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The Employment Situation In Rhode Island Is Getting Worse – Bucking National Trend

Happy Easter from everyone at the Center to you and your family! We hope you had a great holiday weekend.

We wish we had better news to deliver. Unfortunately, the employment situation in Rhode Island is getting worse, bucking the national trend. While state politicians crow each year about not implementing broad new taxes, the unfortunate truth is that by nickle-and-diming residents and by not implementing aggressive reforms Rhode Island will continue to lose ground, nationally.

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The Undeserved Confidence of the New Upper Class

One common suggestion for those who wish to be aware of current events and engage in civil dialogue is that they should seek out alternate opinions and actually listen to the other side.  This practice does create a deeper understanding, but deeper understanding doesn’t necessarily bring a softening of reactions.  That was my thought while listening to former long-time PR guy for Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, Michael Raia, on the Bartholomewtown Podcast.

Listening to Raia talk about opportunities for our state and region, I couldn’t help but feel my impressions of the Raimondo administration affirmed and my concern about its type of thinking amplified.  The listener can hear how confident Raia is that he’s got the region all figured out, as if a society is just a puzzle for which placement of the correct pieces provides the solution.

Whether it’s the operation of businesses and the economy, the development and modification of the infrastructure, the operations of the healthcare system, or the quality of life of particular demographic groups, like senior citizens, one gets the impression that Raia has a firm belief that he and other go-getter experts can think it all through, plan it all out, wind it all up, and set the great society in motion.  Unfortunately, the human community doesn’t work like that.

Intelligent as they may be, the Raias and Raimondos aren’t smart enough to plan a society even if everybody wanted to live in neighborhoods like the ones they prefer and spend their senior years playing pickleball. Such an accomplishment would require infinite expertise and a God-like perspective.

The fact of the matter, though, is that most other people do not share the tastes of what Charles Murray called “the new upper class” in his book Coming Apart, and those people have a right not to have their societal preferences bulldozed aside by a powerful government.  Moreover, as Murray explains, the ethos of that new upper class is destructive of society in the long run.

Even in the immediate, direct trends of the economy, we can observe the economic sluggishness since Governor Raimondo took office, which suggests that her approach does not work.  In February, Rhode Island was the only state in the country that had fewer jobs than it did a year before.  Yet, one hears no trace of doubt in Raia’s voice that maybe (just maybe) crafting a society isn’t so easy.

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Who Is Working For You? New Major Report Coming Soon From The Center

Who does the Rhode Island General Assembly really work for? Too often, the people of our state are left voiceless as special interest dominate the conversation. Recently, the Ocean State Current broke a major story that ignited media coverage across the state. In H5662 and Whom Rhode Island Representatives Represent, Research Director Justin Katz, uncovers a key admission from the political class.

During the March 11th Tiverton Town Council meeting, a member of the General Assembly admitted that he put forward the bill at the request of Speaker of the House, without regard to the cost to the town he represents for the state firefighters union.

Don’t wait, you can catch the video on the Current by clicking the link here. You can also find the followup here.

In the coming weeks, the Center will be releasing a major report on the cost of collective bargaining in the Ocean State. This will be the longest and most in-depth research project the Center has ever undertaken on any topic. We invite you to be on the lookout for this critical report.

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Admissions Scandal Is So Very Rhode Island

I’ve got an op-ed in today’s Washington Times, about Rhode Island’s own connection with the college-entrance bribery scandal:

When Rhode Islanders heard that the women’s tennis coach of the state’s public university had been arrested in connection with the national bribery for admission scandal, many must have said, “Wait, what?” Students can get an excellent education at the University of Rhode Island, and it’s certainly an affordable option, but it isn’t exactly an institution for which the nation’s rich and famous would have to pay the sort of premium that might attract the FBI’s attention.

When they learned the details, locals’ reaction was probably something more like, “How very Rhode Island.”

