Two points may strike a reader of Edward Fitzpatrick’s Sunday Providence Journal column, yesterday, one political and one a matter of governing philosophy.
On the political point — the theme from which the column drew its headline — one must wonder at the free hand the columnist gives Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo. How could Fitzpatrick let her get away with saying “she’s increasingly convinced that Republican nominee Donald J. Trump is not fit to be president” — that his rhetoric is “not American” and “the prospect of his presidency… scary” — and not challenge her on the fitness of proven liar Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was (at the very least) extremely careless and blind to the appearance of corruption in her time as secretary of state? There’s no way Fitzpatrick would have let a Republican governor get away with declaring Clinton “not fit to be president” without responding, “Well, what about Trump?”
The philosophical point has to do with Raimondo’s understanding of government’s role in developing Rhode Island’s economy. Raimondo insists that she has to engage in corporate welfare because other states are doing it, and she “can’t put our people at a disadvantage.” A disadvantage of what? Well, it’s kinda like the disadvantage that an overbearing mother thinks her children will face if she doesn’t shape them to be what the bosses in town want them to be.
The funny thing about this particular policy question is that a slight change of perspective, even of the words used to talk about it, transforms an obvious thing that a state government must do into an obscenity. From Raimondo’s point of view, the government’s job is to actively look after the well-being of every Rhode Islander, and that’s going to require taking some decisions out of individuals’ hands and assuming that the leaders with the centralized plan are better positioned to use Rhode Islanders’ money in order to create a healthy environment — economic and otherwise.
The opposing point of view holds that this is not government’s role, that government cannot possibly be better positioned than all individual Rhode Islanders to figure out the best way to use their resources, and that it’s dangerous to give government this level of totalitarian authority. The governor is taking money away from all Rhode Islanders (in multiple ways) in order to give it to major, multi-billion-dollar corporations. With taxes and regulations, whether imposing them in a targeted way or imposing them broadly and then giving targeted exemptions, the state government disadvantages individuals and businesses that don’t fit its big-government–big-business centralized plan. And then the governor’s education and training efforts seek to change Rhode Islanders so that they’re more what the big businesses need.
Again, seen this way, the governor’s progressive approach is obscene. She’s taking care of all of us because we’re not able to take care of ourselves. She’s Big Mommy, getting out our clothes for us and sending us out the door to jobs that she lined up for us. Consider this:
She said she took her children to the Charlestown seafood festival recently and talked to young carnival-ride workers who said they wanted “real jobs.” She said, “Once upon a time, those young people could have gotten a job in a factory and done OK.”
Or maybe in an economy that left more individual freedom to experiment and make one’s own way than does her matrician scheme, those kids would have taken the path I did after dropping out of college and working menial jobs for a couple of years and found in themselves the motivation to work toward a better path. Maybe they’d have returned to college, now with a motivation originating from within (rather than the weaker motivation that comes from the sense that mom or the government has made everything easy), or maybe they’d have found some innovative way to build their own businesses, making money and improving our world in a way that even an Ivy League financial executive couldn’t imagine.