and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
January #2

Bay State political culture
has many people looking elsewhere
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, January 14, 2005

"Born with the gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad."
Rafael Sabatini

Politicians and pundits are asking the question, "Why has Massachusetts lost population?" The real question is: "Why are the rest of us still here?"

Well, some were born here and are used to it. Others have family, friends, jobs or homes that they love. Some even like the weather.

Whatever the reason, they try to find a way to endure the Bay State's bizarre political culture.

I wasn't born here, and though the weather is actually an improvement over that in my native Lake Erie region, Massachusetts' culture has always seemed strange to me. But because I love my friends here, enjoy my job and my little house in Marblehead, I've found a way to survive the politics. And I've made the quote used at the beginning of this piece my personal mantra.

For a while, I used the line, "Laugh and the world laughs with you; express outrage and watch the voters agree." But many of those voters must be among the population that has left. The last election proved that a majority of Massachusetts voters don't mind being laughed at not only by the state legislators who con them but by most of the rest of the country.

Now I just assume the world is mad and this state is madder than most.

A little-known fact: The quotation above is the opening line from Sabatini's novel, "Scaramouche," about an activist in the French Revolution who recognized the absurdity of the aristocracy as well as the peasantry. I can identify.

Scaramouche is also mentioned in the rock group Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody. Sing along with me: "I see a little silhouetta of a man ... Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?"

My question is, "Which of the above explains why Scaramouche is the name of John Kerry's yacht? And why do so many Kerry voters hate President Bush so much?" I may not love many politicians myself, but this hatred, epidemic in Massachusetts, is beyond my comprehension.

Seeking understanding, I turned to my friend Betsy's copy of a recent "Sedona Journal of Emergence," which features psychics channeling spirits who answer their questions.

Medium Diandra, upset about the Bush victory, asked her spirit named Salem (local touch here) about the national election. Her question was, "Why?"

Salem responded with wisdom, asking in return: "Why are you so attached to this drama?... How much of your emotions of anger fed the fears of others? ... What you might see as destructive, from your point of view, another will see as the only way to preserve what he or she holds sacred."

The spirit Salem gets it! Peace to all blue-state liberals who the spirit suggests should "move on." And laughter is healthier than rage.

Speaking of the aristocracy, we peasants note that the Massachusetts Legislature returned to Beacon Hill on Jan. 3 to end the last legislative year before the new legislative year began on Jan. 5. Since they had not been in "formal session" since August, there were no roll call votes and no television coverage, just lots of unaccountable activity on supplemental budgets, public safety, banking, housing, tax policy and the state retirement system.

Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, R-East Longmeadow, put it this way: "We're all elected to work for the citizens of the commonwealth. We're all going to sit down and work together to get things done."

And they're going to make sure the people they work for don't know what they are doing until it's too late, and also that they never know how their own alleged representatives voted.

Was Snoopy smart when he said, "I'm outrageously happy in my stupidity. Don't tell me ... I don't want to know..."?

The story of middle-class flight from Massachusetts broke over a year ago in a MassINC report that said it's been going on for 12 years, but covered up in most by the inflow resulting from immigration. And weather isn't the only factor; though former Bay Staters have fled to Florida, Arizona and Georgia, many are also moving farther north. How bad do things have to get before you want to move to Maine?

Democratic politicians who plan to run for governor are still analyzing population loss and have hit on "lack of affordable housing" as the primary reason though MassINC blamed a combination of the high cost of living and high taxes.

I suspect that many of us peasants are also fed up with business as usual on Beacon Hill; fed up with the political culture of entitlement; and fed up with all the failed efforts to reform state government in any meaningful way. Many middle-class citizens have lost respect for the state and local governments that have become the fearful servants of the public employee unions, negotiating pay and benefits that can only be sustained by taxing the private sector more.

Why shouldn't sensible people want to escape this state's odd collection of "public authorities" that answer to no one? The crumbling infrastructure. The duplicate transportation agencies. The ever-increasing debt. The expensive public employee pension and medical costs? The use of courts as patronage havens. And the liberal immigration policies that allow terrorist-related gangs to settle here.

Sure, you can laugh at the madness of it all, but eventually, you start looking at other states to which you can relocate and ask yourself, "Why not?"

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.