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03/01/2009

Poor Rhode Island

DSC_0299_2 The New York Times has a piece today about the economic struggles of our union's smallest state and my current home.

We have the nations second highest unemployment rate (thank you, Michigan) without a failing automobile industry to blame directly. Instead it seems we can fault clinging to an old, largely defunct mob past, a largely blue-collar workforce and "a stagnant, aging population."

At church this morning I witnessed this aging populating being the only soul, in a relatively crowded Episcopal chapel under the age of thirty and over the age of twelve. Most of the young kids bouncing around the pews will probably move off to states like Connecticut or Massachusetts where the average salary is surprisingly higher.

What really struck me in the article was the how "undereducated" Rhode Island is compared to rest of the Northeast, ranking 38th nationally in high school graduation. I guess I'm probably surprised because I grew up in and around the states which still fall behind Rhode Island on this list (oh, my old Kentucky home).

Because I am a relative newcomer I also don't understand some of the subculture. Especially why people are still in love with Buddy Cianci. The former mayor who just last year was released from prison and immediately took to the airwaves calling the current major a "fag." I understand that he did much good for the city of Providence, but he strikes me a textbook narcissist, and not in the entertaining way.

Sadly, the current state of Rhode Island economics means that I won't be able to get out of my lease anytime soon and flee to Boston to be closer to my job. Honestly I don't want to leave Providence, I think it's great, even if it isn't one of the best places for singles. I guess that, technically, isn't a problem for me.

However, the state could soon be a shining example of stimulus success. As the Times reports, "its largest employment sectors are health care, manufacturing and retail." With all the new health care spending proposed by Obama's plan we could soon see a turnaround in the unemployment figures...as long as our govenor doesn't choose to reject the stimulus money.

Now, I don't think some of the southern governors contemplating rejecting some or all of the stimulus money are completely insane. I understand that federal money will come with strings attached and that this federal money will quickly run out leaving the state no choice but to raise taxes and therefore anger the base that pleaded for them to accept the money. But I think, as current situation in Rhode Island demonstrates, that they can't afford not to take it.

It seems the economy will grow worse before it begins to improve and without some cash injection states like Rhode Island won't make the next couple of years. Massachusetts and Connecticut do not need more land.

Move to Providence!

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Austin Diaz

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