quite right, you as an individual do not exist solely for the purpose of helping the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, the status quo will end when the system has run out of other people’s money, not too far in the distant future as this article points out.

    • Justin Katz

      Good comment, but I do want to differ with you (and Rand) on one point. Whether the meaning of life centers on helping others (which I believe it does) isn’t the important question. It’s using government as the means to help others that creates the problem. That doesn’t actually give any moral reward to the person who does little more than vote to take money from other people and give it to somebody else.

      • D. S. Crockett

        Well said Justin, thank you.

    • ShannonEntropy

      Ann Rand was quite right when she said, you as an individual do not exist solely for the purpose of helping the rest of humanity.

      Ideally, Capitalism makes the Capitalist investor/innovator rich AND makes YOUR life better too in the process

      All of the original investors in APPLE® are billionaires today … and no doubt you have one of their products in your hip pocket right now and could not live with·out it

      • Tommy Cranston

        Nope. Not one. I have a 12 year old desktop, a Toshiba laptop at least 6 years old and a Tracfone dumbphone that runs me $8 a month.
        I spend my excess cash on more worthwhile things-travel, food, good bourbon and gambling!

        PS- As far as chasing away productive we should all plan a rally of gratitude on the day in 2020 when this scummy, corrupt miserable little state loses its second House seat.

        • ShannonEntropy

          The actual loss of that seat won’t happen until the 2022 election — the 2020 election will happen before the results of the Census of that year are released

          My prediction is that Langevin will retire rather than face-off against Cicilline; and cite “health issues” as the reason

  • ShannonEntropy

    The government would have to get out of the business of telling people what they can do in every minute aspect of their economic lives and start taking care of boring stuff like infrastructure.

    From a Libertarian / Cool Moose perspective, here is how I see this debate framed …

    ► The Republicans think you would be able to pull yer·self up by your own boot·straps … if only Gum·mint would stop the heavy regulation & taxation of boots & straps … but …

    ► The Democrats think subsidizing straps & boots *plus* a tax credit for any ‘pulling’ is the answer

    The former seems far more likely to succeed in its aims than the latter … but then, what would a cool moose know ??

  • Warrington Faust

    I am not the Randroid I once was and do try to practice charity.. But I do not know what is necessary for Rhode Islanders to see, or care, what is going on about them. If it ever straightens out, it might be a nice place to return to. In the meanwhile I think those able to should continue to exit, the state is small enough for that to become meaningful in a short while. Have I mentioned that New Berne, North Carolina is very much like Bristol? Rhode Islanders would find that everything is there, but distances are longer. I am sure there are many arguments against my position, but I have tired of them. Those with a scientific bent might set the physicists at Brown to determining the Schwartzchild radius around the state house.

    Seriously , the only stay at home method I can imagine is a long and sustained “Tea Party” movement. While such a movement might arise around a single issue, such as a higher sales tax, I don’t see participatory democracy really taking hold. Another solution might be a two party system, I don’t really see that either. The first question has to be where are the candidates. Then, what are the issues.

  • D. S. Crockett

    An article this morning on Drudge reported Hawaii has joined Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Nevada with failed Obamacare Health Care Exchanges. Hawaii has spent so far $205 million trying to make it work, but their legislature has wisely refused to pass legislation bailing out the failed exchange. However, Hawaii will spend another $30 million to transfer the exchange to the Feds. What makes RI politicians so confident they can make it work here while so many others have failed? I suppose they don’t want to cut jobs for their relatives and friends the taxpayers be damned.

  • D. S. Crockett

    Another point on the extreme altruism that pervades today’s society, many corporations are actively involved in perpetuating this industry and it has become an industry for those groups receiving the money. Unfortunately, as usual, it is other people’s money i.e., the employees who suffer meager wage increases and benefits cuts for the purpose of making the higher ups and or directors feel good. Case in point: a Rhode Island bank recently sold set aside $5 million from the sales price for “charity purposes”. Should not the employees and or stockholders have been the beneficiaries to reward them for their investment or labor, not the leaches?

    • Warrington Faust

      Davy Crockett was in Texas, and at the Alamo, because he had taken french leave of his creditors in the United States. Texas was another country and his creditors could not enforce their judgments there. The same was true of many Texans. Read the Texas constitution.

      • Mike678

        Perhaps in Texas for those reasons, but did DC have to stay at the Alamo? Were his creditors just outside the Alamo’s doors? Were there, perhaps, other more altruistic reasons to remain there?

        • ShannonEntropy

          Q. What were Davy Crockett’s Last Words at the Alamo ??

          A. “Where the #@%& did all these landscapers come from ??!!?? “

        • ShannonEntropy

          Q. What did Davy Crockett’s divorce lawyer tell him ??

          A. ” Remember the Alamo-nee !! “

        • Warrington Faust

          Sorry, just an historical fun fact to know and tell. The same was true of many at the Alamo. It is reflected in the Texas Constitution which provides huge “homesteads” (property exempt from claims of creditors). Some may recall that when a bunch of Bush 1’s cronies filed bankruptcy they had previously “moved to Texas” where entire city blocks are/were exempt from creditors without limitation on value. I believe the latest revision of the Bankruptcy Act removes the “state exemption” option.

          • Mike678

            NP. I am, perhaps, too literal. And there is no dearth of people, Dem or other, whose lack of ethics drive them to exploit loopholes in well-intentioned laws. See FL bankruptcy protections…

      • D. S. Crockett

        Mr. Faust: My admiration for Mr. Crockett is based on his rugged individualism upon which our great nation was once based.

  • Dave Fraser

    Excellent editorial by Justin, as usual……..
    IMHO – RI govt is little more than a legalized Mafia. RI uses many of the same strong-arm tactics as any good Mafia. The biggest difference is that RI does not send ‘leg breakers’…. instead, RI breaks your bank account with endless fees, taxes and requirements .

  • DavidS

    Hi Justin. I thought conservatives
    – yourself included – did not believe in class distinctions- declaring that
    this is a liberal and progressive construct.
    So maybe you did not mean to say” Productive class” and instead meant to
    say productive people. Productive people
    are individual people with different backgrounds, values, religions, political affiliations.
    Am I reading too much into your post?

    • Warrington Faust

      I suspect you are misreading and assuming “social class”. I think Justin is using “class” according to its original German meaning (Klasse) as Mercedes still uses it, meaning a similar subset, or type. Similar to a “class of students”. Or perhaps “not in the same class”.

    • Justin Katz

      It’s a group of people with a unifying characteristic. I think the difference between my usage and the typical progressive usage is that I don’t think it’s an immutable categorization.

      • Max

        It’s too bad that you have to subject yourself to answering troll questions.

    • ShannonEntropy

      One dictionary I use has 29 different definitions of the word CLASS , including:

      1. a number of persons or things regarded as forming a group by reason of common attributes, characteristics, qualities, or traits; kind; sort [[ Justin’s use ]]

      7. a social stratum sharing basic economic, political, or cultural characteristics, and having the same social position [[ the way you & other ‘progressives’ have attempted to hijack the word ]]

      or …

      26. Informal. of high quality, integrity, status, or style

      Usage: DavidS is definitely NOT a Class Act

  • D. S. Crockett

    Mr. Faust: My admiration for Mr. Crockett is based on his rugged individualism upon which our great nation was once based.

    • Warrington Faust

      I always favored him for the ‘coonskin hat. Seriously, many other “Texans” were in Texas for the same reason he was; it was a debtor’s haven. He was not required to stay at the Alamo, that was courage.