and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
November #3

Plenty of reason for tax skeptics' discontent this winter
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, November 20, 2008

The day after the election, autumn turned to fall.

My golden-orange maple, glowing like a giant pumpkin through Halloween this year, lost its leaves overnight. I enjoyed the color, and now appreciate the unadorned shape of the tree.

So with the phases of our political life: The spring of hope, when despite all experience to the contrary, we think the next election will make government work. The summer of effort to achieve real change. The autumn of rich, dramatic campaigns; followed inevitably, in recent years, by the winter of our discontent, as Steinbeck might say.

This coming political winter will be a doozy, and perhaps endless, at least in Massachusetts.

Why have I been thinking about Timothy Leary? My partner Chip Ford put his finger on it: Ignoring the "turn on" with drugs part, we need to tune out, turn off, and drop out.

"Voters get the government they deserve," he said, "but I'm tired of getting the same government the voting majority deserves. I want 'change'.

"After all those years of ceaseless effort, it's time to run up the white flag and climb aboard the gravy train, ride it as long and for as far as the tracks stretching to the horizon. If that voting majority wants to support tax-eaters, who am I to deny them their pleasure? I can collect unemployment checks, subsidized health care, and whatever else government will give me, while I work on writing a self-help book in my new leisure time, 'How to Take Government for a Ride'."

In other words, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Not a bad idea, especially as I see disgraced state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who makes twice what I make not counting her bribes, expecting me to pay for her lawyer.

I have a head start on Chip, since I went on Medicare and started collecting Social Security this year. I thought a vote to repeal the state income tax would be a valuable reform message to send to Beacon Hill, but I don't expect to be paying it anyhow and now I'll make a special effort. Why work? I have no mortgage, no debt, a small house to heat, nothing I really need to buy and lots of non-political, inexpensive fun projects to occupy my time.

This attitude actually worked for a week or so. It was wonderfully relaxing reading the newspapers, hearing the news, figuring there is nothing I can do about it; then picking up James Michener's "Alaska" (in honor of Sarah Palin). I put talk radio on for company, but with no inclination to participate.

Somewhat interested to see that even though Question 1 did not pass, tolls are going up and will probably be followed by the gas tax, then another income-tax hike. Did I mention that I won't be paying the state income tax? Or driving to Boston or using the Turnpike?

One remaining concern, though: I do have to pay property taxes. Have to acknowledge, in fairness to voters, that many voted to keep the income tax out of fear of increased property taxes.

Frank Conte of the Beacon Hill Institute noted after the election that "It was amusing to hear opponents of Question 1 particularly the teacher unions express their concern about local property taxes in Massachusetts. However, the labor unions probably won't like to be reminded of their newly-discovered dislike of property taxes the next time they push for overrides at the local level."

Well, then, we must start reminding them now. Back to work: Barbara and Chip filing a bill to reflect the new agreement of senior citizens, public employee unions, and the Boston business community that property taxes are the worst tax of all! And we'll address the complaint that Prop. 2 overrides create unpleasant rifts in the community.

Let's limit the number of times a community has to deal with this disruption. We propose allowing overrides only on a biennial election ballot instead of anytime during any year.

There were some on this fall's local ballots. Of course, almost all of them lost. But high turnout is a good thing, right?

Found the flaw in my drop-out plan: Politics is fun. Win or lose, we taxpayer activists are annoyingly pesky, which is our real job.

I've been asked about TABOR, a constitutional Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Of course, I'm happy to advise as a volunteer. Its Colorado creator, Doug Bruce, is a friend of mine.

Hey, just heard my name on WTKK; Jim Braude and Margery Eagan are discussing the gas tax. I quickly call in to remind listeners that it was raised to pay for infrastructure maintenance in 1989, so why are we now told that the roads and bridges are crumbling?

And yes, Jon Keller, I'd be happy to do your Sunday morning interview. One last trip into Boston before the toll hikes! Let's talk about how voters elected the status quo of corruption, scams and high taxes in The Bluest State.

I think it's a good thing to take a hard look at the real shape of political reality as the Massachusetts winter begins.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson's
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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