This paragraph is probably the key takeaway for Rhode Islanders:

Rhode Island’s leaders are like the parents who’ve bribed their children’s way into institutions of higher education that were well beyond their merit. Both cases exhibit an implicit insecurity and a desire for people under their care or authority to be something they’re not. In contrast, the initial questions that political leaders and parents ask should be: Who are you really, and how can you achieve your full potential, being who you are? With that more-human perspective as the starting point, parents might not set their children up for embarrassing failure (or criminal prosecution).

Read the whole thing, as they say.

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Rhode Island Legislators Should Support The 6.5% Sales Tax Promise

The state of the State of Rhode Island is not competitive. Even as the rising national economic tide has lifted ships in all states, when compared with the rest of the nation, our Ocean State is severely lagging, and is in danger of sinking further behind if progressive policies continue to be implemented.

However, things do not have to be this way.

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Why We Should Be Afraid of Subjective Moral Reasoning

Believers and secularists can go around in circles when it comes to moral debates.  Mark Tapscott highlights the response of Christian speaker Ravi Zacharias when an audience member asks him why Christians are “so afraid of subjective moral reasoning,” and Zacharias’s response is excellent but, I think, vulnerable to the ideological roundabout.

He points to the genocides of the U.S.S.R. and China, but his questioner had already asserted that there were Christian Nazis and atheist Nazis.  Put aside the legitimacy of that assertion and simply note that he believes it and would likely move farther down that path had the argument continued.

The key point for advancing this debate is, in my view, that comments like “why are you so afraid” ignore that we live within a cultural framework.  Even now, we’re living within the moral momentum of Christianity.  Until very recently, children were still raised, in significant degree, to think that those things that were traditionally immoral are… immoral.  Telling a person when he or she becomes a teen that there is no ontological foundation for his or traditions doesn’t make them suddenly feel incorrect.  The transition takes time and an opposing catalyst.

In other words, something has to happen to change the feeling of right and wrong, and that something can be manipulation by an ideological movement, like the Nazis or the Chinese Communists or even the lower-scale bigotry that gives some superficially plausible reason why it’s OK to hurt a particular type of person (like a teenage supporter of the president).

Honestly evaluated life experience will suggest that the urge to break free of traditional moral restrictions is always lingering just below the surface, at least for a sufficiently large portion of the population to be dangerous.  It really doesn’t take much at all to break it free.

The Old Man in the Mountain looked out over New Hampshire for centuries, watching as horses lost ground to cars below and planes began flying overhead.  But time did him in.  Drops of water, freezing and thawing, worked their way through the crevices, and gutters and chains could ultimately not keep him attached to his foundation.  After that, there was no putting him back.

Culturally, we can resist the gravity of our nature for long eras, but a culture needs tradition to carry it forward.  Otherwise we’re pebbles on the edge of a cliff waiting while an evil ideology works its way into the fissures below.

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The Violence Inherent in the Mainstream Narrative

Here’s a little story, from Brian Amaral in the Providence Journal, that oughtn’t be lost in the shuffle of day-to-day news:

A group of juveniles [apparently 15 years old and younger] holding “Trump flags” outside the Brown University bookstore on Thayer Street Friday told police a man accosted them and choked two of them.

According to a police report provided by Commander Thomas Verdi, the five juveniles flagged down police at about 8 p.m. to report the incident in front of the bookstore at 244 Thayer St. They told police they were holding the two flags when they were approached by the man, believed to be in his 20s. The man began to stare at them, then asked what they were doing, they told police.

This is a consequence of the prevalent attitude in much of the mainstream of the political and media classes that Americans with certain points of view are evil and therefore have no rights.  When the narrative flows from “punch a Nazi” to “Trump is a Nazi,” a dangerous atmosphere develops.  In this narrative, somebody “Trump flags” (whatever those might be) is trying to usher in a new fascism.

Sure, the 20-something guy walking down the street who decides to take it upon himself to do something violent about this incipient fascism probably has something wrong with him, but this isn’t an isolated incident.  Let’s not forget the mass hysteria over the viral video of the Covington Catholic students in Washington, D.C., after the latest March for Life.

