The CEO governor billed himself as having the business background necessary to boost the economy and create new jobs. But as it turned out, Carcieri was the worst steward of the state’s fiscal situation in a generation or more.
He’ll now be forever remembered as the one who wanted the now-infamous guaranteed gamble/guaranteed loan to 38 Studios which seems almost guaranteed to fail. And this comes on the heels of Rhode Island finally recognizing that his aid cuts to cities and towns simply pushed the burden onto local property taxes, an added expense that the poorest cities in the state couldn’t withstand.
Carcieri’s credibility is literally vanishing before Rhode Island’s eyes.
Almost as soon as mayors and media pundits started to blame Carcieri’s cuts for the financial struggles of our highly distressed cities, his swan song and biggest economic achievement, the dreaded 38 Studios deal, seems likely to enter the annals of fiduciary disasters.
The last guy to cause Rhode Island so much fiscal pain was Joe Mollicone, and he only made off with $13 million. Carcieri’s got that beat more than five times over. In fact, Carcieri’s ill-fated decision to invest nearly $100 million in an ex-baseball player’s ability to develop video games could cost the state about a quarter of what it saved on pension reform this year.
Speaking of which, there are those who blame Carcieri for exacerbating the pension problems in Rhode Island, too. When he laid off state workers, he drastically reduced the number of people paying into the retirement system while more people were retiring than ever.
One has to wonder what Carcieri was thinking – I mean, I can’t imagine he would have made this loan when he was working in the private sector at Old Stone Bank so why did he do so when he was working for the public sector? Was he star struck by Schilling? Is he a secret video game junkie? Did he actually think this was a good deal for the state? Of course hindsight is 20/20, but it seems the only thing that makes sense is that Schilling sold him snake oil.
Ironically enough, prior to the 38 Studios debacle, Carcieri’s biggest public blunder was having the Narragansett Indians beat up for not paying taxes on cigarettes they were selling while opposing their efforts to develop a casino. But a casino would have generated twice the number of jobs as 38 Studios and the taxes the smoke shop owed paled in comparison to what Carcieri invested in 38 Studios.
It’s all evidence that CEO’s don’t necessarily make for good government leaders. The two jobs just aren’t the same. Carcieri was a great executive (and he’s a really nice guy) but he was a disaster as a governor. It will be interesting to see if he remains a visible part of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Romney, another CEO governor, had the good sense to at least act like a moderate while he was the governor of Massachusetts. Carcieri never seemed to realize that politics is the art of the possible, not of the ideological.