The “Business Voice” on Legislative Commissions


At last night’s joint legislative commission to study the repeal of the sales tax, it finally became clear and undeniable that the people of Rhode Island have almost no spokespeople at the State House who will put their good before that of the massive organization that is the state government.  For people within government and those who make their living orbiting around it, everything begins with the flow of money under the control of the political elite.

Consider comments by Paul DeRoche, who was filling the seat allocated for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce (clip culled from Capitol TV coverage; frozen image is actually of commission chairman Rep. Jan Malik):

Over the course of this commission, the members have heard testimony from multiple perspectives.  They’ve been presented with not one economic model (which is relatively unique), but two approaches from teams of economists to projecting the effect of eliminating (or greatly reducing) the state sales tax.  If RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse’s testimony hadn’t been shut down (mainly by John Simmons, the director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council [RIPEC]), and if I’d been permitted to speak, the commission would also have had the Center’s suggested framework for planning for the change.

And the thought of the man standing in for an organization that ostensibly represents a variety of local businesses is that it would be “a crime to threaten” a government revenue stream.  No suggestion of what sort of risks would be tolerable, or why the government’s income is so important.  No statement of the need to reorder priorities to focus on the people of Rhode Island… just maybe in a different way.  Simply an insistence that government revenue should not be threatened, because nobody can predict the future with 100% certainty.

Rhode Islanders need to start coming out of their narrow areas of social activity and realize that the people whom they entrust with their interests in the political realm do not advocate for them first, but rather as the secondary consideration after the status quo of broken, heartbreaking Rhode Island government is protected.  For too many professional advocacy organizations in the state, their organizational survival is not tied to your economic health, but the government’s.

  • Dan

    "it's always been true that business is not a friend of a free market. I have given a lecture from time to time under the title Suicidal Impulses of the Business Community, something like that, and it's true. It's in the self-interest of the business community to get government on its side…. The real problem here is where do you find the support for free markets? If free markets weren't so damn efficient, they could never have survived because they have so many enemies and so few friends. People think of capitalism or free markets as something that obviously is supported by business. People think that if a business party is a party in politics, it will promote free market. But that's wrong. It will be in the self-interest of individual businesses to promote a tariff here and a tariff there," – Milton Friedman on EconTalk, 2006.