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Social Isolation for Elders and the Cause of Freedom

It’s been out for a few months, so readers who frequent this sort of Web site may have already come across WalletHub’s ranking of the “Best States to Retire,” which places Rhode Island 49th, better only than Kentucky.  What does the Ocean State in is the combination of low affordability and low quality of life for seniors.

That latter point is what caught my eye this week in Adriana Belmonte’s summary of the ranking for Yahoo Finance:

Colorado and New Hampshire’s spots jumped out to [WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez], as well. New Hampshire has the lowest property crime rate, and is the fourth-best state overall.

“While they aren’t exactly the most affordable, these states ranked among the best to retire to,” Gonzalez said, noting both states’ high-quality health care and physicians per capita. “This is because they both have a low risk of social isolation, as well as a low share of the population aged 65+ in poverty.”

New Hampshire is 3rd for “quality of life,” which includes a variety of entertainment and leisure items (like “scenic byways” and “museums per capita”), as well as crime rates.  The subcategory also includes “risk of social isolation,” measured as follows:

This metric considers the following six risk factors of social isolation in population aged 65 years and older: a) Divorced, separated or widowed; b) Never married; c) Poverty; d) Disability; e) Independent Living Difficulty and f) Living alone.

That’s a cultural thing, and it points to a traditional view of life.  If you divorce or never get married, you have a higher risk of being alone.  Likewise (although it doesn’t appear that WalletHub measured this) if you never had children or if your children had to move somewhere else in order to find work, your risk of isolation goes up.

We most certainly shouldn’t compound the tragic events in people’s lives with unnecessary ridicule and stigma, but we’ve tended to forget an important point:  Traditional values are traditional for a reason.  They were learned over the course of centuries, not (as the ideological scions of Marx would have it) because they served some patriarchy or ruling elite, but because they made people’s lives better.  They also provided the foundation for freedom and for social advancement, which means losing our traditional values will actually bring us back toward rule by others.

In that regard, it is a telling coincidence that New Hampshire’s motto is “Live Free or Die.”

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Governor Seeks to Punish Employers Via Proposed Medicaid Tax

Businesses should be applauded for hiring those most in need of work…not punished with more taxes, and certainly not made out to be the bad guy. It is misguided to think that if employees are not covered by their employer’s insurance plan, full or part time, and instead are enrolled in Medicaid, then the business should be punished.

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Recovering a Lost Heritage (The Right Lost Heritage)

Rod Dreher’s musings on the atrocity in New Zealand are worth a read:

And so, Tarrant’s line — radicalization is the rational response to degeneration — played out in a different way in Mark Bollobas’s life. He moved to his ancestral homeland, where he would be poorer in material ways, but richer in many other ways. In my case, I propose the Benedict Option, and live in consciously countercultural ways, trying to be more and more like this in the face of this increasingly repulsive culture. For his part, Brenton Tarrant became a fanatical racist, fascist, mass murderer. Radicalism takes many forms. We have to resist the berserker form, but resisting it cannot mean pretending that the society and culture we are creating is good and healthy and worth defending. It’s not. I mean, for God’s sake, just look. I see Tarrant as a manifestation of the same diabolism.

It’s more radical to work to build the kind of culture that is life-giving, and to create new forms within which it can be lived out, than to give your life over to murdering innocent men, women, and children. This is true whether you are an ISIS terrorist, or a white nationalist terrorist. Those devils bring nothing but pain and death. They are no solution.

Toward the end of the essay, Dreher embeds the video from a 2004 song by the French Canadian band, Mes Aieux, called “Degeneration,” that better captures the sense of Dreher’s point than these tagged-in videos usually do:

Basically, the theme is that we’ve sold out our heritage, culturally, in a way that leaves us spiritually poorer and with less connection to each other and the world around us.  Personally, I find that narrative difficult to dispute as truth, but concepts like “heritage” are fraught with danger, these days.  Everything has been tainted by identity politics and race huckstering.

