and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
October #4

Once again, it's trick-or-treat time
in halls of government
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halloween. How I love flickering pumpkins, caramel apples and neighborhood kids on the porch.

But when it comes to politics, it's time to turn off the porch lights.

I don't want to see the Con Man who was dressed last fall as "property tax relief." I don't want to hear, as the Patrick administration is saying, that we have another budget deficit for this coming year -- after being told that we had one for the past year, which, though the governor didn't get his tax increases, somehow turned into a budget surplus.

And I don't want to see Democratic leaders in Washington trying to scare me with President Bush's veto of the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program). I'm more afraid of socialized medicine, into which this proposed expansion of government health care is intended to ease us. Parents who aren't poor shouldn't be getting a taxpayer subsidy from me and others who take responsibility for paying our health insurance premiums.

Also scary are the voters who let these Democrats con them into thinking that the president, Republican candidates and taxpayer activists want to eliminate health care for poor children. Here is how the game is played, during political party squabble time:

There's a program, like SCHIP, that works pretty well, supported by almost everyone. This isn't fun for the Democrats who need something to demagogue, so they deliberately expand it beyond affordable reason, knowing that fiscally responsible Republicans will refuse to go along and can then be accused of not caring if children die.

Do voters never get tired of politicians using "the children" in their quest for power and more of our money? Apparently not, or Niki Tsongas wouldn't be the new member of congress from the 5th District.

Speaking of the Democratic leadership, here's a fun "trick or treat" story that you might have missed. It seems that ABC's "World News Tonight" did a story on a man who claimed he saw atrocities as a soldier in Iraq, even though he actually didn't get through boot camp and never served at all. This came up on the Rush Limbaugh Show, and a caller made reference to men who pretend to be soldiers to criticize the war; Rush responded, "Yeah, the phony soldiers."

Once again the Democratic silly machine went into motion, attacking Rush for denigrating our brave military. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and 40 other Democratic senators -- including Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton -- signed a letter and sent it to the CEO of Limbaugh's network, demanding Rush apologize. They picked on the wrong guy.

Instead of apologizing, Rush put the senators' "phony indignation" letter on e-Bay, offering to match the highest bidder. The highest bid was over two million dollars -- $2,100,100 to be exact. Rush sent $4,200,200 to a favorite charity, the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, which gives financial assistance to the children of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers. Nice treat, fun trick -- and 41 U.S. senators dressed up for Halloween as red faces. Give them each a Snicker bar.

After reading my recent column on police details, Frank Abram of Danvers suggests that we should turn off the porch lights when detail policemen, dressed up as "coffee-drinking blue traffic cones," show up with their usual trick-or-treat demands to be given flagman jobs at police union costs.

All the other states use civilian flagmen and women, or even portable traffic lights. Yet whenever someone writes a column noting the savings to taxpayers of abolishing this unique-to- Massachusetts practice, someone inevitably writes a letter to the editor insisting, as Pauline Collins did in The Salem News, that "the true fact of this subject is that the taxpayers of Massachusetts do not pay for any of the private details for the police departments. In fact, for every private job that the police work, 10 percent of that money goes back to the city or town. ... None of this comes out of the taxpayers' pockets."

Ah, note the trick: The writer always uses the adjective "private."

Yes, there are private details for businesses, which must pay the cops or they can't do their project. So first you have extortion, followed by kickbacks to the communities that require the details. Why is this legal?

Then you have the really "true fact" that there are also "public" details for projects done by state government on state highways and by communities on local roads; taxpayers do indeed pay for these "public" details. The recently released Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission report recommends eliminating paid police details on the state's road and bridge projects, estimating that the use of flagmen, instead of police, to patrol public construction projects could save up to $100 million.

The Beacon Hill Institute [a PDF file] estimates the statewide savings from eliminating paid police details for city and town road projects could be another $20 million.

Public utilities also must pay details; and they pass their costs on to the ratepayers. That would be the same people as the taxpayers. The extorted businesses pass along their costs to us as well.

And so it goes, as the government-abuse goblins grab and grin.

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