Ted Nesi highlights something from a Newsmakers interview with Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) that might leave conservatives scratching their heads:
“Listen, there is a place for the corporate welfare, as I call it,” Morgan said on this week’s Newsmakers. “There is a place for it. There’s no doubt about it. I just think it’s been done poorly in Rhode Island. And I also think we wouldn’t have to be so aggressive about giving money out to companies if we fixed some of the fundamental problems.” Morgan cites the success of Quonset, the thriving military base-turned-business park, as “a shining example of what can happen when you create an atmosphere that is easier for companies to come, grow, build. I would like to see us have a similar Quonset, so to speak, in Northern Rhode Island and maybe on the East Bay, where our Commerce Corp. would actually get a large piece of land and manage it the same way we do Quonset.”
“I’ll do corporate welfare better” isn’t a very inspiring promise from a Republican candidate. The “moderate” position should be that maybe when the state is in the top quarter among states for business environment and taxes, if even then we struggle to attract economic growth, then some wheels can be greased. But as with every compromise with the big-government set, doing the thing they want first means compromise is essentially rhetorical. We never seem to get to the border security or to the reform that was supposed to compromise some tax increase.
Pointing to Quonset as a shining example of something that was at least not a demonstrable flop isn’t sufficient to prove the case for similar approaches around the state. The standard for government activities shouldn’t be that it was better than nothing, but that it was better than the thing it displaced.
That is also an unmentioned aspect of the John Stossel video posted in this space earlier today. The NYC bureaucrat insists that all of the things that drive up the costs of a project, from union labor to excessive planning, are worthwhile, but the practical question is whether they were more valuable than whatever use $1.7 million would have answered had the city not paid $2 million for a $300,000 bathroom facility.
The same is true of Quonset and every other government experiment in private-sector-type activity.