and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
April #5

Thoughts on days devoted to Mother Earth
and tax freedom
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I noticed that last week's Earth Day celebration was more like an Earth Week celebration; and I'm OK with that, as long as the celebrators pick up after themselves when they hold a rally.

Personally, I celebrate the Earth all year, existing on it as I do. I saw a recent television special on what would happen if all the humans vanished: Other living things like vines, birds and cats (the cats surviving by eating the birds), took over our buildings, and after a while there was very little sign that we had even been here. The Earth seemed happier in the end; though, who knows, it might miss some man-made music, the Acropolis, cultivated roses, and other works of art.

I hope it would miss some people, too, at least the ones who appreciate it. I recall a "Star Trek" episode in which the crew landed on a small planet occupied only by the god Apollo, who tried to convince it to stay and worship him because a god needs to be worshipped. Maybe beauty is its own excuse for being, but I like to think that Gaea enjoys hearing people praising her many excellent views, her varied flora and fauna.

William Brighty Rands wrote, "You are more than the earth, though you're such a dot; you can love and think, and the earth cannot." Could be true, if you are one of those increasingly rare humans who both love and think. But maybe Earth can be anthropomorphized into a living entity.

In Greek mythology, Gaea loved Uranus, the sky, who was first her son and then her mate though, come to think of it, she may not have been thinking clearly, because that really didn't work out; one of the kids castrated Uranus. How's that for filial gratitude!

Even the worst of us human polluters treat Mother Earth relatively well!

Well, now that I have the attention of people who perhaps don't share my politics: it's time to celebrate Tax Freedom Week in Massachusetts.

According to the Tax Foundation, national Tax Freedom Day the day taxpayers have earned enough money to pay this year's federal, state and local tax obligations fell on April 23 this year. Massachusetts, as usual, trailed behind. It required a few more days until April 28 before Bay State residents could celebrate their own Tax Freedom Day. And I am extending it, like Earth Week, through the weekend, so grateful politicians still have time to take a taxpayer to lunch.

Our Tax Freedom Day is the sixth latest in the country, after Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California, and Washington state. Nevada is 11th, but is having earthquakes this week so I think I'll put off moving near my grandchildren for now. And I don't really want to move to Alaska (50th) or Mississippi (49th), either, though New Hampshire celebrated on April 15 and is always a temptation for Massachusetts taxpayers.

Still, you have to check the trends before you move. New Hampshire is turning bluish, for some reason; meanwhile, here in Massachusetts, a recent poll shows that taxpayers may be getting smarter.

Citizens for Limited Taxation shared a poll of likely November voters being done by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates between April 9 and 13. The people who were reached may have been less conservative than I, in that 48 percent would vote for Barack Obama vs. John McCain (39 percent) if the election were held today. Slightly more (52 percent) would choose Hillary Clinton vs. McCain. But since I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the Republican candidate either, I won't let this interfere with my celebration of the other poll results.

When asked what is the most important issue facing Massachusetts today, 54 percent said "the economy." Next closest, at 8 percent, was "taxes".

Apparently realizing that the latter affects the former, when asked how they would close the projected $1.3 billion state budget deficit, 71 percent chose to cut spending vs. 12 percent who said "raise taxes." One reason may be that when asked, "How many cents out of every dollar you pay in state taxes would you say is wasted by the state government?", respondents guessed roughly 41 cents. Sounds about right.

Meanwhile, 72 percent would not vote to raise property taxes if an override were on their local ballot. Though 50 percent in this poll approve of the job Gov. Deval Patrick is doing, even they may be waiting for that campaign-promised "property tax relief"; 61 percent supported allowing casinos with half the new revenues used to reduce property taxes.

In another question, 72 percent would oppose "increasing the gas tax by 11.5 cents to help pay for road repair and construction." While one reason for this is probably the rising cost of gas at the pump, another might be cynicism over the amount of money from the gas tax that's actually being spent on infrastructure.

And best of all, when reminded about the 2000 ballot question to roll back the state income tax to 5 percent, which the Legislature (job approval, 38 percent) froze at 5.3 percent in 2002, 67 percent wanted it to "unfreeze the rollback " as the voters authorized.

So if Massachusetts people start loving tax freedom, and thinking clearly, this may be a good place to reside on Mother Earth, at least for now.

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.