Holidays good time to put troubles out of sight, if not out of mind
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 21, 2011


Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light;
From now on our troubles will be out of sight. ...
Through the years, we all will be together, if the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

—From the song introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical "Meet Me in St. Louis," written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

I hate that silly shining star on the stupid highest bough. And our troubles aren't going to be out sight for at least another year.

So in protest of the modern lyrics, I sang my first solo at Bob Kelly's annual caroling party in Peabody, using an earlier version:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight. ...
Someday soon we all may be together, if the Fates allow,
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

That felt good. I can do wonder and hope and joy as well as the next person, but I also want a song for those who are away from family and friends this year, including military personnel still overseas; those of us who miss our departed loved ones especially at Christmas, and like to think about seeing them in the next world; and those who are planning to muddle through 2012 until the election, when we voters can put some kind of star on the highest bough in the land.

After initial misgivings, I have chosen my own particular star for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney finally did an in-depth interview with Chris Wallace on Fox last Sunday morning, and seemed like the Mitt I fondly remember as our governor.

Over the same weekend my brain kept repeating an odd phrase, obviously inspired by the season: Newt Gingrinch. Name similarity a coincidence? Is this erratic politician going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over Obama, as the Grinch attempted to snatch Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville? Time to put the Romney bumper sticker on the car.

I'm feeling a little grinchy myself, maybe because Christmas is coming too fast for me to adjust from recent political events into the spirit of the season. I did a television news interview this month with Fox Undercover about millions of dollars wasted by the United States Postal Service as it contemplates cutting post offices and service hours.

Seems the USPS has been carrying a 20-year lease for a building in Winthrop that has remained vacant and become an eyesore, while this independent government agency is paying $3.7 million for the life of the lease, offset by a miniscule $98,000 sublet.

When asked by investigative reporter Mike Beaudet, "Why would they rent a building and never use it?" I responded, "Because they could. Because nobody cared." It's a generic response to almost any question about government waste.

My most recent call from a print reporter concerned the University of Massachusetts paying its former president, Jack Wilson, $425,000 during his yearlong sabbatical, before he returns to the university as a professor at a salary of $316,784 a year. This generous contract was negotiated without a vote of any board and wasn't shared with the public until the Boston Globe investigated.

Meanwhile, students go into debt to pay tuition and fees for public higher education. I emailed the story to my son in case he gets a call for a contribution from his alumni association.

Also, as I write my Christmas checks to charity, I've been checking Charity Navigator to see what the executives of these nonprofits are being paid and what percentage of contributions goes to direct services. I like to share, but hate being ripped off.

But, as Santa checks his list of who's naughty and who's nice, I suppose we should note ourselves that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is finally showing a modicum of respect for the voters who years ago told it to restore their traditional 5 percent income tax rate.

In 1989 then-Gov. Dukakis and the Legislature passed an income-tax hike that, in order to get the necessary votes, they promised would last only 18 months. The next year they raised the income tax rate again.

Ten years later, in 2000, voters put the "temporary" higher income tax on the ballot, and cut the rate back to 5 percent over three years. In 2002, the Legislature "froze" the rate at 5.3 percent, promising that someday it would defrost when certain complicated economic factors had kicked in.

"Someday" has slightly arrived, and the rate will drop to 5.25 percent for 2012. At this level of reduction, the promise of "temporary" will be finally kept in 2057, 68 years after it was made. Hallelujah!

Bringing me to my other traditional pet peeve, the use of "peace on earth, good will to men," which in my family Bible reads "and on earth peace among men of goodwill."

The holiday/holy day is being met with lights in my windows and on the tree, with wonder and hope and joy. I'm wishing all men and women of goodwill who read this column not only peace, but a very merry little Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice.

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.

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