Saturday, April 9, 2011

Government shutting down?

We've recently been hearing the threat of a shut down if the "democrats" and "republicans" cannot come to some resolution to move forward with regard to the budget. Clearly, American citizens can no longer afford to pay the debt which has been created and will surely be passed on to the upcoming generation. (that would be us) We don't want it. So many of us have to deal with not only the future debt that has been created by the present and past generations, but we have our own debt. If we seek to obtain a post-secondary education, we are faced with the reality that by doing so, we will face a huge debt that we will have to carry for nearly half of our life and then some. To move forward into a lifestyle of the so-called "American Dream starting a new family, buying a home, and enjoying any of it, we are also faced with the reality that we may not be able to afford it. Here in Rhode Island, the Smallest State in the Union whose motto is "HOPE" we are facing much the same scenario. Contrary to what the State perceives as its leadership in higher education, Rhode Island does not appear to encourage innovative individuals or creative thinkers from the Rhode Island population. Rather, it accomodates the elite from beyond the State's boundaries in the name of economics. Let's talk about economics. It seems to be expected that the masses will simply accept the low wages that are offered by the huge corporations that control the State. There are few "jobs" so to speak which will pay the general "work force" a salary that meets the cost of living standards here in the State of Rhode Island. Indeed, the five largest employers of the State of Rhode Island, are the State of Rhode Island, Lifespan, Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. U.S. Government, and Care New England, all government or non-profit corporation industries. It still is unclear to the writer what the median employee salaries are of the above five largest employers in the State. The median income in Rhode Island is 22k. Who are their employers? Nonetheless, there is a great deal of disparity between the potential income vs. the heavy debt which we will almost surely incur when we enter the dream of obtaining our American dream. It is ironic that Rhode Island is listed by the Economic Development Corporation as a "leading center of higher education" but the Director has presented that Rhode Islanders generally do not possess "post-secondary skills" when they enter the workforce. It does not appear that the R.I. Economic Development Corporation understands the fact that higher education remains unaffordable to Rhode Islanders as is reflected in the economic statistics unless they create heavy indebtedness which could be viewed as financially irresponsible. Big Bills - No jobs! We further have to look forward to the debt that is ever rising as a result of the pension system here in Rhode Island coupled with the large corporations that receive major tax breaks or don't pay taxes at all because they have obtained a non-profit status. Many of the large corporations, including non-profit corporations(religious, educational) in the State of Rhode Island weigh heavily on our public services but are tax exempt from contributing to the heavy cost. The primary weight then appears to be carried on the shoulders of the small business community and labor force who are in a position to fall into the financial tax bracket, although they are few compared to the larger picture as is reflected in the statistics. Too often the elite R.I. State employees are not Rhode Islanders but have been recruited from beyond the State line. These individuals are being paid five to ten times the amount of the median income of a Rhode Islander. Did I mention - plus benefits? How could this be? Some solutions of hope Governor? We are young, intelligent Rhode Islanders who look forward to entering a world which we can reach our American Dream. We want a voice in the matter. Here we are making our way. We want to be financially responsible and the opportunity to have a fresh start without being shackled with chains of debt that others have created. With these issues looming over our head, it seems hopeless - but we are hopeful. Some suggestions. Don't create more taxes on services or consumer items. It'll only burden us more. The very individuals you hope will stay - won't. It's unconscienable and unconstitutional. Lower the sales tax rate on the existing items. It will give us relief and we won't be compelled to drive "over the line" to Massachusetts (primarily) and Connecticut to do our shopping. We'll shop at home, save gas, be happier. Let Massachusetts, Connecticut and the large corporations figure a way to make themselves attractive enough to make Rhode Islanders want to go shopping and grant Rhode Islanders relief to have the money to do so if they choose. Stop the abuse which has existed for far too long. The State House employees behave more like entitled monarchs than they do public servants. Mandate that salaries be substantially dropped to the median income of a Rhode Islander. Remember - you all chose to become public servants. Honor your positions. We want to reestablish trust and faith in you. Speaking of faith and trust in government officials like you. Remember the great temporary sales tax increase in the early 1990's (when most of us were small children) where "Governor" Sundlun told the public that the tax would be raised 1% for one year for one (1) year to deal with the credit union crisis? So .... faith and trust ? Put an actual operating budget together based on NEED, not on false entitlements or desires for the few greedy, inconsiderate individuals who have for far too long made us carry the weight. Equally, those who wish to remain on the public "welfare" system, put them to work so that there is dignity and appreciation for what they do. Make it a solid "work fair" system. When you establish an operating budget that Rhode Islanders NEED as you are Constitutionally bound to do, don't completely disregard the individuals who have for far too long been dependent on the system and believe that they are entitled. Funnel them into the workfair system and allocate salaries which are consistent with the median income of Rhode Islanders $22,000.00 and nothing more. Make them accountable for their work and make them pay for their health care insurance or go without - just as we do. Speaking of insurance companies, banks, education facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and religious entities, who have either received monsterous relief or don't pay tax at all contrary to the small businesses, make them participate in paying for services that they rely on, but Rhode Islanders pay for. Don't issue costly Executive Orders like our previous governor did to raid property owned by Native Americans for the sake of collecting a 7% sales tax and subjecting small business restaurants to pay a higher tax just because - while turning the eyes the other way when "churches" sell fish and chips TAX FREE during lent and/or on Friday nights in the name of a "fundraiser." Don't issue executive Orders that arrest and imprison immigrants for months/years in the name of economics. Keep it simple. Get the budget down, grant us relief that we deserve. Oh yes, and to those who were granted enormous pensions because they felt they were entitled, conduct an investigation, indict them. However, rather than imprison them, demand that they pay restitution - pay back their pensions! Ask the Court to make them perform community service working with the real impoverished individuals and live the life of a small business person who continues to carry the heavy load. Just some simple suggestions. We "hope" that you will listen. After all, our founder believed that "Hope is Divine!"

