and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
February 2003 #4

Snowbound by a birthday blizzard

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Monday, February 24, 2003

Thoughts that I thought during the "Barbara's Birthday Blizzard" 2003:

I had three good reasons to spend Feb. 17 having fun: it was the Presidential holiday; there was a snowstorm; it was my birthday.

Along with my chocolate-cookie refrigerator cake, I had cherry ice cream in honor of that George Washington cherry tree thing, the first story I remember that taught children to always tell the truth.

Then I carefully noted that the flowers that my twin grandchildren sent were the same color as the snow falling outside, and wrote a haiku:

"White is the blizzard;

white is winter, summer, truth;

white are my daisies!"

Eat your heart out, Maya Angelou.

There were 60 daisies, one for each year. My son the youth therapist asked me on the phone, "So how do you FEEL about turning 60?"

"Considering 58 and 59", I responded, "grateful." Nothing like two operations to focus one's mind on the joy of aging. I am thrilled to be 60 daisies old.

The good news for my readers is, I have now been around long enough to be considered "wise." So future columns will help lead younger baby boomers into the next phase of their existence. First words of wisdom: "Yours isn't going to be the first generation to stay young forever."

My politics aren't about to change. If anything, rather than mellowing, I've curmudgeoned: Life is too darn short to put up with this nonsense. As you do your taxes and maybe set aside something for retirement, keep these two words in mind: "Franny Joyce." Put in charge of a convention center that should never have been taxpayer-funded, after a nationwide search that ended in Senate President Bill Bulger's office, he was just given a retroactive pay raise to hike his pension as he's "let go" from a job that, like the old AND new convention centers, should be funded by the Boston business members of the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which is presently advocating an increase in the state sales tax to pay for essential state services. If you can follow that sentence, you understand Massachusetts politics.

Putting it poetically:

"Done as the dirty deed;

smelly as the skunkweed;

Green is the color of Beacon Hill greed."

As my partner Chip shoveled out, I poured SafePaw ice melter on the front walk, having given up years ago on neighborhood kids coming by to earn a few dollars. Where did they all go? In return for the small fortunes that senior citizens, people without kids, people whose kids' educations were paid off years ago, are contributing toward education and, in many communities, state-of-the-art new schools, there should be "shoveling out" clubs to repay those generous citizens with service.

This would make a good warrant article at town meeting: any senior citizen over, say, 60, who can't get a student to her house the day after a snowstorm, will be exempt from paying property taxes for schools. The missing money will not be replaced by other taxpayers either.

Speaking of education, what is this February vacation thing? The teachers and students have the summer off; why a week in mid-winter? No one has ever explained this to my satisfaction. I worked part time or had someone working from my house when my son was young, but how do today's parents who must be gone all day deal with this? They should be able to deduct the week from the education part of their property taxes, and the money should be cut from the school budget.

Normally my idea of birthday fun isn't doing my state taxes, but this year I enjoyed sending the relevant material to my accountant friend with a note directing him to choose the 5.3 percent income tax rate, not the 5.85 percent rate. Citizens for Limited Taxation and the House Republicans created a new line on the state income tax form that gives people who want to pay more taxes an easy way to do this. We hope that members of the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, who have lots more money than I do, will choose the higher rate to help pay for Franny Joyce's pension.

The liberal Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, formerly known as TEAM (Tax Everything and More) should ask its members to voluntarily pay more too.

One thing I did not do on my birthday was wrap the house in plastic. I did think of my father who, were he still alive and running his hardware store, would have laughed til he cried every time a customer came in looking for duct tape to ward off a terrorist attack.

I also did not watch either "Joe Millionaire" or the Michael Jackson special. As a wise elder, I now carefully choose the shows on which to spend my remaining TV time. So I was disappointed when Michael bumped "Veritas," my new Monday favorite show about an archaeologist and his teenage son.

Snow, daisies, veritas. It would have made a great birthday poem.

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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