I'm often described as an "anti-tax activist," as if,
given a chance, I would abolish them all.
The correct description is "taxpayer activist" — as in a taxpayer who is
happy to pay her fair share, but who resists being taken for granted,
used, abused, disrespected, lied to, or having her intelligence
I maintain that anyone who is not a taxpayer activist, by this
definition, is a masochist; though I realize that some politicians and
liberals have their own agendas.
I don't want to be lectured about how "taxes are the price we pay for a
civilized society" — as if Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said it just
yesterday rather than in 1904 when taxes were low, there was no income
tax, and we had a general agreement on what civilization should look
I want a tax code that is simple, fair, and comprehensible, not one that
is deliberately obscure so that politicians, lobbyists and accountants
can exchange money in order to address the complexities.
The federal government not only takes and spends my money, but runs up a
national debt so it can also spend my grandchildren's future earnings.
I understand that politicians enjoy spending other people's money. But
why do politicians in Massachusetts spend so much more than politicians
in other states?
The Washington-based Tax Foundation, using U.S. Census Bureau data, has
just computed that our per capita state and local tax burden is sixth
highest in the nation. Relative to personal income, we're 28th highest,
but that's of little comfort to those of us who don't have high personal
Tax Freedom Day — the day we finally stop working for the federal, state
and local governments and start working for ourselves — is sixth latest
in the country — May 2 — here. What do we get that taxpayers in 45 other
states do not?
Excellent infrastructure? Last year it was the dams that weren't safe.
This year we learn that Massachusetts bridges are deficient. Our roads
are always ranked low. Yet we continue to pay high gas taxes and an
annual auto excise.
Services for children? Our Department of Social Services is an ongoing
Better public safety? We're the only state that abuses overtime for
police details. And there's a long-standing note in my doctor's elevator
that says the state still hasn't inspected it.
Do we get more respect than taxpayers in other states? In 1989 we were
promised that an income tax hike would be temporary. In 2000, voters
demanded that the rate drop from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. Legislators
froze the rate at 5.3 percent, and even though the state budget is
increasing by more than a billion dollars, again, they refuse to obey
the people who pay their biennially increased salaries.
Meanwhile, taxes and inflation erode working-class paychecks. A bumper
sticker on my car reminds people that "a tax cut is a pay raise," but
both Big Business and union leaders usually oppose these kinds of raises
for their employees and members, while making sure they themselves are
During the 2000 campaign to cut the income tax rate, taxpayer activists
heard opponents say they don't mind paying more. So we filed a bill for
a line on the state income tax form that would allow them to choose the
higher 5.75 percent rate, and it passed. So far this year, according to
the Department of Revenue, only 527 taxpayers have chosen the higher
rate and paid an extra $51,223.
Taxes aren't just about money. Taxes, and the arrogance of power that
they fund, are at the core of the things we don't like about our
Are you angry about illegal immigration? Suppose there were one simple
rule: No taxpayer dollars to support illegals.
Let Ted Kennedy and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who encourage unlawful
behavior, pay for it. Educate the children in the Catholic schools for
free. Cover their health care using church and other private sources.
Instead, we learn that illegals have been able to get Medicaid, which is
funded not only by general taxes, but by sick and elderly Americans in
Massachusetts nursing homes who are charged an extra tax to cover
Fortunately the federal government is about to require proof of
citizenship to get on the Medicaid rolls. There will be heavy resistance
to this from the usual taxpayer abusers.
Our taxes fund the criminal justice system that too often imprisons the
innocent and lets the guilty go free, releasing murderers and drunken
drivers to kill again. Our taxes pay for lenient judges and for a U.S.
Supreme Court that allows the government to take modest homes from
working people and give the land to developers. Our taxes support school
systems that outlaw Halloween and Christmas and punish children who hug
each other, while teaching teenagers how to engage in gay sex and
selling them sugary soft drinks in vending machines.
Politicians and other government employees make more money and get
better pensions and health insurance than most of the taxpayers who are
So please don't be grateful for your refund. The government took too
much during the year and will not give you interest on what it
I'm a taxpayer activist. You should be one too.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.