June 3, 2009

Rhode Island is Among the Worst in a Bad Economy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Does the release of yet another set of statistics showing how badly Rhode Island is doing economically still count as news? The answer, unfortunately, is yes, as Rhode Island still manages to find its way to the bottom of the pack when states are ranked in terms of their economic performances, a measure which takes into account the nationwide slowdown.

Yesterday, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis released its initial state-by-state gross domestic product (GDP) figures for 2008. While growth across the country was slow, just 0.7% above the previous year, 37 states still managed to show positive economic growth of some kind. Rhode Island, however, was one of 12 states showing negative economic growth, with its gross state product of shrinking by 0.9%, the 5th worse change in state GDP in the nation.

The negative growth cannot be blamed on our location. Of the six New England states, Rhode Island ranked last in GDP change, with 4 of the states showing positive growth (Massachusetts leading the way, at 1.9%).

Consider the above data to be a Rorschach test about what you believe the source of Rhode Island's troubles to be. Do you look at the above figures and say, well when the nation is doing badly, it's inevitable that Rhode Island will be doing even worse, so there's nothing we can do (a symptom of what I believe University or Rhode Island Economics Professor Leondard Lardaro would call an endogenous view of Rhode Island's troubles) -- or do you look at the figures and think that they point to a need to fix something in Rhode Island that's broken?


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Oooh, oooh, I know the answer to this one. We give more money to teachers, firemen, police, and other municipal workers and their unions, cut health care co-pays and increase their retirement packages.

Do I win?

Posted by: Patrick at June 3, 2009 9:49 AM

Actually Patrick, you're a step ahead of me. Before we get to how to fix RI, I'd like to know if a majority of people believe there's problem to be fixed, or if they've bought into the thinking that says, hey we're Rhode Island, so we'll always be a little behind, and there's really nothing we can do about it.

Posted by: Andrew at June 3, 2009 9:55 AM

This really is a shame RI is doing so poorly.

However, I know "MY" elected officials, both state and local, are doing all they can to fix this problem. They told me this before the last election!

What eveyone else in this state needs to do is get "THEIR" elected officials to join "MY" elected officials and fix the problems ;-)

Posted by: Johno at June 3, 2009 11:34 AM

Andrew, isn't it obvious that there's a problem in this state? Are teachers are woefully underpaid for what they do, especially when you look at it on an hourly basis, our police and fire are undermanned, our municipalities are very short-staffed and it's completely unfair how the pensions are funded. Oh yeah, haven't you heard that the state pension is very underfunded? We need to make up for that. If we simply fix all these wrongs, which seem as obvious as the nose on my face, then RI will turn back into the prosperous state it once was. We don't need no stinking industry or businesses, all we need is to take better care of those who are in public service. Because after all, it is a "service" that we all need and want, so if anything, it should be expanded!

Posted by: Patrick at June 3, 2009 12:11 PM

Everybody blames everybody else's legislators for our state of affairs, but refuses to vote out their own, who are probably just as responsible.
I voted against my incumbent state senator (lot of good that did LOL). Can others who complain about our state's problems say the same?

Posted by: rhody at June 3, 2009 11:48 PM

"Everybody blames everybody else's legislators for our state of affairs, but refuses to vote out their own,"

I've been saying for a long time that a bicameral assembly makes no sense whatsoever. It's just a copy of the federal structure without the reasoning behind it. In the US Senate, each state has an equal vote. In the RI Senate, Providence, Warwick, Cranston still wield more power than Scituate, Coventry, etc.

What we really should do is keep the House the same, with proportional representaation, but then switch the Senate to one of two options:
1. Each of the 39 cities/towns get 1 Senator. Equal representation.
2. Throw the whole idea of districts out the window and just vote for the top 38 candidates on the ballot. Then there's no more "my guy". They're all "my guy". Then we'd have the Senate acting in the best interest of the whole state, not just their own people, and we'd have the House acting in the best interest of their district. Checks and balances.

The current system makes no sense to me.

Posted by: Patrick at June 4, 2009 8:37 AM


Part 1 is the way the RI Senate used to be organized, but in the 1960s the US Supreme Court said you couldn't have state-government constituencies of different sizes.

Posted by: Andrew at June 4, 2009 8:50 AM

Thanks Andrew. That's idiotic though. If the federal gov't can do it, the states should be allowed to as well. So, then that points me to #2. Make them all 100% equal. Make every Senator represent 100% of RI. Then every citizen would have exactly the same representation. Not even the House can claim that.

Posted by: Patrick at June 4, 2009 11:08 AM
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