What Rhode Island Politicians Have Been Building Toward


Don’t let the fact that Kevin Williamson starts a recent essay looking specifically at Chicago dissuade you from reading it.  His topic is much broader:

The horrifying fact is that Barack Obama can make you a rich man — if you’re the right kind of man. If you operate a politically connected business, the government can direct the better part of $1 billion straight into your coffers ricky-tick, though there might be some blowback if your largest shareholder is dumb enough to tell the local Rotary Club, “There’s never been more money shoved out of the government’s door in world history, and probably never will be again, than in the last few months and in the next 18 months. And our selfish parochial goal is to get as much of it for Tulsa and Oklahoma as we possibly can.” At the other end of the spectrum, a federal tormenter can be the end of your enterprise: Ask those Tea Party groups illegally targeted by Barack Obama’s IRS. Ask a voting-reform advocate who was targeted by the ATF in spite of not being in any business related to A, T, or F.

Private crony companies are only the beginning, and Williamson hardly mentions those who receive government largesse as direct benefit/assistance payments.  He also neglects to nod toward the world of non-profit organizations that orbit government, absorbing taxpayer resources for activities ranging from the truly charitable to the overtly political.

Relevent to the government pensions of two key players in the Dancing Cop saga, Williamson goes on to note “the vast bureaucracies of overpaid functionaries whose main purpose in life is to stand between citizens and their objectives with their hands out saying ‘Pay me!'”  Such employees are a triple boon for government; they, themselves, become bound to the regulatory state as dependents, and they act as the pretense for shuffling gobs of cash to labor unions, which then recycle the money back to politicians and left-wing activist groups, while acting as community organizers for political action.

However, government employees also act as a corps to harry the public, making sure that edicts are difficult to reorder.  Related to our ongoing conversation about education reform, Williamson suggests that, “if ‘reform’ means that those $107K paydays would get linked to something like (horrible thought!) performance or outcomes, you can bet that the reformers will be dead in the water before they get started. That’s the power of the patron–client model.”

That’s why, to bring things around again, Rhode Island government is entertaining the idea of a total cap on healthcare spending in the state.  It’s why they want things like tolls and gun control.  It’s why they set up quasi-public organizations like the Commerce Corporation and put tens of millions of dollars at their disposal to make sure that those who bring economic development to the state realize they can’t act independently of government.

Unfortunately, somebody, somewhere is paying for all of this (although the cleverest trick is ensuring that they don’t know that they are), and as Tony Lepore, the Dancing Cop, is discovering, this arrangement is all well and good for those who benefit from it only up to the point at which they have a difference of opinion with those in power.  Then they end up as helpless as a Tea Party group applying for tax exempt status.