Rhode Islanders are reeling under crushing unemployment. More Rhode Islanders, than any time since the Great Depression, are without work and struggling to make ends meet. The results can be seen everywhere you look: foreclosed homes, shuttered businesses and shattered dreams. The dream of graduating and finding a good job has become a migration to other states with stronger economies for our children. Families have become divided simply because we can’t produce enough jobs to keep our children in Rhode Island.
Furthermore, our depressed economy starves our cities and towns of much needed revenue, meaning cuts in education, municipal workers and benefits for our seniors. Clearly, Rhode Island doesn’t need more taxes; Rhode Island needs more taxpayers – productive employed citizens to grow our economy and brighten our future.
As a job creator having founded a software company that employs more than 150 people today, I know that to grow our economy we must get the government off the back of job creators and politicians out of the business of manipulating our economy for their political gains. That’s why I was extremely disappointed when I read that, following directives from his party bosses, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse voted yet again to deny approval of the Keystone Pipeline project.
If built, the pipeline would bring crude oil from the vast oil sands deposits in Canada to American refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Industry experts have estimated that the pipeline extension would create tens of thousands of private sector and high-paying union jobs at no cost to the taxpayers. It also means we would buy more oil from our Canadian ally and less oil from the Middle East. This is no doubt good for the Canadian economy, but also very good for the Rhode Island economy. Here’s why:
In excess of 27,000 Rhode Island jobs depend on trade with Canada, and Rhode Island sells more to Canada than to our state’s next six largest export markets, combined. Strengthening trading ties with our Canadian neighbors makes a lot of sense, since our economies are interdependent. Canadians invest in Rhode Island business; operate Canadian ventures in Rhode Island and visit our beaches, parks and tourist attractions. That means jobs and income for Rhode Islanders.
As an environmentalist, I recognize that the rejection of Keystone is likely to lead to a negative impact on the environment. Now, oil from U.S. producers in the Midwest must be shipped by rail and truck, creating more carbon emissions – and the Canadian oil will most likely be shipped by oil tankers to China. That means greater risks to our oceans from oil spills and increased carbon emissions from tankers – not to mention the fact that this Canadian oil will be refined and burned in China where environmental regulations are nowhere near as strict as in the U.S.
Keystone is not about what the price of gas will be tomorrow; it is about supporting and growing Rhode Island and American jobs today. It is about taking steps now to ensure that America can enjoy long-term economic, environmental and military security into the future. But most importantly, it’s about putting Rhode Island back to work. Such foresight requires leaders who have private sector experience as job creators, men and women who are the very antithesis of the career politicians in Washington like Senator Whitehouse. By voting to kill the Keystone pipeline, Senator Whitehouse shows he lacks the experience and business background needed to think through how continually “falling in line with the Party Bosses” hurts his home state. And that, more than any other single reason, is why Rhode Island finds itself at the top of the unemployment list and at the bottom of the economic barrel.
Barry Hinckley is the Republican candidate for United States Senate and lives in Newport, R.I.