Dave Richards for May 16th…………
--With Mother’s Day behind us and so many family celebrations taking place at this time of year, there’s plenty of positive energy floating around. I think we could get by without me throwing roses this week. In this edition, I think I’ll take a hard look at a current news story and tell you what I really think.
--I have an opinion. It’s just an opinion, and I’m not even very happy with it myself, but I just can’t seem to persuade myself it is wrong. The news that tax collections into the coffers of the State of Rhode Island General Fund are not only down, but down to the tune of $100 million is, to me, the result of something which is a bigger story.
Some in our government are surprised by the shortfall. Some are not so much surprised as they are dismayed. Some, like our governor, are looking for a scapegoat. She blames our new president. But as much as I disapprove of Mr. Trump’s work myself, I can’t help but see the governor’s words as anything more than political rhetoric. The kind of destructive political rhetoric which nullifies the user’s words pointless and corrodes their reputations of intelligence and honesty.
Getting back to my opinion. I have long held the opinion that our economy in Rhode Island, and even our entire country, is not as good as we are being told it is by government officials. Having that opinion as I have for such a long time, I’m sure you can understand that when something like a ‘surprise’ shortfall of $100 million comes along, to me it means one of two things happened. Either somebody in the budget office mistakenly over-estimated revenue, or…………..the suppositions of how good the economy would be were, shall we say, “overly optimistic”.
One economic barometer officials use to “prove” the economy is as good as they want it to be is the stock market, and the way the stock market seems to be going up most of the time. I say it’s an illusion. The stock market will go up forever. Not every day, of course, but over time. It goes up as surely as the progressive jackpot goes up on slot machines in the casinos. But just like a slot machine, if you are playing and have more than you started with, you haven’t really ‘won’ yet. You see, you never really win until you cash out. Similarly, if your stocks are up, you don’t have the money to spend until you sell the stocks. But if everybody sold their stocks so they really would have their money to spend………the stock market would surely crash. So, I conclude, the stock market gains are not a sign of a good economy.
The other economic barometer officials use to claim “all is well” is the unemployment rate. I have never been persuaded that the unemployment figures delivered dutifully each month by our DLT are derived by a system which does not favor a ‘politically friendly methodology’ with a blind eye to the reality of people who are not employed enough to support the kind of revenue upon which the state’s budget was founded.
To put it simply, if someone is not drawing unemployment benefits, that person is not counted as unemployed. And these days, there are no extensions of unemployment benefits in effect, so in less than a year’s time all benefits for an unemployed worker are exhausted. The way I understand things, that means our unemployment rate, the way they calculate it now, cannot fail to improve every month as people, still without jobs, are counted as working.
It follows, then, that when state budget revenue projections are calculated using the false unemployment numbers being reported, those revenue projections will wrong.
Is it a crime to falsely report better-than-reality figures? Probably not. It’s been going on for years and nobody is in jail yet for doing it. But the real ‘crime’ I see here is the way they use this game to get away with deficit spending. And the real ‘crime’ of it all is that when we deficit-spend we are in debt and then we truly cannot afford to do the things we need to do. This causes us to continue to juggle and lie and deficit-spend on into the future in an exercise resembling a Ponzi scheme. And you know what happens then.
I’ve been going over the amendments to her budget the governor is recommending. She’s now going to close down and sell some group homes for special needs people to raise cash. Some other people getting benefits now will lose those benefits. Also, vendors who sell goods and services to the state will now be forced to “kick-back” one percent of their well-earned payments for goods and services back to the state in the form of an “administrative fee”.
These are troubling times, my friend. When you want to spend more money than you have and you justify it by lying about how much money you will earn………well………if it were you or me…….we’d be in big trouble.
We’ve got work to do to clear up this mess. Hard work. And we need serious people to do it, not people who will blame a president who is not a member of their political party simply because your party people will like you better if you do. We need people who don’t give up to get along. We need a state government which is not so steeped in situational ethics that even they don’t know the truth from the lies.
I had a friend years ago who was a retired priest. He’d pop off from time to time with comments that were unexpected, but they really made you think. About government corruption he’d say, “We need another flood.”, referring to Noah. I’d like to think there’s a better way, but considering what I’ve just written………maybe Father was right. It’s hard to argue with his logic.
--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: email@example.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.
Thanks for reading!