Increased social spending may be helpful, necessary

Increased social spending may be helpful, necessary

Responding to Tom Ward’s editorial, “Our Growing Addiction” (Nov. 29), one comment is true: “Rhode Island has more people in need than ever. . . .” Mr. Ward complains about the new hires the state has made and the concomitant costs of their employment. The Providence Journal recently reported that many of the employees are in the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Motor Vehicles, two agencies most reasonable people would agree need increased staffing. I mean, the tragedies involving children were partly due to DCYF staffers having overwhelming caseloads. And who among us who’ve had to queue up at the DMV would not approve greater staffing there?

Ward mentions the fact that, despite better economic times, the number of people receiving food assistance has grown by two-thirds since the Great Recession started. I suppose he’s implying that the growth is due to the state’s expanding the roles to those who don’t really need help, when in fact it’s because in Rhode Island being employed does not mean earning a living wage, one that insures security for food, housing and health.

Ward often cites high taxes and fees as the reason why citizens leave and take up residence in lower-tax states like Florida. He described one such family in his column. But Ward never acknowledges that there may well be other reasons why northerners take up residence in southern states, like the weather. And Florida is no free ride. Check out Florida TaxWatch’s “2018 How Florida Compares: Taxes.” Whereas Florida ranks near the bottom for state-originated taxes, it ranks much higher for local taxes. In fact the percentage of local revenue vis-à-vis total state and local revenue is 53 percent, second highest in the nation. Florida relies heavily on sales and property taxes. In short, Rhode Island’s “ex-patriates” may be enjoying both tax breaks and sunshine in Florida, but if they count everything they pay state and local governments, they may be surprised. Finally, you have to ask, If Rhode Island provides for its neediest citizens better than other states, is it not something we should be proud of rather than critical of?

Ward neglected to acknowledge the recent Rhode Island tax exemptions for pensions, the lower taxes on business energy-expenditures, the necessary, increased spending on infrastructure and schools. Even he has to admit that our “socialist state” is doing some things right.

Ward’s editorial then decries our increasing reliance on revenues from gambling and marijuana sales. I’m conflicted about this also. But we’re in a new world. We’ve spent billions trying to restrict the supply of illegal drugs, for example. Meanwhile, Portugal has had success reducing demand (and overdoses) by making even non-pharmaceutical drugs legal, with restrictions. Contra-intuitive, but worth a try?

Today, there are so many societal excesses and deficiencies that all of us want addressed. It doesn’t help to have journalists at both national and local levels skew the facts because of blind loyalty to some ideology.

Tony Fascitelli


Publisher’s Note: I would have preferred to not reply, but the insult at the end demands it. My “blind loyalty” is only to common sense. First, there is the accusation is that I believe we are providing more food stamps to those who don’t need help. I wrote – and believe – no such thing. Second, my friends did not move to Florida for sunshine. They measured the $36,000 in property taxes for a condo in Providence and said “forget it.” The warmth is a bonus.

The new approach to marijuana use is worthwhile. I support medical marijuana. My question is merely: Does anyone care about the impact of inhaled, more powerful marijuana on young adults – on their both physical and mental health? Or will their lives be sacrificed on the altar of increasing state revenue? People honest with themselves know the answer.