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About that CNBC ranking

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 entrepreneurs.

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.

Expanding 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).

But my 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.


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