and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
December 2002 #2

Bigger, not Better:
Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor and
Big Church are all bad for Massachusetts

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Monday, December 16, 2002

So, the country is still in a recession.

I'm afraid the firing (sorry, asking-for-the-resignations-of) presidential economic advisers isn't the answer; unless they are replaced by people who understand the question.

And the question, asked by Americans in general, is this: Whom do we trust?

Economic advisers who focus on interest rates, economic cycles, and even tax rates, are missing the point: This is not a crisis of "consumer confidence," but of citizen confidence. Many of us are curled up in the corner, hugging our soft blankets or teddy bears, while other escape into a new TV show about a cat house.

You want us to invest? In what companies, headed by which executives, audited by what watchdogs, overseen by what federal agencies, defined by what new definition of the American Dream?

Capitalism works, as a concept; short-sighted greed makes no sense at all.

Here in Massachusetts, state and local leaders are running around in circles, some asking for taxpayer dollars for a.) affordable housing and b.) open space that no one can build on; while Boston's Mayor Menino threatens investors who might provide affordable housing with rent control.

Because state and local spending grew irresponsibly during the '90s, our government faces some hard choices during the inevitable and necessary restructuring. So what is the first choice? What else, but to have Boston host the nation's Democrats for their quadrennial blowout in 2004. Business and media leaders cheer, while the former -- many of them contemplating layoffs and price hikes, while at the same time looking for permits or other services from the government -- offer to come up with some of the money to pay for this alleged great honor.

When the applause died down, you heard the quiet voices of concern, primarily about the fact that the FleetCenter, where the convention is to be held, is built on top of the city's basic transportation system and therefore vulnerable to terrorist attack.

No problem; plans are floated to search local commuters for bombs, or maybe redirect them to somewhere else.

As for the Democratic visitors from out of town: If they aren't depressed enough by what's going on in their part of the nation, a visit to Boston is just what they need. Too bad Cardinal Law won't still be here to offer the opening prayer.

During the convention's down times, delegates can be given a tour of the Whitey Bulger burial grounds and the Billy Bulger university, with a side trip to FBI headquarters downtown. What great stories to take home to the kids!

The tour will naturally include the Big Dig, the most expensive public works project in the country, which, being taxpayers from someplace or other in the United States, they are helping to fund.

Yes, tourists, those are real police officers performing the same special details that less-expensive workers cover in all your states. And on your right, the place where union thugs beat up a woman who was competing for concession rights during a movie production. The head of that union was a valued adviser to a former governor and a member of his economic transition team.

Massachusetts economics columnist Warren Brookes once wrote about "the economy in mind," positing that "economics is a metaphysical rather than a mathematical science, in which intangible spiritual values and attitudes are at least as important as physical assets, and morale more fundamental than the money supply". He warned that a decline in our "goodness" is more likely to cause economic decline than would the failure of specific policies or leaders.

Massachusetts has since become a metaphysical wasteland. Its values are not only intangible, they are incomprehensible. The rest of the country has a similar problem here in 2002 AD; with its big institutions having proven to be generally unworthy of the public trust.

Those of us who never trusted big institutions aren't in shock the way former believers seem to be.

I remember one debate during a controversial tax-cutting ballot campaign in 1990. The state government, most of the business community, and most labor groups, were part of the opposition, and I had just been informed that Cardinal Bernard Law had come out against the tax cut.

My off-the-cuff response was, "Good. We must be doing something right, because we now have Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor AND Big Church on the other side."

My debate opponent and most of the audience gasped. I had just done the unthinkable, criticizing the leader of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts.

It didn't seem like a big deal to me, an ex-Catholic who had moved here from a more secular state. But the media was very critical of my outspokenness.

Well, times they have a'changed. It should be obvious to most observers that Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor and Big Church are responsible for most of the present problem. Until the good people within those institutions take them back, and we regain our spiritual priorities and morale, our economy cannot be expected to thrive. In fact, in the long term, it may not even endure.

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.

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