WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? The front page of last Thursday's Beacon featured two above-the-fold stories about the Warwick School Department. One reported that the city and the school department are projecting surpluses for this fiscal year – $1.7 million for the city and $1.6 million for the schools. Immediately adjacent to the story about surpluses was a story about the school department cutting the high school mentor program because mandated criminal background checks will cost $26,000. Talk about pennywise and dollar foolish!
To avoid a one-time cost that is less than half an average teacher's salary, the schools are willing to cut up to 750 dedicated mentors who volunteer their time to assist high school seniors with their graduation projects. Most of the mentors would have continued with a new senior next year, thus costing the school department nothing next year and in years thereafter. At a time when graduation rates in Rhode Island are plummeting and many high school seniors have no one at home to help them over the one final graduation hurdle, the school administration is willing to evict highly influential mentors from the lives of these needy students. It's especially outrageous considering the school department is eying such a large surplus. Note to School Committee: Reverse this foolishness!
PUBLICK OCCURRENCES: Let's hope the state politicians in attendance at last week’s Publick Occurrences forum were listening. Eighty-three percent of those in the audience believe government is an obstacle to promoting business development in Rhode Island. Sixty-three percent believe private industry should lead the way instead of government. Astonishingly, among audience members age 25 to 35, 100 percent believe government is an obstacle, and 90 percent of those 35 to 45 think government is the problem.
Illuminating this distrust of government to fix our economic problems, the CEO of the very successful jewelry company Alex and Ani, Giovanni Feroce – himself in the younger age group – said in response to a question about what the government's strategy should be, "As a strategy, I don't want help. I want people [in government] to get out of the way."
NOTE TO YOUNG LAWYERS: Be careful who you choose to represent if you aspire to a career in politics. Choosing to repeatedly represent men who have beaten and abused women may cost you votes in a future election. And rightfully so! Yes, every criminal defendant has the right to a lawyer. But lawyers also have the right to choose who they represent. Lawyers with an eye to political office must exert extreme care in selecting those they will defend. Otherwise, the hypocrisy of aggressively defending wife beaters and then claiming to be a champion of women's rights may blow up in a lawyer's face. Case in point: David Cicilline!
SUPREME COURT DECISION ON PAWTUCKET RECOUNT: Most of us thought the Rhode Island Supreme Court would exercise some common sense on the question of whether or not there should be a manual recount of the votes cast in the one-vote win for a House seat in Pawtucket after four machine recounts resulted in four different results. We were wrong! Although two justices rightfully ruled that a manual recount should occur, the majority three justices ruled otherwise.
The Rhode Island Constitution guarantees fair and accurate elections. This decision flies directly in the face of our state's founding document. The General Assembly must quickly address this lack of judicial common sense through legislation!
UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN, UNDEREMPLOYMENT UP: The national unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September. But, that news is not as good as it seems. Of the 873,000 Americans who finally found jobs in September, 582,000 found only part-time work.
It's certainly nothing to be ecstatic about when the employment situation is so bad that 75 percent of those looking for work have to settle for part-time jobs. Underemployed (part-time) workers and those who are still out of work but have given up looking for jobs are not counted in the national unemployment rate. So, the rate's drop is not only deceiving; it masks the real unemployment rate, which continues to hover around 15 percent nationwide.
Both presidential candidates need to start talking about why so many of our neighbors have either given up looking for work or have resigned themselves to part-time paychecks that can’t feed their families.
END OF YEAR DEFICIT: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its estimate of the federal deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It's another trillion-dollar deficit – $1.1 trillion, the fourth time in four years of the Obama presidency that the deficit has exceeded a trillion dollars. This additional $1.1 trillion deficit has pushed our national debt to over $16 trillion.
Until the Obama presidency, there had not been a trillion dollar deficit since 1947 – when we were still paying down World War II debt and simultaneously trying to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan. This deficit is equal to 7 percent of the entire U.S. economy (gross national product) and causes the federal government to pay 31 percent of the nation's bills with borrowed money.
Economists universally agree that deficits of this size are unsustainable and will eventually destroy our entire economy. It has to stop! If the current sheriff can’t bring some law and order to this situation, let's bring in a new sheriff!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A Fresno State University professor of philosophy, Andrew Fiala, in an editorial published in the Providence Journal describing the art of lying by politicians, reminded us of a quote attributed to Renaissance philosopher Niccoló Machiavelli, "The one who deceives will always find those who let themselves be deceived. " In this season of rampant dishonesty by politicians, highlighted in Rhode Island by a congressional candidate who still refuses to admit he lied about the “category five hurricane” financial mess he left behind, it seems the Machiavellian concept "the end justifies the means" is alive and well in Rhode Island politics; and, according to the latest polls, our voters seem to be falling for it.