Allysia Finley Interviews Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo

Shortly after her election as Rhode Island’s state treasurer, Gina Raimondo was confronted with spiraling pensions costs that threatened to crowd out public investments in a number of other domains. She was quick to recognize the scale of the problem:

[A]s Ms. Raimondo says, “it’s a small state with not a lot of growth, an expensive cost structure in government, and it’s not a good combination.” Making the state even more expensive by raising taxes would have caused many Rhode Islanders to leave. When the now-bankrupt town of Central Falls raised property taxes to finance worker pensions, many residents fled, sending the city into a tailspin.

And so Raimondo embarked on a public education campaign:

Ms. Raimondo spent most of last year crisscrossing the state, educating people about the magnitude of the problem. “I would talk to social workers or social-service agencies who, when I started to talk about pensions, would ask ‘Why should I care about pensions?’ And I said, ‘Because if you don’t, your whatever it is, homeless shelter, is going to lose X thousand of dollars of funding.’”

Republicans often threaten to slash funding for charities and foundations, but Democrats pride themselves on being more compassionate. So when the Democratic treasurer warned “foundations that you’re going to get a cut if we don’t reform,” people believed she was speaking in good faith.

She even managed to persuade at least some public workers, by focusing on the likely alternatives to serious structural reform in the short term:

And she wasn’t afraid to “walk into the belly of the beast” and tell the unions point-blank that “you were lied to [by former politicians] and the system is broken. Today we’re arguing about whether you get a COLA [cost-of-living adjustment], tomorrow we’ll be arguing about whether you get a pension.” Exhibit A was Central Falls, where many retired police officers and firefighters have had their pensions cut in half.

Raimondo is one of the only politicians in the United States, at any level of government, to have successfully conveyed the importance of public sector efficiency. One hopes that she’ll go much further. Please check out Allysia Finley’s excellent interview with Raimondo in the WSJ.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More