Our state leaders seem to care more about a handful of dead millionaires than they do about over a thousand living seniors and disabled people. Here’s a video, “Dueling Concerns,” that I think best illustrates the priorities of our elected leaders in state government.
The first person you will see in the video is Grafton H. “Cap” Wiley IV, speaking at the eighth Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit last Friday. Our state leaders were there, on stage or in the audience, to listen attentively and take notes. One of the many tax policy ideas Wiley suggested was to eliminate the Estate Tax, the tax that only dead millionaires pay. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, responding to Wiley’s idea later in the program, promises that he will take a serious look at this idea.
The next person in the video below is Maxine Richman, co-chair of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition, speaking at the eighth Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty vigil at the State House, held two days earlier. This event has been occurring at the State House for about the same amount of time that the Small Business Summit has been taking place at Bryant University. Richman also has a series of proposals for government leaders, including funding the free bus fare system for seniors and disabled riders. In response to Richman’s ideas, Governor Gina Raimondo shrugs her shoulders and asks, “That sounds great, but where will we get the money?”
Richman was advocating on behalf of some of the poorest people in the state. Instead of promising to really grapple with these ideas, Raimondo and Mattiello essentially said, “Sorry, the cupboards are bare.”
But in truth, this has nothing to do with how much money the State of Rhode Island has to spend, it has to do with government priorities. Dead millionaires count for something in the eyes of our leaders; the poor, the elderly and the disabled do not.
For years now, for instance, the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty has asked that the General Assembly do something to reign in the usurious PayDay Loan companies, all to no avail. Mattiello dismisses the harm such companies do to our communities as ideological in nature without irony, unable to see that it’s his own ideological fixations that are responsible for enormous suffering in our state. The PayDay loan companies fund a powerful lobbyist who happens to be a close friend and mentor to Mattiello.
Lowering or eliminating the taxes on dead millionaires is a policy that flows naturally from an ideology that Mattiello and Raimondo embrace. This ideology, that has no basis in economic reality, says that lowering taxes on the moneyed classes will “trickle down” to the rest of us, and magically fund RIPTA and increase the fixed wages of the poor and elderly. The fact that it doesn’t work this way, never has and never will, threatens the deeply held beliefs, ideologies, of our government leaders and those they are beholden to, who were aptly represented at the Small Business Summit.
At one point in his presentation “Cap” Wiley told the crowd of small business owners and politicians that “businesses don’t vote,” implying that such a state of affairs denies business people political power.
That’s a crock of self-serving shit.
Businesses don’t need to vote as long as they are able to buy the attention and loyalty of elected officials.
Here’s my suggestion: Raise the estate tax. Use the money to not only fund the free bus fare system, but to also raise the earned income tax credit for low income families to 30 percent. That will do more to get our economy cooking than lower taxes for dead millionaires ever could.
Here are some of the unedited videos.
Previous coverage of the 2016 RI Small Business Economic Summit:
Previous coverage of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty: