I am melting into summer. I am "one" with my
hammock, or when it rains, with the futon on my screened porch.
During the heat of the day, my window air
conditioner is essential to the well-being of my computer and my
ability to work happily, not to mention the happiness of my fish in
the living room aquarium, who would otherwise be cooked. But during
lunchtime and after 5 p.m., I'm outside with the birds, the flowers,
and with any luck, a little North Shore sea breeze.
Certainly it was more pleasant reading the
2,300-page federal finance bill while lying in my hammock with it
propped on my lap.
Just kidding. What is propped on my lap is the
new Nelson DeMille thriller.
For those for whom it might be useful someday,
here is my strategy for dealing with giant pieces of complicated
legislation. First I look at who is crafting it and selling it; for
example, do I trust Barney "There's nothing wrong with Fannie Mae"
Frank on financial policy?
Then I read the relevant stories in newspapers. I
check my favorite national columnists who have been writing about
financial issues over the years and been proven right: Charles
Krauthammer, Thomas Sowell, George Will, etc. I watch the television
talking heads and listen to talk radio, follow RedMassGroup. This
gives me information on the basics, and some of the opposing
Then I look further into those arguments, to see
what makes sense. When someone on either side says something clearly
ridiculous, e.g., "the free market works" (as if any of us alive
have ever seen the free market) or "we'll get to Fannie Mae reform
later," I weigh the points. Then I urge Scott Brown to vote No.
Voters should never let themselves think that
they can't have a strong opinion on an issue unless they read the
This applies also to initiative petitions, three
of which are heading for the November ballot. Voters should read the
Secretary of State's voter information booklet, the parts that give
the official summary and arguments on both sides. Then I watch or
listen to a debate or two, read newspaper coverage, apply my own
common sense and experience with legislative activity.
Some things, I know I support before the voter
information book arrives in my mailbox. I need to do more research
on repealing the state's so-called affordable housing law, but I
already know I am voting for the two tax cuts. With a brand new law
like the retail alcohol tax, there is nothing complicated about the
word "repeal" — we know what things were like before it passed. Easy
to understand "reduce" too, as in reduce the sales tax from 6.25
percent to 3 percent.
If, as with the federal finance law, proponents
were re-organizing an entire giant entity like the economy or total
state tax policy, I'd be listening to arguments about "sin taxes"
being more fair than other consumption taxes, which are more easily
avoidable than income taxes, though unfair to border businesses.
But these are what I call "don't let the
politicians get away with it" proposals. Faced last year with a need
for fiscal restraint in a recession, and a chance to do serious
reform of state institutions, especially public employee union
benefits, the Legislature raised taxes.
The new alcohol tax is a tax not only on the
product but on the excise taxes already included in the price: I'm
simply voting against a tax on a tax.
The state sales tax used to be 3 percent, was
increased "temporarily" to 5 percent in 1974. Last year that
"temporary" tax hike was hiked again to 6.25 percent. I always vote
to repeal "temporary taxes" after 36 years.
The "temporary" income tax hike of 1989 is 21
years old. But voters repealed it in 2000, then the Legislature
"froze" that rate rollback at 5.3 percent in 2002, so I figure it's
in line ahead of the sales tax cut.
This is what I'd like to happen in the end:
A yes vote for the sales tax cut to 3 percent.
Though many voters would prefer a simple repeal to 5 percent rather
than a further reduction, there's no reason not to vote for what's
available. Unless we all wake up and defeat the governor and
legislators who supported the sales tax hike last year, they will
"temporarily freeze" this tax cut too.
If voters do revolt against tax hikes and tax
hikers, there will be new people on Beacon Hill we can work with
next year. We can support immediate repeal of last year's sales tax
hikes and the previously voter-mandated income tax cut from the
present 5.3 percent to 5 percent.
This "economic stimulus" will keep shoppers here
and help create jobs, without quite so large a revenue loss to the
state as required by a 3 percent sales tax rate.
Since the group doing the sales tax issue tried
unsuccessfully to repeal the income tax two years ago, I'd hope
they'd support a reduction in that tax as part of a package that
helps them win this year's campaign on the "Had Enough?" theme.
See, that was easy. Now, it's hammock time. Melt.