Unlikely yet true, National Review Columnist Michael Barone, a conservative's conservative, had some warm words for supermajority Democratic Rhode Island, where the governor, Independent Lincoln Chafee, was one of the most liberal Republicans in the US Senate before he lost his seat in 2006.
For a state which is so liberal, one wonders how Republicans can wake up in the morning without thinking about fleeing South for the winter never to return (although one should reject the snark which supposes them so recalcitrant that they cannot change). However, the Democratic leadership in the state has shown some amazing conservative diligence in turning around a government set to sink into Massachusetts Bay in the same manner that Greece is drowning in red ink in the Aegean.
The liberal mouth-piece "The New York Times" could fit in its headline nothing less than "The Little State With a Big Mess". The pension obligations of the Ocean State were the worst in the union, according to the report. Gina Raimondo, a Providence-native and Rhodes Scholar, won the election for General Treasurer. A staunch Democrat in a staunchly Democratic state, she could teach the Republican elites in this country a thing or two about courage and compassion. In townhall meetings throughout her home state, Raimondo explained to voters that the government cannot pay the enormous pension obligations to retired state workers without enacting cuts and reforms to current retirees along with new employees, who all too often bear the brunt of reforms.
Candidly, I believe that men and women in Rhode Island will be able to adapt in spite of the cuts which they have to endure to make sure that their little state does not sink into the Atlantic. There certainly is hope for this country when even the New York Times reports:
"Before this is over, many Americans may be forced to rethink what government means at the state and local level."
On paper at least, this appeal for limited government has been the Republican argument for decades, yet all too often when the grassroots wanted Washington to "mow down" the taxes and the spending, Washington power-brokers have spent as much money as their Democratic colleagues, only on differing interests.
If the Providence public library system can partner with a non-profit in order to stay open, then perhaps a business climate which encourages investment with lower taxes, spending, and regulatory burdens could invite investors to partner with the struggling schools in the state. Recently, a dedicated teacher announced on YouTube that he was quitting his job as a second-grade teacher because of the hamstring standardized testing and overbearing rules which frustrate real teaching and real learning. President Obama has already issued waivers for "No Child Left Behind." Every Democrat, meaning almost everyone, in Rhode Island should jump at the chance for Rhode Island public education to waive one of the chief "legacies" of President George W. Bush and request the waiver, too.
Now on to Michael Barone's comments. Because the Rhode Island state pension is taking in a miserly yield and failing to cover costs, Democratic standard-bearer David Boies has filed a lawsuit to compel Rhode Island to fix the pension problems. Since there is no state contract firmly in place, Boies' legal challenges should face fewer challenges in court. Finally, a trial attorney is willing to go after the third-rail of public sector union-statehouse politics. Barone esteemed this approach most likely because of the aggressive seriousness of state leaders to prevent the state from bankruptcy. Otherwise, they would have to cut every statewide service just to service retiree pensions. Comparing "Little Rhody to Big Cali", Barone disdained the impoverished outcomes of other blue states like Illinois and California, where instead of major cuts the legislatures have raised taxes, with businesses fleeing, the state tax revenues plummeting, and pension obligations still outstanding.
As a California resident, I am writing as one who wishes that the Democrats in my state had the courage to do what Rhode Island General Treasurer Raimondo and her Democratic colleagues are doing: talking to voters, telling them the truth, and outlining a plan of concerted action and respect which will hurt everyone a little in order to save everyone a lot more. More specifically, Mr. Boies should not only maintain his suit against Rhode Island, but he should file a claim against Jerry Brown and the California supermajority, in which all too many of them have taken money from public sector union elites. No doubt they will do nothing about the looming bankruptcy for fear of threatening their political hegmony in Sacramento.
So in short, I write to Gina Raimondo: keep up the good work, and a plea to David Boies: sue California and Governor Jerry Brown. He's an 'old retread' who refuses to lead decisively toward reform and fiscal responsibility in my state, but he could certainly use the courage that Rhode Island leadership possesses.