September 2, 2012

Against Incentivizing Cooperative Strategic Workarounds with Comprehensive Market-Driven Measurables

Justin Katz

At the risk of repeating myself, I have to opine that one of Rhode Island's core economic challenges is the frequency of sentences like this:

To position Rhode Island to compete successfully for jobs and investments, a new public/private economic-development partnership should be designed to implement an integrated economic-development strategy that focuses on business retention and expansion, cultivates new business startups, supports a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, develops market-driven workforce solutions to help grow the middle class, creates a robust research capability to help make better investment and policy decisions, develops a comprehensive manufacturing strategy, aligns state capital programs with economic-development strategies, develops best-in-class business information and knowledge exchanges, provides the highest level of customer service, builds on its regional economic-development assets and actively manages Rhode Island’s image and reputation in the marketplace.

Admittedly, I've been known to write a Melvillian paragraph from time to time, but I always try (at least) to make my endless sentences go somewhere.  At a minimum, there should be some humor in there, or a rest-stop of wordplay to persuade the reader that it's worthwhile traveling on — perhaps rereading with justified suspicion that something worth catching might have been missed.  But that's 109 words, a full four inches of Saturday Providence Journal column space, of the sort of technocratic jargon that leaves working self-starters rightly convinced that the underlying message is: "You're not included."

(Yes, I measured.)

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Additional public-private investment is still the answer for Rhode Island, even after failure after failure after failure. Just ask self-proclaimed "wonk," progressive RIFuture contributor John Speck (Frymaster), who claims to have been a consultant for the EDC and was the leading (but not only) advocate for the 38 Studios loan on that blog. Speck openly insulted the venture capitalists who passed on the deal and wrote that Rhode Island would be "fools" to pass on the opportunity. Now that the company has gone belly-up, just like Capco Steel and all the rest, he's again taken to RIFuture to proclaim that it was a failure by Carcieri and the EDC to properly implement and oversee the loan, despite overwhelming post-mortem evidence that the company was never viable in the first place. Meanwhile Bob Plain tries desperately in post after post to paint all the failed loans as Carcieri exclusives, despite the widely publicized involvement of numerous Rhode Island progressives and Democrats, including House Speaker Fox and their favorite candidate, David Cicillini. Progressives are more than ready to accept credit, but never the blame it seems.

Posted by: Dan at September 2, 2012 2:07 PM

Progressives are more than ready to accept credit, but never the blame it seems....Posted by Dan

Correction: Should read "Progressives and Conservatives are more than ready to accept credit, but never the blame it seems

You're welcome Sammy

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at September 2, 2012 4:50 PM

"despite the widely publicized involvement of numerous Rhode Island progressives and Democrats, including House Speaker Fox"

"Involvement"? Quite simply, the 38 Studios loan guarantee would not have happened, no matter how much Don Carcieri wanted it, if Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed had not approved it -- approved it in every sense of the word.

Posted by: Monique at September 2, 2012 7:52 PM

" that it was a failure by Carcieri and the EDC to properly implement and oversee the loan"

Actually, the failure of oversight occurred during the administration of the current governor.

We are still waiting to hear who, from the state of RI, allowed IBM (the monitoring company) to switch from written to verbal reports, why IBM was allowed to do so and, in view of his hearty and correct opposition during the campaign to the loan guarantee, why the current governor did not, as soon as he got into office, avail his administration of the numerous oversight tools built into the agreement with 38 Studios. Had he done so, the state almost certainly would have been clued much sooner into the fatal cash burn rate that THE CURRENT GOVERNOR HIMSELF HAS BEEN DEPLORING.

We're apparently going to hear from the former governor about the 38 Studios loan guarantee. When are we going to hear from the current governor with answers to the above questions?

Posted by: Monique at September 2, 2012 8:06 PM

I have no problem acknowledging that Carcieri was one of the major facilitators of the atrocious 38 studios loan and the Capco Steel loan. What I do have an issue with is dishonest progressive bloggers like Plain, Speck, et al using it in post after post to rack up cheap partisan political points because that is not the lesson that needs to be learned from all these public-private investment failures. It's especially silly since contributors Speck and Hull are on the record as supporting the EDC and the 38 studios loan. Progressives are all in favor of public-private loans on principle, especially manufacturing, unionized companies such as Capco Steel. The only reason they criticize these loans ex ante is because they can tar a Republican governor with it and save face (while conveniently ignoring all the Democratic/progressive lawmakers involved).

Posted by: Dan at September 2, 2012 8:16 PM

The problem Rhode Island has is too many fingers in the pot, too many state, region, city, town entities doing the same thing sending mixed signals, too many non-government entities trying to run government for profit (government is a break even model) and too many political favoritisms at hand between all political state-wide parties.

Getting Rhode Island back on track will take years and when Rhode Island STOPS comparing itself and trying to outdo one up and beat other regions, cities, towns and other states then and only then will the economy start to improve. NOBODY is working together in Rhode Island!

Posted by: KenW at September 2, 2012 10:17 PM

Government should do what the individual cannot. Roads, collective defense, police, fire and so forth. It provides an efficiency that the individual can't; it works for all people. When, however, it decides to work for some people, taking from one and giving to another it deems more worthy (crony capitalism, progressive tax rates that have less than half the population paying fed income taxes, etc.), then the govt has become your master, not a servant.

Posted by: Mike678 at September 3, 2012 9:18 AM

"There’s a much larger discussion about whether a financially wobbly state should put so giant an investment into any company, much less one so risky, and there’s not much to say that we should have." - John Speck, RIFuture contributor, September, 2012 (post-loan collapse)

"Does it suck that states (across the country) have to be in the venture game? Yes. Would we have been foolish to let this walk? Yes... This truly was a one off. And if any of us were on the EDC board, the question wouldn’t have been how can you say ‘yes’? It would have been how can you say ‘no?’... We’d feel like idiots to have let this go down to Baltimore." - John Speck, RIFuture contributor, February, 2012 (pre-loan collapse)

Amazing how progressives can always be on the right side of an issue, isn't it? It's easy to be an "expert" when you never have to admit you're wrong.

Posted by: Dan at September 3, 2012 3:54 PM
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