This week, Rhode Island again made a dismal showing on a "best places to do business" list: the state ranked dead-last in a CNBC report released on Tuesday.
This latest ranking comes two years after the state lowered its top marginal tax rate
in a bid to improve the state's reputation as a place to do business.
The poor ranking, of course, doesn't prove the tax change was a bad idea; perhaps it was
just the first of many steps Rhode Island must take to attract
But it does suggest that this sort of gesture,
alone, does almost nothing to improve Rhode Island's image. And the CNBC
rankings, based on a host of factors, point to plenty of big, meaty
problems that call for more public investment, not less: education, transportation infrastructure, and workforce development, among them.
government's reach, in these areas, need not be in conflict with some traditionally conservative ideas: trimming back unnecessary
regulation, say, or even cutting the top tax rate (the cut was part of a
broad package of tax reforms - including the elimination of itemized
deductions - that was supposed to be revenue-neutral).
point, here, is that the kind of ranking CNBC doled out this week is
often interpreted by conservatives as evidence of overregulation or
too-high taxes, and little else. The problem is far bigger than that.
Not that the state's Democratic establishment has done such a good job of addressing it. Far from it.