Monday, April 4, 2011


All should be very concerned about the new tax proposals set forth by our new Governor, Lincoln Chafee. However, the burden alone should not be his. The general population for far too long has been complacent and there has been no accountability of the our government officials. Rather than behave like public servants, many have behaved as if they are entitled and show little respect for the honor of being elected to public service.

Fingers are pointing in various directions, mostly at one another, and have successfully pitted citizens against citizens. Wall St. vs. public unions, public unions vs. private unions, taxpayers vs. public unions, non-Wall St. taxpayers vs. Wall St. taxpayers vs. public unions vs. private unions, non-profit profiteers vs. public unions and taxpayers, corporate america vs. corporate government, and the list goes on and on. Who are the losers? I would venture to say without any hesitation, all of us. However, the biggest losers will be the kids who will be greeted with the heavy burdens of our irresponsibility and the leftover devastation from our "civil" war. So, when we are all ready to berate Mr. Chafee for at least making an effort to do what it is he is Constitutionally bound to do, we should first look at ourselves in the mirror. We are all just as responsible.

What he has thus far been greeted with is the continued lack of necessary sacrifice on the part of everyone. It is legitimate for citizen taxpayers to be angry for having to carry the load of the long spent abuses. At the end of the day though, we have to ask the questions, and become part of the solution.

Recently, the Providence Journal reported that there were seventy-five individuals who are collecting more than $100,000.00 annually as a pension, nearly five times the amount of the median income of $22,000.00 of R.I.. Many, not all of those individuals, appear to believe that they are entitled to collect such pensions. The question must be asked, why? Some of them have continued in public service with minimal to no pay, but that is not the majority. With our cost of living here in Rhode Island, $100,000.00 is not a ton of money. One must pause however, when, the majority of the population must work four to five jobs to make as much.

So, lets bring some hope through civic action and demand accountability. In order to become part of the solution, and not the continued problem, it is high time we take a hard look at what's going on rather than rant and rave on radio talk shows, throw sludge, and further indebt our State into a serious depression.

Here are a few thoughts and questions to begin with and some possible solutions:

Providence was founded on the principles of freedom and responsibility. Providence is a divine name and represents to so many a haven of relief. Lets take a look.

What is the tax burden on the City of Providence? Is it the janitors, schools, fire department, police department, hospitals? Are these "services" essential to the city of Providence? Are there too many employees to deal with what is actually necessary? What do the Citizens "need" rather than what they want?

Let's ask then, how many businesses exist in the City of Providence? Do they create services or weigh on them? Do these businesses contribute to the cost of services?

How many of these business are tax exempt? How does this impact the need of services vs. the cost?

What are the salaries of Brown University, Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Johnson and Wales, who employ Rhode Islanders? How much do they weigh on the services that the City of Providence must fund?

Why has the State of Rhode Island provided a law which exempts "Estates, persons, and families of the president and professors for the time being of Brown University for not more than ten thousand dollars ($ 10,000) for each officer, the officer's estate, person, and family included, but only to the extent that any person had claimed and utilized the exemption prior to, and for a period ending either on or after December 31, 1996"

One must pause and ask why there was ever such a law at all?

Why are "Buildings for free public schools, buildings for religious worship, and the land upon which they stand and immediately surrounding them, to an extent not exceeding five (5) acres so far as the buildings and land are occupied and used exclusively for religious or educational purposes" tax exempt?

What are the implications? Do the existence of these buildings create services which would otherwise not exist?

Why are many of the religious institutions and otherwise, NOT paying taxes?

Is this R.I. Statute violative of the First, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

Why, if the City of Providence is broke, are the Providence taxpayers paying a former State employee $150,000.00 while collecting more than $100,000.00 as an annual pension?

These and other questions must be answered by those who chose to run for public office and were elected.