“The economy is moving in the right direction,” said Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) to Providence Journal‘s Ed Achorn in an interview conducted shortly after a caucus vote that more or less confirmed Mattiello as Speaker for another two years. “We had good policies. We’ve cut taxes. We’ve reduced regulations. [emphasis mine] We are incentivizing people and companies to come to the State of Rhode Island. Our policies are good and the results are showing. We have more jobs than ever before our unemployment rate is at 3.9 percent, I believe. We’re moving in the right direction.”
The idea is that tax cuts and deregulation make the rich more likely to invest and expand the economy, because they will have more money and it will be easier to launch new business schemes without all that troublesome red tape to wade through. The reality is that tax cuts on the rich simply make the rich richer, driving economic and income inequality, which today is at record levels.
Mattiello is proud to tout the backing he has received from the business community. And he acknowledges that businesses are interested in earning money for themselves and their stockholders, not necessarily in paying workers more or in spreading their wealth throughout society, saying, “The business community is interested in commerce and earning money. They have to earn money for the businesses themselves and their stockholders.”
Mattiello said that sometimes when businesses get involved in politics, it hurts the business, but he didn’t offer specific examples as to why this might be. Even so, he thinks businesses getting involved in politics would be a good idea, because they would help drive politics in a way that is advantageous to their concerns.
“The business community recognizes the work that the House has done and I think they responded appropriately,” said Mattiello, “but they’re reluctant to get involved in politics for the reasons I stated and I certainly respect that. I wish they were more involved because if they were more involved there would be more people like me out there that are willing to stand up for the business community and business interests, which are foundational.
“Everything emanates from a good economy. All good things emanate from a good economy.”
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The idea that the business community is not involved enough in our state’s politics is absurd. Mattiello noted that, “all of the Chambers of Commerce were supporting me” in the last election. “I had ‘Cap‘ Wiley, a CPA that’s very involved in the business community, write a letter that the Journal published,” noted the Speaker. “Dave Chenovert from the Manufacturers, he was supportive and they held an event for me.” David Chenovert is the executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association.
Eye on The Statehouse Podcast :@rispeaker touts endorsement by Cap Wiley, the guy who told CPA’s in RI that it could be considered malpractice NOT to tell clients to become Florida residents. https://t.co/6LSs7QqPQp
— Linda Finn (@Lindafblue) November 12, 2018
When businesses have undue influence over our government, we run the risk of oligarchy, which in this case would be to be ruled by the corporate and business elite. Some think the United States is already an oligarchy. As John Cassidy writes in The New Yorker:
From the Dept. of Academics Confirming Something You Already Suspected comes a new study concluding that rich people and organizations representing business interests have a powerful grip on U.S. government policy. After examining differences in public opinion across income groups on a wide variety of issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens, of Princeton, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern, found that the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans. Indeed, the opinions of lower-income groups, and the interest groups that represent them, appear to have little or no independent impact on policy.
In calling for more business involvement and “more people like me” to be involved in the political system, Mattiello is inviting greater corporate influence and greater inequality into our state. Over a week after his interview with Achorn, Mattiello sat down with The Public’s Radio‘s Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay.
“Jobs and economy legislation tends to be the budget,” said Mattiello. “Our priorities will be set forth in the budget. You have to have a competitive tax process. My number one priority for the coming session is going to be the continued car tax phase out. We have to look at our regulatory system, our tax structure, [emphasis mine] our education system, our job training programs, I will be talking with the Governor and the Senate President and we’ll hone all of these programs and put the resources to where they need to go. We have to make our state more competitive and create the environment that’s going to allow that to happen.”
MacKay pushed back against this, slightly, asking, “One thing we’re seeing is that new, 21st Century innovation jobs aren’t going to low-cost places – low taxes, right to work states. They’re going to places with high educated workers. How does your plan fit into getting us into that lane?”
“It’s investing more into education and job training. This is an area where we have to be thankful to Governor Raimondo. Job training has been a focus of hers. I’ve been very supportive of every initiative for job training. Our K-12 and higher education systems, we have to prop those up. We have to invest more into those because you are correct: quality of life, education and the quality of your workforce is going to determine your success in the future.”
While this focus on education is commendable, it’s also being expressed backwards. When we use terms like “the quality of our workforce” we are treating our people as a commodity to serve business, not thinking of business as a means to enhancing the lives of our community. People are not supposed to be serving the whims of businesses, businesses are supposed to serve the will of the people. When business will not properly serve the people, the government steps in with regulations to compel them to. One example being the laws on minimum wage.
Mattiello is soft on the idea of increasing the minimum wage, even as he acknowledges the need for it.
“I’ve always looked at what our neighbors are doing, particularly Connecticut and Massachusetts,” said Mattiello. “We’re probably between them right now, which is probably a decent place to be. But as they go up, we look at going up.”
As economist Douglas Hall has said, every year that the minimum wage does not increase, minimum wage workers see a decrease in their wages, due to inflation. Merely looking at a minimum wage increase is not only not helpful, it hurts people.
Mattiello doesn’t see himself as a Reagan-esque proponent of trickle-down economics. He sees himself more in the mold of JFK:
“I’m a JFK Democrat. I’m moderate. I don’t believe I’m unduly conservative or certainly unduly liberal. I try to be analytical on every issue. We certainly want to take care of our middle class, our working class, our needy folks… I come from the perspective that we want to improve the quality of life of our citizens and I believe that’s the mission of the Democratic Party.”
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