With apologies to T.S. Eliot: "April is the cruelest
month, breeding taxes out of the dead land."
There is something about April that makes me more than usually aware of
the government at all levels abusing my good-taxpayer nature.
I've been collecting examples from newspapers and the Internet. People
are e-mailing me.
This from a woman who just paid her federal taxes: "I received a
surprise from the IRS concerning my 1040 return. Before I could receive
my refund they wanted me to do the alternative minimum tax form to see
if I could owe more money that way! And I do! (I received a severance
package which put me in a higher bracket). ... the limits have not been
increased on this tax (for inflation). Basically in the '80s when this
tax was initiated, about one-tenth of 1 percent of all taxpayers were
paying this. By 2015, about 39 percent will be paying this tax due to
This is all true, ma'am. It's what happens when Congress passes a tax
increase "on the rich" and middle-class taxpayers concur, not realizing
that unless the new tax is indexed for inflation, they will very soon be
considered "rich" too.
But be of good cheer: the money is spent on essential services,
otherwise known by government officials as "my pension."
I just learned there are elected officials whose pensions are based on
their three highest years of pay at some state job, even if many of the
years they served were in volunteer jobs in local government such as
selectman or town moderator.
And according to an article in
Fortune Magazine, the majority of government employers across the
nation, unlike those in the private sector, still provide health-care
benefits for their workers after retirement.
The Salem News recently editorialized about the "overly generous
pensions benefits accorded city, town and state employees." In some
cases, perfectly healthy individuals are allowed to retire at 45 to 50
years of age and get 80 percent of their salaries for the rest of their
No, the government pensioners are not all military and public safety
employees, with their physical requirements and high burnout rates.
Pensions are part of what state and local officials bemoan as "fixed
costs." But why address the problem? Better to have an excuse to keep
the remaining part of the "temporary" income tax hike of 1989.
Last Monday, Massachusetts House Democrats, by a vote of 135-21,
rejected the Republican budget amendment to roll back the income tax
rate to 5 percent as the voters had mandated. Instead, they voted for a
"study of the impact of the rate reduction." As the budget debate
continues, we await further Democratic amendments for a study on the
budget impact of their pork proposals.
Meanwhile, at the local level, selectmen threaten destructive cuts in
"bare-bones budgets" if voters reject Proposition 2½ overrides.
But last year, in the town of Franklin, voters said no anyhow. This week
MetroWest Daily News, Ed Cafasso, the chairman of the pro-override
groups, was quoted: "Many of the taxpayers who fought for the override
feel misled about the town's financial situation ... the town seems to
have a lot more financial flexibility than predicted a year ago. ... The
predictions of severe budget cuts seem to have been premature."
Reminds me of my town that had an override partly to make up for lost
state aid, then got the state aid anyhow, and will still take the extra
Speaking of Marblehead, at last week's forum, candidates for selectman
were asked for specific suggestions for revenue enhancement. Some
thought changing Prop 2½ to allow taxes to increase more without an
override would be a good idea.
My proposal: Put a suggestion box at Abbot Hall where taxpayers can
substitute ideas for their share of an override. Here's my little
contribution in lieu of an increase in my own taxes: Let Marbleheaders
buy memorial benches at the Waterside Cemetery, where there is no place
to sit except for one sad bench at the top of the steepest hill.
Have you found your place on the new taxpayer-funded federal government
food pyramid yet? I've been trying to figure it out for a few days now.
The old food pyramid is what we all learned in junior high health class
and was either followed or not, depending on whether there was ice cream
in the freezer with the frozen broccoli. As nearly as I can tell,
nothing has changed much except that the new version adds exercise steps
up the pyramid's sides. I wonder how much it cost to tell us what we've
always known we should be doing and will do, really, if there's nothing
good on TV.
Well, you pays your taxes and gets your intelligence insulted.
April is just about over. Do you suppose things will get better in May?
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.