Remembering McGovern, pondering ballot questions
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

“I wish I had known more firsthand about the concerns and problems of American businesspeople while I was a U.S. senator and later a presidential nominee. That knowledge would have made me a better legislator and a more worthy aspirant to the White House. ... legislators and government regulators must more carefully consider the economic and management burdens we have been imposing on U.S. businesses. ... Many businesses, especially small independents such as the Stratford Inn, simply can’t pass such costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable.

“I can recover eventually from the loss of the Stratford Inn because I’m still able to generate income from lectures and other services. But what about the 60 people who worked for me in Stratford? While running my struggling hotel, I never once missed a payroll. What happens to the people who counted on that, and to their families and community, when an owner goes under?”

— George McGovern, after his Connecticut hotel/restaurant closed in 1991. Published in the Nation’s Restaurant News.

When George McGovern died last weekend, I remembered (though most obituary writers didn’t) his amazing epiphany. I didn’t vote for him in 1972 because of his liberal economic positions, but loved him for his opposition to the Vietnam War. If only he had run a small business BEFORE he became a politician, I might have avoided voting for Richard Nixon that year.

Now, if only Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren had run a small business for a few years before becoming politicians, they might not be so utterly unqualified to deal with the present economy.

I’ve been decorating for Halloween; my lucky black-cat flag flies above the Brown, Romney and Tisei signs. Unfortunately, there’ll be no alternatives to my state representative and state senator on the Marblehead ballot, but along with the three binding ballot questions I’ve already written about, there are three nonbinding issues that are interesting.

My fourth ballot question asks if our congressman should propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending.

This is a response to the Supreme Court’s recent “Citizens United” decision. While the First Amendment makes it clear that there can’t be limits on political contributions from people, I don’t understand how either a corporation or a union can be a person. Both groups have individual (person) members who disagree with the candidate or issue on which the corporation or union spends money.

If I ran the world, only individuals who can directly vote for a candidate could contribute money to that campaign, so our senators and congressmen would work only for their own constituents. But that’s not the issue here. I’ll vote No, until I see a resolution that treats corporations and unions the same.

The fifth issue on my ballot asks if our congressman should support a resolution preventing cuts in all “entitlements” and “investing” in government while providing new “revenues,” including higher taxes on incomes over $250,000.

I like the part about reducing the federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes and am also ready to end the war in Afghanistan and “bring U.S. troops home safely now.” But I think everything should be on the table for discussion about downsizing or reform. Don’t forget the fat in government is marbled throughout all the programs, no matter how worthy the original concept. And of course I’m not directing my congressman to “provide new revenues” until I see that fat melting out. Voting No.

Sixth question directs my congressman to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana, so that states may regulate it as they choose.

A Yes vote on Question 3, which allows medical marijuana in Massachusetts, basically requires a Yes on this resolution, too. I’m still conflicted, so I called my family in Nevada, which allows medical marijuana. My son voted for it, thinking of sick people who benefit; my daughter-in-law voted “absolutely no.” In their family therapy business, they see the many abuses, similar to those that are causing second thoughts in California. It’s ridiculously easy to get the medical diagnosis, keep it permanently, share or sell the pot; driving under the influence is a big problem.

The Massachusetts ballot question seeks to address some of these concerns. And if the federal prohibition were removed, medical marijuana for genuinely sick people could be prescribed through our pharmacies, not special distribution centers. We could continue to argue against general legalization, at least until we get judges to always deal strictly with both drunken and stoned drivers. Until then, I’m still undecided on Question 3, but voting Yes on 6; this shouldn’t be a federal issue.

I’m grateful that Marblehead isn’t asking for the Community Preservation Act; when town leaders wanted to buy some open space along Salem Harbor, they asked for a debt exclusion override. This way, we know exactly what the extra taxes will buy.

Turns out Question 1 wasn’t decided by legislative agreement after all; the American Automobile Association is urging a Yes vote.

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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