Editorial & Opinion

More misadventures in economic development…

“The obsession with growing the economy for the wealthiest is what is killing the planet, and driving death and displacement around the world,” writes Greg Gerritt.
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Published on October 29, 2021
By Greg Gerritt

It has recently been in the news that the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is giving multi million dollar ($3.5m) subsidies to very rich folks from Texas to put a few jobs in Rhode Island. This is what passes for economic development in Rhode Island. The state subsidizing the rich to create a few well paying jobs. The most recent year we have records for show a total subsidy for this type of thing of $52 million.

What is most galling is that the decision makers of the Commerce Corporation and the people accepting the money claim to be supporters of capitalism. This should preclude subsidies to the wealthy, but as it seems to be business as usual, subsidies seem only available to those who do not need them, but are powerful enough to demand them, it seems closer to banana republic cronyism than anything resembling free markets, with the added catastrophe of the displacement of community residents as the money given out by the government flows towards gentrification.

The flip side is among those who understand that the government is a big player in the economy, and does need to do a good job of directing subsidies since capitalism is so flawed and dysfunctional, but that instead of subsidizing the rich, the people’s money would be much better spent, and return benefits to those parts of the community that actually could use it. If the same $3.5 million was used to help grow businesses by local folks that employed folks already living here on the south side, in Olneyville, in Central Falls and West Warwick it would both create more jobs and prevent displacements.

It appears that the government and its pretend capitalists are enamored of only subsidizing the rich. They want just one kind of job, the kind only available to those with advanced degrees, even though unemployment among that group of people is already much lower than unemployment in every other category.

The clowns at the Commerce Corporation and all of the other programs focused on providing subsidies to the rich also justify their subsidizing the rich with the argument that woe is the Rhode Island economy and that this work is critical. They seem to ignore that RI is right in the middle of the pack economically. That our per capita income and unemployment rates are very close to the national average, and very typical of almost every place that is not a global megacity or a natural resource powerhouse.

It also completely ignores the reality of ecological collapse and climate change and our need to use less in the economy in order to preserve life on earth and a quality of life that is worth living. The obsession with growing the economy for the wealthiest is what is killing the planet, and driving death and displacement around the world. 

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