In all the years I’ve been following Rhode Island’s standing on various national rankings, about the only substantive comeback from the forces of the status quo has been that we do okay when it comes to “quality of life.” As I’ve pointed out, “quality of life” is only much use to those who can afford to enjoy it, and Rhode Island fails by that standard. Great restaurants may impress an organization ranking states, but they’re utterly irrelevant to the family that can barely put food on the table.
So, now the buzz is that Rhode Island finally moved from dead last on CNBC’s “Top States for Business” ranking. Here’s Ted Nesi on WPRI:
“Just one year ago the Ocean State finished dead last,” Cohn wrote. “The improvement is no accident. Every time we rank Rhode Island at or near the bottom, state officials take it to heart.”
The CNBC list and its methodology have plenty of critics, particularly on the left. But Rhode Island’s elected leaders have made clear over the years that they care a great deal about the state’s perennially poor showings on this list and other national business-climate rankings.
Exactly. It’s been clear for years that state officials in Rhode Island are very concerned about the ranking, but not so much about what the ranking is actually telling us. Consequently, they’ve sought policies to game the methodology, not to address the underlying problems — policies such as income and corporate income tax “reforms” that lowered rates on paper but wound up increasing the amount of tax collected. Folks, you’re missing the point.
This is how Rhode Island produces an unemployment rate drop, but only because it’s driving people out of the labor force.
It’s also how we get a change that nobody’s talking about. Our “quality of life,” according to CNBC, fell from 24th best in the country to 31st. And observe that our state experienced this drop despite the fact that it includes such measures as health insurance coverage, at which we supposedly excel.
Our politicians may be improving our statistics, but they’re making our lives worse.