and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
March #1

No rest for the weary tax-fighter here in the Bay State
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, March 6, 2008

So here was the plan. When I turned 65 in February, I'd take Social Security a year before my official age, which would mean that after a few months of last year's pay, I'd lose $1 for every $2 I earned.

To avoid this, I figured I'd work at Citizens for Limited Taxation for the minimum wage and take more time off, maybe even an unpaid sabbatical after the Legislature leaves in August. Then next year, when the looming state fiscal crisis began to hit, I could work full-time again without losing any of my Social Security.

Since things had been fairly quiet on Beacon Hill, I figured the other three CLT staff members Chip Ford, Chip Faulkner (Chipster) and Loretta could pick up some of my chores. I slowed down, stopped multitasking, took more walks, and started deep-breathing while reading the book my son sent me last year by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.: "Full Catastrophe Living, using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress."

Then Chip Ford and Loretta came down with the flu. In case you wonder, Chip had gotten the flu shot, Loretta doesn't "believe" in flu shots. I, in semi-retirement mode, get the shot and avoid people just in case it doesn't work. It's relatively easy to avoid the other staffers as we all work from home, not together in an office.

As Chip and Loretta slowly recovered, Chipster's computer died. Meanwhile the Massachusetts House unexpectedly attacked Proposition 2. Over the objections of Republicans, it voted to allow senior citizens to seek an abatement from the cost of local overrides in the hope they might not vote, thereby helping these overrides to pass.

Usually I write a memo to be hand-delivered to the Statehouse by Chipster, whose phone and fax system also suddenly died. So we e-mailed it to a friend who lived near him, while Chip Ford e-mailed it to legislators, the media, and CLT activists. Then Chip, our techno-guy, began work on the toasted computer and Loretta helped Chipster switch to a Comcast bundled system. Until that happened, I had to take incoming phone calls and was basically alone with the Prop 2 matter as well as, it turned out, a variety of other issues that arose last week.

Here is a sample. As reporters from across the state called, I was invited on RKO (Howie Carr), TKK (Michael Graham, Jim & Margery), WCRN (Peter Blute in Worcester), WATD (Sen. Bob Hedlund in Quincy), WBSM in New Bedford and two stations in Lowell, to discuss the senior abatement. New Hampshire radio called me for a quick talk about taxes. WBUR came to my house to interview me about various issues. NECN came up to interview me about the state treasurer's abandoned property list. (My No. 1 pet peeve: The state takes our money out of our bank accounts if we haven't "used" them in three years! My money is there waiting for my retirement leave it alone, you thieves)!

My interview on Indian casinos aired on Fox (if we get one, all real-Indian tribe members should benefit). Public television called about the state tourist bureau spending money to advertise Massachusetts as a destination for gays. (If we are spending taxpayer dollars to advertise anything, which we shouldn't, why not gay travel?)

I got a morning call from the producer of the Finneran Forum on RKO, inviting me on to discuss the pork in the new state environmental bill. I don't usually listen to the show because he talks over everyone, but I agreed to go on, promising myself that I wouldn't let him talk over me and I didn't. He hung up screaming obscenities, which his producer barely bleeped, maybe saving the station an FCC fine. Then reporters started calling me about the Finneran meltdown.

For some reason, three hours later I felt compelled to call Jim & Margery to defend Hillary Clinton, who was accused of whining about being asked the first question during debates. As I debater myself, I recognized that she just wanted her opponent to get the question first so he couldn't hide his lack of knowledge by riding on her response. Then I got drawn into a discussion of whether she is treated unfairly by the media because she's a woman. (Answer: No, all the white candidates are treated the same, with criticism and tough analysis. She'd be treated fine if she were a black woman.)

Someone called from New York to invite to me fly down and testify in favor of a tax limitation measure there. Sorry, I'm retired. Besides, we are still fighting the Prop 2 battle here.

There are lots of editorials supporting our position, including from this newspaper; we hope to defeat the bill in the Senate. Sen. Sue Tucker, D-Andover, said it best: "I detest issues that pit one group against another, in this case, struggling seniors against struggling young families."

I detest these issues too, and all the others that drag me away from my book about reducing stress. But I suspect that my definition of "Full Catastrophe Living" is being in the political arena, raising dust and having fun.

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.