Sure, we all say we want "change;" but let's
face it, "change" can be scary. There's a lot to be said for
"tried and true" — familiarity, predictability, otherwise known
as the status quo, otherwise known as "business as usual."
Take Massachusetts government and politics,
please. In Washington, D.C., and in many states across the
nation, citizens are facing "change" and "reform." Why, they
don't know from one minute to the next what original idea some
"reformer" might come up with to improve a situation. It must be
downright unsettling to wake up each morning, never knowing what
the day will bring!
Here in Massachusetts, we always know what
we'll find when we pick up the daily newspaper, or turn on the
radio or TV news: Another outrage, another scandal, another
rip-off, another prediction of budget crisis accompanied by
another plan for higher taxes. This soothing sameness is somehow
not boring: there's always an original twist that makes one say,
"I didn't know they could do that!"
I didn't know until I read it in The Salem
News last week that a retired public employee could be paid for
the holidays of the year following his retirement! And yet, as
Salem's Mayor Kim Driscoll noted, "it's very common," as she
objected to a just-retired police captain demanding to be paid
over $17,000 for those upcoming holidays on top of the
traditional tens of thousands for unused sick and vacation time.
I get a broader sense of government waste
than most people because I catch the stories that many voters
miss when I'm interviewed by investigative reporters for a
comment, which is usually: "That's outrageous." Right before the
WBZ-TV I-Team interviewed me for a story about
drug addicts getting taxpayer-funded limousine rides to
The reporter, Kathy Curran,
also asked me
about another upcoming story, about the state's assistant court
clerks getting three to four months of paid vacation/sick days
"That's outrageous," I said on cue.
Both these stories ran right after the
election, but it wouldn't have made any difference if they had
run before. Voters would have had to be watching WBZ News the
right evening, and they would have had to mind being ripped off.
Investigative news teams at many local
channels cover stories like these all the time.
The patronage at the state Probation
Department was known by political insiders for years, and was
reported on by The Boston Globe before the election. An official
state report detailing "systemic abuse and corruption" didn't
come out until Nov. 18, but it wouldn't have mattered to the
voters, who always choose patronizing Democrats anyhow.
Anyone out there believe that patronage —
defined as jobs going to the politically connected instead of
the most qualified — is business as usual only in the Probation
Or that corruption is isolated in the law
I was called last week by the I-Team to
comment on the fact that House Speaker DeLeo wouldn't consent to
be interviewed on the probation scandal. It was after the
election that had validated the status quo, so my comment was,
"Why should he?"
Why should any politician go on camera or
comment on the record when he can't give a good answer to the
question: "Why do you hire your friends and campaign
contributors instead of another citizen who is better qualified
for the job?"
Why not just ignore the media, whose
investigative reports are ignored by the voters?
Of course, in some instances those
investigative reports are passed on to federal law enforcement,
where they can lead to indictments. In Massachusetts, this is
what it takes to remove misbehaving politicians from office,
unless they choose to resign hoping to slide off the federal
Right after the election, Gov. Deval Patrick
brought out his plan to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition
and driver's licenses, even though polls show that voters don't
agree with him. Heck, they don't have to agree with him, they
just have to keep electing him!
This time the Democrats were helped by some
social conservatives, who were bragging that they'd helped
defeat Charlie Baker because he is pro-choice and supports gay
marriage. Somehow they missed the fact that by defeating him,
they'd re-elected Patrick who disagrees with them even more. Is
there some logic in here somewhere?
In a surprising flash of "change fever,"
voters elected some new Republican state reps, who ran on a
platform of fiscal responsibility and tax limitation. Good
thing, too, because right after the election an economist at a
Boston economic conference noted that the Massachusetts
structural deficit can be expected to grow.
According to the State House News Service,
Alan Clayton-Matthews, director of the New England Economic
Partnership, suggested that if the state were to set tax rates
and fees at the average of all states, it could increase revenue
by $5 billion above current levels, based on a New England
Public Policy Center study.
Hey, why not? The majority of Massachusetts
voters will probably be happy to pay $5 billion in new taxes to
sustain Massachusetts' tried and true, familiar,
business-as-usual political system.
It's so ... reliably, predictably outrageous.