The Salem News
Thursday, July 10, 2003
So there we were on the long holiday weekend, my friend Michael Goldman and I, in this newspaper with columns on what interested us most that week.
He, in high dudgeon, wrote about "Romney's WMDs: Words of Massachusetts Deception," an expose of the governor's callous cutting of "core services" and "shutdown of vital services." I wrote about daisies and my planned weekend of hammock reading.
Gov. Romney was on vacation with his family at Lake Winnipesaukee. I assume Michael eventually enjoyed his long summer weekend, too.
Still, it was momentarily startling to see the juxtaposition on Saturday's opinion page, and I wondered briefly if, perhaps, I am a shallow, unfeeling person, albeit in the good company of the governor of the commonwealth and "the people with whom (he) regularly plays tennis, sails and golfs," to use my fellow columnist's words.
I think liberals are wasting their time attacking Mitt.
Some people are resented because they are rich and privileged, but the Romneys are almost caricatures of that class; many of us find them cute. And we know that in the process of saving the commonwealth and its economy, our governor will do more to help all of us than tax-hike advocates who focus on specific government programs.
Some of them really do care, of course, and spend their time, as do many conservatives, volunteering and contributing to worthy causes; or they choose professions like social work and caregiving. On the other hand, some make six-figure salaries running human service programs.
Personally, I think that if someone really wants to be celebrated as "caring," he should live on the statewide average paycheck so as to better relate to the average taxpayer, if not his clients.
Everyone I know cares about helpless children, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, victims of crime, abuse, accident and serious illness. To the degree that our tax dollars are spent wisely for assistance to these groups, we are happy to share.
The rich share more than most, paying federal, state and local tax rates on a lot more money and property value than the rest of us. They also have plenty left over to pay for tennis, sailing, golf and homes on the lake. This doesn't bother me as long as they aren't advocating that I pay more of my limited funds for some Great Society idealism.
Rich people who want to raise my taxes do annoy me. Come live at my level; then let's talk.
Years ago I made a deal with the universe: I won't feel sorry for myself because some people have more than I do, so I don't have to feel guilty about people who have less. If I got lucky with the genes, if my ancestors made good choices and worked hard to improve their children's lives, if I manage to avoid life's major misfortunes -- good for me. Wish everyone were so fortunate.
And I recognize that some of those who aren't so lucky still had ancestors who tried hard and just didn't get the breaks. Life is often unfair.
Attempts by government to make it fair bring on the law of unintended results and cause a lot more problems. It may be true that the gap between the haves and have-nots in this state and country is getting larger, but it's not nearly as broad as the gap between the "have-nots" in America and the "have almost nothings" in much of the rest of the world.
Those who really care should be arguing for tax breaks and sending their savings off with President Bush to Africa, where people are starving; have no medical care, never mind health insurance; and have lost everything to civil war. Even here one wonders about the violence in some Massachusetts cities, in neighborhoods where the people pay taxes and yet cannot feel safe.
What is more important for a city government to do than address the violence; what's more important for the state than to deal decisively with the perpetrators? The best thing Gov. Romney and we taxpayers can do is support reforms that force our government to set priorities and do its core job well.
In the meantime, the problems of the Third World, or the inner cities, are not my fault; I didn't cause them, and I won't feel guilty that I haven't devoted my life to solving them. I wish the world were a better place, but the United States Constitution gives me the right to pursue happiness; I intend to pursue as much of it as I possibly can, and be grateful for the chance.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited
Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun;
bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.