To Lift All Boats, the Tide Has to Come In


What’s your first thought upon reading the following, from a Linda Borg article in the Providence Journal?

The rising tide of economic recovery has not lifted Rhode Island’s poor, the 2017 Report on Hunger in Rhode Island found.

Rhode Island, at 12.8 percent, has the highest rate of poverty in New England, with 130,000 people living in households with incomes below the poverty line. One-third of the jobs created in Rhode Island last year have an annual wage of $26,529, the study says.

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Unless you believe the politicians’ rhetoric that our state’s economy is strong — in which case, you’ll see these 130,000 as inexplicably slipping through the cracks — you’ll probably conclude that Rhode Island’s economy needs to improve so the tide actually is rising.  As the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) shows, it’s not.

But Borg’s article, which is essentially promotion of a Rhode Island Community Food Bank report, never challenges our state’s approach to economic development.  Rather, it advocates against Republican policy proposals in Washington and spares a word to chide the state government for the UHIP debacle.

Charity is an important part of the equation when it comes to helping our fellow human beings, but the higher goal — mentioned whenever the topic comes up — should always be to get folks on their own feet and in a condition to be charitable toward others.  That is how the rising tide works, and too much reliance on government suppresses it.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    What are the demographics of these 130,.000? In other words, how many are “single parent families”, how many dropped out of school, how many don’t speak English fluently? Have they “slipped through the cracks” or have they made bad choices,. or a series of them? This seems vital to knowing what can be done,.

  • Alan Barta

    I worked for 2 US Censuses, 1990 and 2010. What this conversation neglects to mention is that there has been a steady exodus of those who could afford to leave, roughly 10% of total population. It started when former banking commissioner then governor Sundlun created a “banking crisis” with the sole intent of consolidating the biggest banks on the backs of small depositors and viciously wiped out the mom&pop credit unions and savings&loans. Many small businessmen lost millions in the transfer. Being collectively the state’s largest employers, with them went cash and jobs into other less hostile states. For decades casinos sucked up all disposable income, too. Little was left for reinvestment, schools, and whatnot. Consequently RI has 12% illiteracy, crumbling infrastructure, lots of people below poverty line, and lowest average wage and standard of living in region.