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16 months to address issues Rhode Islanders care about
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

CHAFEE TO DO A TURN-ABOUT: It’s hard to believe, but Governor Chafee is going to start focusing on “the issues that Rhode Islanders care about.” That’s right. That’s what he said during the news conference when he announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014. He said it and we should hold him to it.

It’s unfortunate that Chafee held off for so long before deciding to focus on what Rhode Islanders care about. He now has 16 months to concentrate on such things as the economy, jobs, reducing taxes and reducing spending – things he has not focused intently on during the past three years. Let’s hope his renewed focus will produce results.

So, why did Chafee decide to forego the opportunity to run again? It’s simple. He knows he would lose a primary contest against two strong opponents, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras. Such a loss would cause him to lose any luster he has as a candidate for appointment to a second- or third-tier job in the Obama administration once his current term ends. It seems clear that Chafee is desperately trying to make lemonade from the bitter lemons he created during his thus-far ineffective stint as governor.

DMV COMPUTER SYSTEM: The new computer system the Department of Motor Vehicles has been installing for the past six years presents a classic example of inept government trying to oversee private industry. A project initially projected to cost $8.8 million has ballooned to $15.5 million and will, undoubtedly, continue to rise.

After signing the system replacement contract in 2008, the state failed to assign competent state oversight and failed to write specifications for the 300 interfaces the system would require. The software company waited and waited for the specifications, wasting over 23,000 hours of its employees’ time. The state eventually paid the company $1.3 million for the wasted hours.

Perhaps the biggest problem has been that no one at DMV wants to take responsibility for the project, to include the current administrator, Anthony Silva. He told the press, “it’s not my project.” Well, if the project isn’t his and he is the guy in charge of the entire DMV, then who the heck owns the project? 

Rhode Island taxpayers continue to pay for the project through transaction fees of $1.50 per transaction, even though we are paying for something we neither have nor expect to have in the near future. The new projected date for the system to become active is May of 2014. After six years of inept state project management, most of us are saying, “Yeah, right!”

FIRST STEP TOWARD ECONOMIC RECOVERY FOR R.I.: The first thing Rhode Island needs to do to jump-start an economic recovery is for state government to get out of the way. Onerous state regulations, licensing processes, red tape, excessive oversight, too frequent or unnecessary inspections, and other intrusive state actions have long prevented the business community from energizing our free enterprise system of fair and open competition.

The state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers is now considering whether to issue a license to Rhode Island Fast Ferry to begin service between Quonset and Block Island. Of course, the existing ferry service in Galilee opposes the new competition.

The DPUC needs to get out of the way and approve the new ferry. Competition is good for our economy. The sooner the state realizes this, the sooner we will begin to march down the road toward economic recovery.

R.I. FEDERAL JUDGE FORCED TO REVERSE HIMSELF: Republicans were right to vigorously oppose the appointment of Rhode Island lawyer John J. McConnell to the federal bench. Opponents insisted that McConnell was an anti-business, plaintiffs’ lawyer who would consistently rule against the interests of competition and free enterprise. And, true to form, almost immediately upon being appointed a U.S. district judge, McConnell ruled that, instead of pursuing foreclosure, banks and other mortgage lenders must negotiate with homeowners who had failed to make mortgage payments for several months or years. These weren’t cases of “robo-signing” or other instances where lenders failed to follow proper paperwork procedures; they were cases where lenders did everything right but the homeowners simply failed to make their mortgage payments. McConnell was, in essence, depriving lenders of their legal due process – a move that was clearly unconstitutional.

It is unfortunate that far too many homeowners bought houses that were too expensive for their income levels and subsequently could not afford their mortgage payments, and it is extremely unfortunate that many homeowners who bought reasonably priced houses ended up losing their jobs and lost the ability to make mortgage payments. It’s unfortunate, but it isn’t the lenders’ fault. When a contract is signed, whether it’s for a car, a washing machine, or a house, payments must be made. Otherwise, our entire economic system will fall apart.

Fortunately for our system of free enterprise, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned McConnell’s socialist move and forced him to reverse his earlier ruling.

PUTIN MAY SAVE OBAMA’S DERRIÈRE: Thinking he would have the unqualified support of Congress and the American people, President Obama errantly painted himself into a corner on his promised military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and his subsequent passing the buck to Congress on the issue. When it became apparent in the past few days that neither the people, including some of his key constituencies, nor Congress support military action, Obama’s credibility and the potential for any success during the remainder of his presidency were placed in extreme jeopardy. But, a white knight appears to be coming to Obama’s rescue in the form of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin appears to be strong-arming Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, into agreeing to place his entire chemical stockpile under international control. Military action can be taken off the table, Congress won’t have to vote against Obama, and the president saves face.

Many will accuse Obama of vacillating, of weakness, of indecisiveness, and of attempting to pass the buck once again – to Congress, that is; and that Obama was handed an accidental victory when he had been staring into the jaws of defeat on this issue. Most of this is true. However, the outcome is salutary for everyone and, if Assad does relinquish control of his chemical weapons, our mission will have been accomplished. We will have international control over the largest and least secure stock of chemical weapons in the entire Middle East, keeping them out of the hands of terrorists and others who harbor ill will toward the U.S. and its friends.

AN UGLY WIN: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, after last Sunday’s squeaker win over Buffalo, told the press, “There are going to be some ugly wins.” Brady is smart to admit the win was about as ugly as a win can get. Let’s hope any hubris is now gone and that practice and hard work will preclude a similar embarrassment in the future.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A noted University of Maryland economics professor, Peter Morici, writing in the Providence Journal this week, produced figures showing that 96 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. this year are part-time positions. Placing a large part of the blame on the Obama administration’s anti-business policies, Morici said, “The administration’s anti-business regulatory policies and rhetoric are creating a crisis of confidence in the business community as surely as George Bush’s neglect cultivated arrogant and tragic risk taking on Wall Street.” For our economy, Bush was too “hands off” while Obama is far too “hands on.” Surely, we can find a happy median where our economy can prosper without bank failures, stimulus programs, increased taxes and government micro-management.


Comments
4 comments on this item

I thought this was about Chaffee but you switched to Obama ?

"I thought this was about Chaffee but you switched to Obama ?"

It is a stream of unconsciousness essay.

The author is correct in that state government needs to get out of the way. This will not happen, however, until RI's system of taxation is fundamentally overhauled and the pig that is Smith Hill is starved. As long as you feed state (or any) government, it will grow increasingly intrusive, inefficient, and overly regulatory. There is a good reason why New Hampshire has a much lower unemployment rate and much higher median adult education level than RI. There is a reason why NH has gained highly educated workers and RI has lost them. There is a reason why senior executives drive through RI on their way to NH in search of business expansion opportunities. And it has to do with taxes and regulations. NH's are minimal and business friendly, while RI's are onerous and hostile to business. And as long as RI retains it's present system of taxation, which allows for a bloated state beaurocracy and legions on the public payroll with little to do, none of the above will change.

Chafee was smart enough to see the handwriting on the wall. Now that he is finished 'social engineering' the state, he can concentrate on further destruction.

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