October 31, 2014
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RI number one in least tax-friendly state for retirees
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

IT’S NO WONDER EMPLOYERS LEAVE RHODE ISLAND: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest study of the cost of employees throughout the country.  Of the nine regions in the U.S., which region do you think has the highest compensation costs?  Of course, it’s New England.  Our average cost per employee is $34. 81 per hour - $24.29 per hour in pay and $10.52 per hour in benefits.

Is it any wonder that employers leave Rhode Island and other New England states or that new companies choose to open their plants elsewhere?  The East South Central tracking region, which includes such states as Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky have the lowest employee costs - only $24.51 per hour, including benefits.  The ability to produce products in these states that cost over $10 per hour less to make than in Rhode Island, thus allowing retailers to offer them at reasonable prices, produces far more jobs, far more profits, and far more tax revenue.

Sooner or later, lawmakers in Rhode Island and the rest of New England will recognize that high taxes, excessive government spending, and onerous business regulations - all of which result in skyrocketing employee costs - have a spiraling effect that continues to screw our economy into the ground.  Until then, count on businesses leaving and new one locating elsewhere.

CASE IN POINT ON ONEROUS BUSINESS REGULATIONS: Speaking of businesses that leave Rhode Island or refuse to locate here because of high taxes, excessive spending and ridiculous business regulations, a case in point is the recent experience of Pentec Health, Inc., a company that wanted to provide pain medication delivery pumps to severely ill patients in Rhode Island. The ludicrous lengths the state Department of Health put the company through in its quest to gain approval to do business here caused the company to finally give up, albeit after it had spent over $100,000 trying to navigate the labyrinth of red tape regulations in Rhode Island.  The company holds the “Gold Seal of Approval” by a national accrediting agency and does business in 28 other states, including Massachusetts; but it decided to cut its losses and leave Rhode Island because of the expensive and never-ending red tape.

The result: more jobs lost for our state, more tax revenue lost, and a continuation of the downward spiral of our economy.  All because our legislators are too beholden to special interests and cast a blind eye on the anti-business laws and regulations they impose.

KIPLINGER LIST PUTS RHODE ISLAND AT BOTTOM: The highly-respected personal finance news and business forecasting company, Kiplinger, that also publishes Kiplinger Magazine, has named Rhode Island the number one least tax-friendly state in the nation for retirees.  No wonder so many of our retirees establish residency in Florida and other tax-friendly states immediately upon retirement, taking their spending and tax dollars with them.

There’s an economic recovery formula that’s easy to understand but our legislature just doesn’t seem to get it.  High taxes run people and businesses away from our state, while low taxes attract people and businesses.  The more people and businesses we have, the more tax revenue will be produced - even when the tax rate is low.  Apparently we have too many legislators with low-functioning intellects in our General Assembly.  Otherwise, why can’t they understand simple economics.

NSA LAWYERS MISLED COURT, JUSTICE DEPT. IGNORED IT: USA Today reported over the weekend that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the court charged with making sure NSA spying is limited only to that necessary to protect us from terrorists, complained several times to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility about NSA lawyers repeatedly misleading the court on NSA surveillance of Americans’ phone records and Internet activities.  Did the Justice Department investigate the judges’ complaints?  No!  Not a single one!  Yet, President Obama expects Americans to “trust the government” that our constitutional and privacy rights are being protected?  Not likely!

NSA SPYING MAY PORTEND DOOM FOR INTERNET: The United States invented the Internet and it looks like the U.S. is taking the lead in possibly destroying it.

Our National Security Agency’s extensive spying on law-abiding U.S. citizens and on our allies’ leaders is taking its toll.  After Brazil learned that it was the victim of NSA snooping into its presidential email, its corporate secrets, and its citizens’ personal information, it is implementing laws and regulations that will divorce the country from key parts of the Internet.

Other friendly countries will likely follow suit, while repressive governments may use the NSA spying as an excuse to further restrict their citizens’ access to the Internet.

As Sacha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation said, “The global backlash is only beginning and will get far more severe in coming months.” The ingenuity and intellectual prowess of American computer scientists and individual entrepreneurs created the Internet; yet closed-minded, limited-intellect bureaucrats in the U.S. government are on track to destroy it.

WHAT THE GOP CAN LEARN FROM THE POPE: Pope Francis was very blunt last week when he told a Vatican magazine that Catholics worldwide need to concentrate less on issues like abortion, contraception and gay marriage and more on the church’s foundational values of mercy and charity.  He didn’t condone abortion or same-sex marriage and he didn’t say the faithful should condone it either.  He did say that far too much time and energy is wasted on these policy issues - time that could be devoted to spreading mercy to those in need and relieving misery around the world.  He also said that the church needs to pay more attention to women; that the church should not try to make women into men but that women’s genius is essential for the church to succeed.

Whether we are religious or not, even if we are Atheists, we should heed what the Pope said.  And, whether we are Democrats, Republicans or independents, we should be particularly attentive to his admonition about concentrating so much on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage.  Some in our society, especially Republicans, can’t seem to let go of social issues - even long after the general public has embraced the social change and moved on.  And, in the representative government arena - especially at the federal level, our society is still lacking in female representation.

The GOP should learn from this.  It should use the Pope’s missive as a lever to move its politicians and its rank-and-file membership away from ideological positions on social issues that are detracting so much from the party’s essential and vitally important message about reducing taxes, cutting spending, and restoring pay-as-you-go government to a country so terribly awash in debt.

REPORTING MENTAL ILLNESS TO GUN DATABASE: A news article this week reported that in the past four years our country has experienced 43 instances of mass shootings.  Of the 43 shooters, the vast majority were clearly suffering some degree of serious mental illness.  Were any of them reported to the National Instant Check System (NICS) that provides the database for gun sellers to check the criminal backgrounds of prospective gun buyers?  No!  Not a single one!

This unbelievable, basically criminal shortcoming is a travesty that must be addressed across the nation at the state level.  Every state must come up with a system to identify and report those whose bizarre behavior indicates they should not be able to purchase a firearm.  Rhode Island, one of the few states that report absolutely nothing about mentally ill individuals to NICS, should take the lead and design a system that shows the rest of the nation what a good system looks like.  No state should even consider placing gun ownership restrictions on sane, law-abiding citizens without first having a system in place to identify and restrict gun purchasing by the mentally ill.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Doug White, a member of the State Police Cyber Disruption Team, speaking to the Providence Journal about the potential dangers presented by the NSA’s electronic spying on Americans, had this to say, “It’s all about who’s in charge and who’s watching the watchers.  That’s where I start worrying about it...We have to be very, very careful because it’s an incredibly slippery slope we’re standing on.”


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