The lost heritage bemoaned in the song is the ability to work hard and improve the lives of one’s family over generations.  That had been sold out in a generation, leaving the young with only a culture of dependency.

This is an eminently fixable problem, without bigotry and certainly without violence.  That references to recovering our heritage have been tainted with such things is an indication of our social sickness.

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Standing Up to the Forces of Modern Mania

Western civilization is in the throes of a mania, and the circumstance is precisely one in which religious people should prove the fortitude that they derive from their faith.  So, no, Catholic health plans should not cover transgender surgeries.  Agree or disagree with the policy, but there can be no argument that bodily mutilation — particularly of minors who have self-diagnosed their psychiatric needs — conflicts with Catholic teaching.

Unfortunately, powerful organizations are intent on disallowing Catholicism — or any traditional religion — from being anybody’s guide to how we organize our lives:

The ACLU cited standards of care from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, saying these standards are recognized as authoritative by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. …

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, said that employer plans appear to be changing to include transgender services, many individual hospitals and doctors, especially Catholic ones, decline such services on the grounds of religious exemptions.

“It is a growing problem that we are seeing nationally because of the consolidation of hospitals,” he told Crosscut, noting that most hospitals in Washington state are Catholic-affiliated.

It doesn’t take much for a mania to grip a society (with the persuasive influence, religious folks might suggest, of malevolent whispers). Changing the impulses of certain slice of a professional class and a handful of influential organizations suffices to turn social institutions like our judicial system into weapons.

The issue is not a conditional one of determining what approach to a challenging problem will have the best overall effect.  When that is the case, a religiously founded organization can legitimately conclude that some accommodation to the outside world is allowable in order to continue its unrelated good works.

At issue, here, is whether the Church believes what it has preached and, more importantly, whether its faith in God is sufficient to stand against activists intent on perpetuating evil.  That pervasive fortitude is critical to both to the Church’s religious mission and to the continued advancement of Western civilization.

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The 6.5% Sales Tax Promise: Money In Your Pocket

Existing state law (General Law 44-18-18) specifies a “trigger” for a sales tax rate reduction to 6.5% (from its current level of 7.0%!) if certain internet sales tax collection criteria are met. The rationale for this law was to relieve Rhode Islanders of the additional burden of imposing a sales tax on a broader range of purchased goods, by easing the tax.

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Resisting Spiritual Hygiene

Matt Allen understands the paradox that accepting constraints can lead to increased freedom; it’s odd, then, that he still looks back harshly on a priest’s advice about the importance of Catholic Mass.

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Paths of Injustice

This week, my ongoing efforts to be better cultured landed Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 film Paths of Glory on my television.

The generals in the French army order a regiment to take a German fortification during the First World War.  It’s an impossible command, and the attack fails, with large segments of the force pinned down such that to charge is to die instantly.  The general in immediate command demands a show trial and execution of three randomly chosen soldiers as an example to the others, and their colonel asks to represent them as their defense.

The officers conducting the court martial hearing give Colonel Dax no chance.  They treat one soldier’s medals and proven bravery as no defense against the charge of cowardice in this case.  Another soldier’s testimony that he didn’t charge because he had been knocked unconscious by, and pinned under, a falling dead body is insufficient to overcome rank speculation that he could be lying and could have inflicted a serious head injury on himself after the fact.

Kubrick subtly interweaves the very human tendency of the generals to rationalize their acceptance of injustice because they had conflated their own interests with the good of the  military and the country.  In his closing argument, Colonel Dax expresses shame at being a member of the human race:  “The case made against these men is a mockery of all human justice.”

Watching that scene, I wondered how it is that we have not all been acculturated against such behavior.  (Unfairness in state and local politics were in my thoughts.)  But then my mind separated the themes of the movie and its imagery.  The court martial consisted of a group of white men in military costumes before a national flag in a large room at Schleissheim Palace.  One can’t deny that our society has been well trained to see injustice in such settings and with such characters as that.

