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.