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Thursday, November 29, 2012

RI – What Went Wrong: Austerity’s Effects

Public sector employment (normalized to 2001)
(Click to enlarge)
This is the second article in a series by Samuel Bell on

I ended my previous post on a promise to dig into the mechanics of how Carcieri orchestrated the downfall of the Rhode Island economy. Naturally, we begin with something Carcieri took great pride in—laying off huge numbers of public sector workers. To show just how severe the public sector cutbacks were under Carcieri, I’ve plotted the Ocean State’s public sector workforce alongside the national numbers since 2000. (Both are normalized to 100 at January 2000.)

Before Carcieri’s cuts began to bite, Rhode Island public employment tracked the national numbers fairly closely, but once his policies were in place, Rhode Island’s public sector decoupled from the national public sector and took a precipitous nosedive. The bleeding has continued ever since. The pace of the widening of the gap accelerated in late 2006 after the passage of the 2006 budget, with its infamous tax cuts for the rich, but things didn’t end there. Even though public employment began falling all around the country in the aftermath of the recession, we still lost 7.75% of state and local public sector employees between January of 2008 and April of 2012—the second highest drop in the nation.

Read the rest of this article on, along with lively reader discussion, here.

I am the Rhode Island State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America. My primary interest is Rhode Island's economy and what we can do to fix it.