While it may not be nationally or globally true, Marc Munroe Dion’s assessment of the government’s view of the people in Fall River shows that it isn’t just a Rhode Island thing:
… the REAL problem is you. You don’t make enough money, and what you do make you recklessly spend on food, rent, six-packs of off-brand beer, that cheap makeup they sell in the dollar store and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.
And it’s the big coffee, isn’t it? And you get flavor shots, and whipped cream, right?
Face it, you’re a pig, and so am I. Rather than save our money for government employee raises and new taxes, we continue to spend. Just two weeks ago, I went out to breakfast. It cost me $10, too. I really should have taken that money down to Government Center and slipped it under the door to the mayor’s office.
Over here in the Ocean State, we’re seeing the stars align for a nearly unambiguous test of political insiders’ power to commit the public to spending and financial risk against the public’s will. According to a poll commissioned by GoLocalProv, Rhode Islanders oppose the deal to build a new PawSox stadium with public financing by more than two to one, with no pocket of outright support to be found. Little wonder, then, that the grand poobah of local labor unions, the AFL-CIO, is adamantly against giving the public a referendum on which to show our opposition and the state Senate (now run by a paid employee of the Laborers Union) is raising legal objections to a vote of the people.
Unfortunately for the last key figure giving the public opposition some hope, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston), these scary noises have put the fear of long knives into his fellow Democrat representatives, and the referendum escape seems unlikely. So, what’s it gonna be? Allow the outcome that an actually representative democracy would produce (and kill the deal), or try to find some way to push it through and distract the public or buy off enough constituents in some way?
Even with Rhode Islanders who dislike this way of doing business leaving in droves, my sense is that the push-it-through play comes at an accumulating cost. Combine it with the governor’s latest budget proposal — which illustrates nothing so much as the insiders unwillingness to adjust, preferring to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze in order to grow, grow, grow, while making it feel like everybody’s getting something while nobody’s paying — is another indication that the game is coming to an end.
Luck has a role in everything, so it’s possible the insiders will sneak through some opening created by a surprise value to Rhode Island property or an economic boom resulting from forces beyond local control, but the margins are getting smaller and awareness is growing. Eventually, even those who like the idea of government’s involvement in their lives will start to balance the Dunkin coffees they can’t afford to buy against the perks they’re supposed to be getting for putting themselves in government hands.
After all, a $3 copay for a Medicaid member’s doctor visit is a cup of coffee. The $8 copay for a non-emergency visit to an emergency room made because fewer doctors are willing to take Medicaid patients after Raimondo’s budget pressures them on price starts to get into the range of a fast-food meal.