We too easily lose sight of the reality that the particular cause in whose name human beings treat each other unjustly is not ideological or demographic.  Not only traditional authority types are wicked or prone to rationalizing harm to others.  Any one of us can fall into the same role.

Insisting in the name of identity politics or intersectionality that only certain types of people can be inhumane is a dangerous mistake that our civilization seems at risk of making.

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Generational Apologies All Around

Steven Papamarcos offers, in the New York Daily News,  the apology that GenXers like me have been wanting to hear ever since we came of age and came to understand the world into which we’d grown:

The previous generation, the Greatest Generation, saved the world by sending Orwell’s rough men into the crucible of war in the interest of peace. My generation, the Baby Boomers, was to live the life purchased for us by the boys of Normandy, the Ardennes, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other killing fields. White marble crosses and Stars of David in these places testify to the enormous price of that purchase. And live we did. What a party we threw ourselves. So, as I reflect on the goodness of the job my generation has done, I apologize. I apologize for it all.

On his list of the Boomers’ good works:

  • Bankrupting the United States
  • A political system in which neither party will “staunch the fiscal bleeding”
  • Raising the current generations of civically ignorant nationalists and socialists around the world who are renewing “the tired, hateful rhetoric of the past”
  • Turning higher education into a politically correct land of ego stroking
  • Undermining American education, generally
  • The prolongation of racial division by trying to compensate for racism of the past, rather than simply moving past it

It’s nice to hear an apology, for all the good it does, but a nagging sense of pre-guilt keeps me from gloating.  I have a feeling some GenXer will pen a responsive apology some day, as the younger Boomers shuffle off to the grave, for what reality led us to do to them once we’d overcome their programming of the Millennials and managed to explain it all.

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Quotation Marks Tell a Tale of Bias

Although it’s from Monday’s “Political Scene” in the Providence Journal the following paragraph is worth memorializing because it truly captures — media watchers will agree — a dominant perspective in the mainstream news media:

Last Thursday night at the Rhode Island State House, deeply-held religious beliefs collided with the anger and fervor of women’s rights activists in the Trump era; the dominant church in Rhode Island waged — and lost — a holy war against “the sin″ of abortion; and a House Speaker who promised to be “the firewall” against “ultra-left wing groups” felt compelled to let colleagues vote, for the first time in a quarter-century, on an abortion-rights bill.

Specifically, note that the reporters and/or editors put quotation marks around “the sin,” but not around “holy war.”  In that small detail of copy editing, one sees precisely the angle from which the newspaper is reporting.  Killing children in the womb up to the point of birth is only a sin in some people’s eyes, thus requiring quotation marks to prove that the journalists don’t necessarily subscribe to that view, but opposing the legality of such an act is literally a holy war.

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Rhode Island Needs A Freedom Agenda. (And It’s Coming This Week.)

The Ocean State is doomed to lose a US Congressional seat because of its hostile tax, educational, and business environment. The state’s current thinking chases away the wealth, families, and businesses that are needed for all of us to be truly prosperous. The far-left big government policies that have reigned in our state for far too long will continue to only make matters far worse. Instead, we need a change of direction.

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McDonald’s PR Decisions on the Gender Front

For some reason, a government relations officer from McDonald’s restaurants thought it worthwhile to send me a modified version of this press release in my capacity as the vice president of the Tiverton Town Council.  (Tiverton has no McDonald’s.)  The email subject line was “Introducing McDonald’s Gender Balance and Diversity Strategy,” and the body includes the following information:

Together with our franchisees, McDonald’s provides jobs for almost 2 million people across the world and is one of the largest employers of women. In fact, in the U.S., 61% of McDonald’s employees are women, 60% of our restaurant managers are women and over 3,800 restaurants are women owned and operated. Of our signature education and tuition assistance program, Archways to Opportunity, 62% of the participants are women. That is why we are committed to creating a workplace where everyone, from crew to c-suite, is equally supported and empowered to realize their full potential. …

We recognize that this initiative requires ongoing effort, and we are committed to engaging with stakeholders to understand their perspectives and how to evolve our actions. We appreciate the continuous feedback and guidance from you and other experts and hope our combined efforts will continue to make a difference.

