Whom the Wavemakers Wash Out with the Tide

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How typical of the Rhode Island Way is Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s Wavemaker program?

A total of 240 college graduates working in science, technology, engineering, math and design occupations have been awarded Wavemaker Fellowships to help pay their student loans, the R.I. Commerce Corporation announced Thursday.

The average award in this, the third year of the program, is about $3,600. The tax credits are intended to keep recent college graduates working in Rhode Island, rather than become part of a “brain drain” to other states.

Put aside chuckles at the notion that keeping 240 Rhode Islanders each year does much to help the brain drain problem and the question of whether that $3,600 is actually persuading most of them to stay here despite options elsewhere.  Who pays for this program?

The answer is that we all do.  The money is skimmed from all of the various taxes and fees that we all pay, and as small as the $864,000 price tag may be, it ultimately becomes concentrated on the most active participants in the state’s economy, who must find ways to pass the burden on.  One can’t trace such things, dollar for dollar, but it’s a relatively safe bet that the burden ultimately comes to rest on those with the least economic leverage.

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Of course, we know it’s not only $864,000 per year.  For the Wavemaker program to seem so ordinary, there must be many other programs that follow a similar philosophy.  For such a seemingly inconsequential program to be proposed, enacted, and implemented, it must accord with Rhode Island’s political and economic strategy, which we can summarize as getting somebody else to pay for politically convenient favors… preferably somebody whose face we will never have to see.



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