Some millionaires have more than money to offer government
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 16, 2010

If the baby Jesus were born in the United States this month, he would already owe $45,000 as his share of the national debt, according to the Concord Coalition; and the Wise Men in Washington would be hiking that amount to account for his share of the new "tax cut compromise."

Forget the shepherds watching flocks at night; they're on extended unemployment this year. Don't wait for the original three Wise Men; they're in Washington defending their right to their own gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Perhaps by Christmas Day there will be peace in D.C., as the bipartisan angels agree on a package that doesn't raise taxes, and even cuts payroll taxes that should be funding the almost-bankrupt Social Security system, all the while increasing spending with more money borrowed from the Chinese. Alleluia!

Those citizens who aren't totally distracted by Christmas shopping and decking the halls, hear mostly a distracting debate about "taxing the rich" instead of "taxing the new babies."

At first I was personally concerned, since I consider myself "rich." I have a snug little home, a car, warm winter clothes, enough food for me, the cat, the fish; and Chip and I will have roast beast on Christmas Day just like the Whos.

Best of all, because of the values instilled in me by my parents, I have no debt at all (except for my own share of the country's $14 trillion, which I'm not going to think about right now). Life is good.

Liberals do want to tax me more, but they fortunately don't place me in their definition of "the rich," whom they really, really want to tax more because they hate and envy their success.

The rich people I know earned their money by providing goods and services, thereby providing jobs, and investing in technological change that make our economy strong and our lives easier. I consider myself fortunate to have known such great entrepreneurs as Tom Flatley, Dick Egan, and Dee and Alex d'Arbeloff, just to mention those who have passed on so you won't think I'm soliciting a contribution from former taxpayer-group supporters.

They either came here as immigrants or were early-generation Americans, who built their businesses themselves with ideas, hard work and an enthusiastic commitment to the American Dream. They earned every cent they had, voluntarily shared much of their wealth, and made the world a better place because they lived.

Last week, Chip and I attended a memorial service for another of the great "rich," Lovett Chase Peters, who died Nov. 11 at the age of 97. "Pete" didn't begin his life with money, but when he was 15 walked into Phillips Academy in Andover and asked for admission. The dean recognized potential and admitted him, then he went on to Yale and a long career in the oil and gas industry, where he made his millions.

In 1966 he became president of Boston-based Cabot Corp., which was an early supporter of Citizens for Limited Taxation. By the time I went to work at CLT, Pete had moved on to found Peters Associates. I'd meet him at various events and we'd talk about political issues, especially his priority of giving every child a chance at a good education.

He shared CLT's desire for school choice and education vouchers, which he called creating "entrepreneurial schools."

One day he took me to lunch to tell me about an idea he had for a new think tank that would promote excellent ideas for better government.

Probably like some others he consulted, I thought that there was little chance that Massachusetts government would be interested in excellent ideas, but I had sense enough to keep my skepticism to ourselves. If I'd known Pete better at the time, I wouldn't have been skeptical at all.

He founded the Pioneer Institute in 1988, just in time for the Republican governors, starting with Bill Weld, who were definitely interested in excellent ideas. Though the concept of vouchers was too dramatic for union-dominated Massachusetts, the concept of entrepreneurial education got a solid start here with the creation of charter schools.

This was one instance in which bi-partisanship worked, as Democratic legislative leaders were also concerned enough about the state of public education here to take on the teachers' unions. Pete continued the battle for choice right up until his death, and his Pioneer Institute will carry on with this and other "better government" ideas.

One rich man with a dream, getting support from other rich people, as well as less-wealthy Pioneer supporters, and inspiring similar projects in other states, has given a chance for success to thousands of children. Hallelujah!

I never envied Pete his wealth, nor do I think there is something wrong with his leaving some of it to his own children. He and his wonderful wife Ruth paid more in taxes than most people pay, and used their self-made "advantages" to do a lot more for many.

Without Pete having been rich, the commonwealth would have been poorer. Let us cover him and others like him in admiration and gratitude. Hallelujah!

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.

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