To get a rhetoric peeve out of the way, up front, why does Edward Fitzpatrick let Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo get away with an assertion like this without asking what she means or at least giving his readers some context?
“To simply say ‘Cut taxes and businesses will flood Rhode Island’ is wrongheaded, overly simplistic and won’t work,” she said. She said her opponent in the 2014 race for governor, Republican Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, backed that idea. But, she said, “I believe that is a failed economic strategy. It’s not working in Kansas. It’s not working in Wisconsin.”
First, who’s saying what she claims? Second, while I’m not as knowledgeable about Kansas, Wisconsin didn’t just “cut taxes.” Third, both Kansas and Wisconsin have recovered all of their employment lost during the recession and then some, while Rhode Island has yet to do so; Raimondo must be referring to some comparison that she doesn’t bother to share. If it’s Wisconsin’s comparison to Minnesota, which progressives have been trumpeting for so long it may very well be stale, by now, even as a talking point, Fitzpatrick’s readers might be better informed to know that the states started out in different places, with different challenges, and that Minnesota cut taxes, too.
Indeed, reading the essay linked on the word “trumpeting,” one might wonder whether progressives would see Raimondo’s approach as being more like Wisconsin’s than Minnesota’s. After all (according to the progressives), Wisconsin focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy, while Minnesota attempted to direct the cuts toward the working and middle classes. Rhode Island’s current governor has devised an economic development strategy that looks much more like the former, creating top-down incentives, including targeted tax breaks and subsidies, for high-end businesses and investors rather than focusing on the people who actually live in her state:
Rhode Island must have a “strategic plan” and “invest in growth,” Raimondo said. The Brookings report accurately diagnosed Rhode Island’s economic problems and “the only place in America right now with high growth of high-wage jobs are advanced industries,” she said.
A long list of assumptions go into that sentence, not the least whether the government’s emphasis should be on “high-wage jobs” or on jobs for the people who actually live in the state that it governs. An article from WPRI’s Ted Nesi, yesterday, fleshes out this point:
“Evidence from commuting patterns shows an increase in the share of jobs based in Rhode Island filled by out-of-state workers, both recently and since 2001, a trend driven by jobs filled by college-educated workers,” [Mary Burke of the Boston Fed] writes. The same evidence shows an increasing number of lower-skilled Rhode Island workers started communing out-of-state for work between 2010 and 2015
This evidence fits with anecdotes from employers that they have trouble filling skilled jobs with workers who reside in Rhode Island, but also suggests that at the broader regional level, mismatch is not a serious problem,” she continues. Employers are saying that they cannot find qualified employees who live in Rhode Island, but the evidence shows that they do appear capable of finding qualified employees who live quite close to Rhode Island.”
So, either Rhode Island is already home to a generally lower-skilled population than surrounding states or Rhode Islanders who achieve more education and higher incomes are choosing to live elsewhere (which is something I’ve been arguing for years, with reference to the “productive class”). Whatever the case, Raimondo’s approach to economic development would seem to be morally dubious and unfair, given the population that she’s actually supposed to be representing.
Her government is taking resources and tax dollars away from a population that is generally lower income and lower skilled, and that is having to look to other states for work, and giving those resources and tax dollars to companies that will create jobs for wealthier people from those other states. That approach should be objectionable to just about everybody, left and right, other than the rich cronies who will directly benefit and the ideologues whose first concern above everything else is that the elite must be the ones calling the shots.