AFTER LIVING IN RHODE ISLAND for many years, my wife and I recently felt compelled to move out of state. We are gone. Although we will miss the natural beauty and many attractions of Rhode Island, we are very happy in our new home out West. Many of our friends, some of whom are doctors and lawyers and other educated professionals, have left or are looking to leave Rhode Island.
Why did we move? Every day it seems that the headlines of The Journal, in covering state and local government, are more dire than the day before. The bottom line is that living in Rhode Island is no longer economically viable. Itís not simply that Rhode Island is expensive: Rhode Island is no longer a good value. Rhode Island has lost its competitiveness.
I do not want to live in a tax hell. I do not want to live in a state with a crooked legislature, and to a lesser extent, a crooked judiciary. I do not want to live in a one-party state.
I do not want to live in a state that is run by the public-sector unions. I do not want to live in a state where political insiders, lobbyists, and an old-boy network call every shot.
I donít want to live in a welfare state. I donít want to live in a state to which poor and uneducated people flock for its overly generous social programs that taxpayers are forced to fund. I donít want to live in a state with a $400 million deficit, which financial analysts say may be bankrupt by 2010.
I donít want to live in what is arguably the worst-managed state in the union.
Over any extended period, 2.5 percent revenue growth cannot support 5 percent spending growth. Any first-year economics student can understand this ó but not, apparently, the General Assembly. State lawmakers always look to the taxpayers to solve their horrendous overspending habits.
Where does all the money go? Ssssh, donít tell anyone, but most of your taxpayer money goes to social-service programs and to public employees. Public employees get cushy health benefits and platinum pensions that any average Joe in the private sector could only dream about getting.
Statehouse bosses euphemistically call it ďconstituency building.Ē If either ďlegalized theftĒ or ďpolitical corruptionĒ rolls off your tongue easier, feel free.
Per-pupil spending in Rhode Island is among the highest in the country, but public-school performance is among the worst. Property taxes continually outpace all logic and reason, and there is no end in sight. Conflicts of interest on local school committees are the norm.
Thank you, National Education Association Rhode Island.
For all of these high taxes, youíd think residents would at least get some good services. Nope. Itís hard even to find trash receptacles at some state parks.
However, political insiders are well tended. If you are a casino operator, teachers union, or other special-interest group with clout, you are fat and happy. If you are an illegal alien, or a welfare mother, you are in heaven. But if you are the taxpayer footing the bills, you are someplace else. Itís the modern tragedy of the commons: Public resources are exploited by the few, to the detriment of the many.
What could save the state? The potential cure is voter initiative, which gives power back to the people. Voter initiative worked in saving neighboring Massachusetts. Last year, Rhode Island citizens presented 20,000 signatures in favor of a voter-initiative amendment, but the State House bosses killed it. The reasons they gave the public were bogus and laughable. Yet they were quick to fast-track the Narragansett Indian casino proposal, supported by a relative handful of constituents.
Sure, Rhode Island has some good public officials, but they are greatly outnumbered and outvoted by the bums.
By American standards, Rhode Island is politically repressive. Will things ever change? Itís unlikely. The demographic trends do not portend good things. How does a populace that is growing less educated every year make educated decisions about its government? Obviously, it doesnít.
My beef with Rhode Island is ultimately with the people of Rhode Island. How could I have a complaint against 1 million residents? Itís very simple: Rhode Islanders are not diligent about electing good public officials. Rhode Islanders are not doing their job as citizens.
Sure, they have the right to vote for whomever they want, whomever they think will help them. Thatís fine, but I do not wish to be represented by their poor choices any longer.
In a democracy, majority rules. But when the voting record of that majority proves that, intellectually, it is not too swift, then it is time to move.
The best strategy for a rigged game is to stop playing.
Since itís (still) a free country, Iím out of here. Iím voting with my feet. See ya!
I will miss our friends, the good people, the excellent restaurants, Newport, Narragansett Bay, Block Island, Brown University, and the many other amenities. But, for now, the negatives of living in Rhode Island far outweigh the benefits.
Harold A. Meyer III is an entrepreneur, writer and honors graduate of Brown University who now lives in Rathdrum, Idaho ( www.halmeyer.com).