and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Proposed taxes should have citizens in the mood for revolution
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, February 6, 2009

"But when taxpayers suffer a long train of abuses and usurpations ... it is their right, it is their duty, to revolt."
Barbara Anderson, with apologies to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence.

"Taxpayers of Massachusetts, lend me your ears. I come to bury the new tax proposals, not to pay them."
Ibid., with apologies to Mark Anthony and Shakespeare.

"What a revoltin' development this is!"
Chester A. Riley, "The Life of Riley"

Over the years, whenever a new tax was proposed, I would send a news release or a memo to the Legislature, strenuously objecting. But this time, I found myself smiling and imagining this could be fun.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been feeling helpless, as the state and federal governments spiral out of fiscal control. As Congress passes pork-laden, welfare-state, fat-cat-bonus-filled bailouts that drive the national debt into the stratosphere, and calls them "economic stimulus," what am I supposed to do, call my congressman? All the Massachusetts congressmen voted for the last giant joke, so what do we do now, call our U.S. senators?

Were their constituents clamoring for them to confirm tax-evader Tim Geithner, President Obama's pick to run the IRS? Did citizens call in support of another known tax evader, Tom Daschle, becoming health-care czar before the senator-turned-lobbyist asked that his name be withdrawn this week?

So, with no one listening at the federal level; is there anything we can do to assert ourselves at the state level?

Governor Patrick's new budget contains increased Registry fees. He wants to "close the exemption" to the sales tax for alcohol, soda, fruit-flavored drinks, bottled water and candy. He is still trying to get the meals-tax hike that he calls, for some reason, "property tax relief."

There are three possible responses if this tax package passes and we'll cover them with three prototype taxpayers.

Taxpayer One, the Enabler, cheerfully pays the new taxes, happy that we peasants are supporting higher pay and benefits for the state's upper class, the politicians and the public employee unions.

Taxpayer B will make a game of not paying the taxes. He will have to pay the increased Registry fees on his car, but will then get in that vehicle and drive to New Hampshire once a month or so, where he will load up on alcohol, soda, fruit-flavored drinks and candy along with cigarettes for himself, family and friends. He will pay with cash, just in case some New Hampshire businesses are pressured to inform Massachusetts about his hobby of avoiding taxes.

While he is there, he will have lunch, then go shopping at the mall, again using cash, and fill the car's tank before he crosses the border on his way home.

While enjoying this fantasy, I cannot publicly endorse all Taxpayer B's activities because Massachusetts expects us to pay a tax on some of the things we went to New Hampshire to avoid paying taxes on. We must carefully obey the tax laws; we don't want to end up like tax cheats Geithner and Daschle, embarrassing the Change Administration and the U.S. Senate.

Besides, I predict that if enough taxpayers follow B's example, there will soon be both tolls and border guards on Routes 3, 93 and 95.

But we can certainly, in clear conscience, follow the example of Taxpayer C, who will make a game of not paying the taxes by not purchasing the goods.

She will lunch in a community that doesn't adopt the new meals tax, at least until it is made universal. She will stop smoking, drinking soda and sweet drinks, and eating candy bars. She'll sip iced tap water from a Thermos hydration bottle, and make her desserts from still-untaxed grocery items. She might even join the hobbyists who brew their own beer! (Pure juice, by the way, especially grape juice, makes a nice substitute for wine if you use the proper glass.)

Speaking of bottles, if the governor gets his way on expanding the bottle bill, she will definitely return all the containers in order to deny Beacon Hill the deposit money it gets when people don't return them. Or she can leave the containers someplace where street people can find and redeem them a charitable contribution that sticks it to the state.

I submit that we taxpayers who are not enablers have a right, have a duty, to follow Taxpayer C's example. What may have looked like a tiresome New Year's resolution or a suggestion from our doctor, can become a revolutionary act of defiance. Governor Patrick's new taxes are perfect for a new battle cry: "No taxation without cooperation."

The government likes to say it is taxing us for our own good, to help us break bad habits. Here is the truth: The government depends on our bad habits, our often deadly habits, to fund its wasteful self. The new alcohol sales tax will be collected on the price of the bottle, which includes the existing excise. What fun it would be to watch those excise revenues drop if we all stop drinking alcohol.

Citizens of the commonwealth, unite! You have nothing to lose and better health to gain, along with the satisfaction of being a revoltin' taxpayer.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
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.