I replied, seeking to resolve my confusion.  From the provided information, it appears that women are significantly over-represented in employment, restaurant management, and benefit from the company’s scholarship program, at least in the United States.  Shouldn’t efforts at equity in our country therefore focus on men?

I received no reply, but I subsequently noticed that the online version emphasizes that, “30% of McDonald’s Officer positions and 41% of staff positions at Director level and above are held by women globally,” which seems like an indicator of the oddity of our time.  I don’t know whether the online release was changed in response to feedback like mine, but the possibility seems plausible.  It isn’t difficult to believe that a company, these days, would rather provide critics with evidence that it is currently an unequal workplace committed to change than to take credit for perhaps overdoing it in its zeal to comply with a fashionable ideology.

One consequence of our culture’s adherence to this strange ideology is that a global company has incentive to introduce discrimination where there may be none to make up for opposite discrimination elsewhere.  The way we’re training ourselves to understand these issues thus leads us to combat injustice with injustice.

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How the Reproductive Privacy Act Enables Late-Term Abortion


Abortion supporters in Rhode Island are trying to tell you two stories at the same time. Story number one is that their proposed statutes to legalize abortion “codify” the law as defined by the Supreme Court in 1973. Story number two is that the proposed statutes only allow abortion in cases where a child has reached viability when there a serious medical risk to the mother’s life or health.

Katherine Gregg‘s story posted on the Providence Journal’s website last night shows how the two stories are not compatible and need a little help to appear consistent when told at the same time…

Among the key tenets of [Roe v. Wade], which has guided decades of court decisions since: “For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
 
The bill headed for a vote in Rhode Island…says much the same thing: “The termination of an individual’s pregnancy after fetal viability is expressly prohibited except when necessary, in the medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the life or health of that individual”….
 
One of the newcomers — Republican David Place of Burrillville — confirmed he will be voting an adamant “no” against what he considers an “extreme” piece of legislation that goes far beyond the Roe v. Wade ruling with a “health” exception for late-term abortions that, in his mind, is so vague it could mean “mental health.”
 
The problem here is that the idea of mental health as a justification for abortion did not, as the Journal story implies, originate in the mind of Rep. Place; mental health as a justification for abortion originated with the United States Supreme court, in an opinion issued on the same day as the Roe v. Wade decision, in the case of Doe v. Bolton
 
We agree with the District Court…that the medical judgment [whether an abortion is necessary] may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment.
 
So if the legislature desires to turn back the clock on abortion law to January 22, 1973, then the non-specific “health” exception that they are proposing can, in certain cases, allow the killing of a healthy baby when the mother’s life and physical health are not in danger, up until the moment of birth.

That is not just David Place’s opinion. It is the Supreme Court’s opinion, and what Rhode Island’s supporters of abortion are attempting to “codify”. That this kind of broad justification for late term abortion is wanted by more than a few Rhode Islanders is not at all clear.

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Loss of US Congressional Seat Underscores Need for Reform Agenda

The state of the State of Rhode Island is not good. Even as the rising national economic tide has lifted ships in all states, when compared with the rest of the nation, our Ocean State is severely lagging, and is in danger of sinking further behind if progressive policies continue to be implemented.

Perhaps no indicator more appropriately demonstrates the failure of the leftist status quo, than does the near-certainty that Rhode Island will lose one of its precious House seats in the U.S. Congress. The persistent jokes of family and friends “moving out of state” have now tragically manifested themselves into the harsh reality that our state is not competitive enough to see population growth on par with the rest of the country.

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