and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June #1

Week of disappointment
until House blocked the seat-belt bill
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, June 1, 2006

So there I was, at Faneuil Hall, to hear our former governors discuss "the attainment of the American dream."

The event also celebrated the 10th anniversary of CommonWealth, an outstanding magazine with intelligent, balanced discussion of "politics, ideas and civic life" in Massachusetts.

When the magazine was launched by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), I expected a quarterly liberal rant, and have been pleasantly surprised. Its first issue featured an article on Proposition 2, and the latest issue has a fun map of Bay State politics that divides us into 10 states, ranging from "Bigger Boston" to "Cranberry Country", to "Left Fields' (most of western Mass. plus Somerville, Cambridge and the Islands)), to "Stables and Subdivisions" (usually called the North Shore).

MassINC was founded by wealthy entrepreneur Mitchell Kertzman soon after the graduated income tax ballot campaign in 1994. I debated him at various forums, including one in Salem at which he kept jabbing his finger at me. I recall thinking that if he touched me with that finger I'd break it, but am not sure if I said that out loud or just wish I had. When rich guys who can afford high taxes argue for a system that will eventually raise my taxes too, I get riled.

Anyhow, my side defeated the grad tax, and Mitch decided that the state needed more in-depth debate than ballot questions can provide. Well-off citizens and some businesses on both sides of various issues put their own money into support for CommonWealth, and I occasionally contribute a column.

So, along with celebrating the anniversary, I was there to get my usual big hug from my favorite governor, Ed King.

I'd prefer never to see Michael Dukakis again as long as I live, but have not been able to avoid his media interviews criticizing the Republican governors for not staying for two terms after they are elected. This, you should recall, is the governor who remained in office while he RAN FOR PRESIDENT, using the commonwealth for his campaign, fudging the revenues, and hiding the bills, before returning to face the fiscal crisis he created and raise our taxes twice before FINALLY leaving the Statehouse!

So I figured I might enjoy a discussion about the American dream featuring Dukakis and Bill Weld, who saved the commonwealth from the Dukakis nightmare and helped repeal the Dukakis sales tax on services; along with Paul Cellucci, who helped us taxpayers put the rollback of the Dukakis income-tax hike on the ballot.

Alas, it was not to be. Gov. King had to cancel because he was recovering from a fall; and Weld, busy running for governor of New York, just sent a videotape.

I still wanted to hear Tim King read a statement from his father, but 10 minutes into Mayor Menino's scheduled five-minute "greetings from the city," I had an epiphany.

Well, actually, what I had was a sore behind, since I am still recovering from my own fall that strained my hamstring and other nearby muscles, and the folding chair was uncomfortable. But as the mayor rambled on incomprehensibly, I suddenly realized that I have listened to politicians droning on for too many hours of my precious, mortal life. And I realized that after Tim King, it would be downhill to Dukakis, then Cellucci (who was a good governor, but really should not have left Jane Swift in charge of the commonwealth), and finally Swift herself, whom I have not forgiven for refusing to commute the sentence of Gerald Amirault.

And though I had been looking forward to the after-forum reception, I realized that if I left immediately I could grab a treat at Quincy Market and get on the T before rush hour. So I have to tell you that I can't give you a firsthand account of the former governors' remarks.

However, my associate, Chip Faulkner, stayed for most of it, and said Dukakis got away with his self-congratulatory presentation with little contradiction from the other governors, with one exception.

The State House News Service reported that Dukakis, referring to the new health-care bill, said his own version would have been more workable "if Weld hadn't screwed it up."

Cellucci, as recent ambassador to Canada, rebutted this by speaking knowledgeably about that country's system of socialized medicine. He noted that patients in Ottawa often cross the border for an MRI rather than wait for months to get one at home.

But not knowing when to stop, he then advocated open borders with Canada and Mexico, basically arguing for one, big, happy North American continent.

Great: Then not only will it be "for English, press 1" and "for Spanish, press 2," we can add, "for French, press 3".

The Massachusetts Senate just passed some budget provisions aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. However, it also continued its support for broken promises by voting unanimously to keep what's left of the Dukakis "temporary" income-tax hike until who knows when, and passed a primary seat-belt law despite long-ago assurances that this would never happen. Fortunately the seat-belt law was blocked by the Massachusetts House.

It's these small, occasional victories that keep me from walking out of Massachusetts politics altogether.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.