Friday, September 26, 2008

Sam Adams: Brewer, Patriot, Biden-Dunker

Late on Dec. 16, 1773, American colonists met at Boston's Faneuil Hall before proceeding to the Boston Tea Party, an exercise in freedom that still reverberates 235 years later.

Don't you wish Joe Biden had been there? Picture him, sneaking in behind Sam Adams, still flush from his appearance on Good Morning British Empire, reaching the front and admonishing the crowd in full bluster: "It's time to be patriotic… time to jump in. Time to be part of the deal."

Upon realizing that Biden's test of patriotism requires paying higher taxes, the Sons of Liberty would have no doubt decided that it wasn't time to "jump in" but to dump in, as in Joe Biden into Boston Harbor along with the tea.

With no such modern-day fears, Biden cut loose last week. In his run-up to the "time to be patriotic" pronouncement, he succinctly summarized the Obama-Biden economic plan: "We wanna take money and put it back in the pocket of middle class people." At least now we all know The Biden Doctrine.

If he hadn't put down his political roots in D.C., Joe Biden would have been perfectly at home in Massachusetts, home to the only legislature in the country where a bill requiring taxpayers to put their hands over their hearts and sing My Country 'Tis of Thee while the Department of Revenue digs in their pockets might actually pass.

But there is hope. On Oct. 4, Faneuil Hall will once again welcome a rally of anti-tax patriots, this time not against the imperial acts of Parliament but in favor of Question 1, a citizens' initiative for the elimination of the Massachusetts income tax.

Question 1 bears watching nationwide. It aims at the heart of political arrogance, on full display among the neo-imperialists in the Massachusetts Legislature. Their trail of abuse is long.

In 1989, the Legislature promised from its Beacon Hill bunker that its Dukakis-era income tax hike to 5.85 percent was "temporary," but then Democratic lawmakers simply decided they liked the higher confiscation better. Voters responded in 2000 by passing an initiative to restore the income tax to 5 percent. Beacon Hill decided it didn't want to and stalled the mandated rollback at 5.3 percent, where if sits today. Hence, Question 1.

In the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, British Prime Minister Lord North warned that, without reassertion of imperial control over Boston's unruly patriots, "All is over." Today, Beacon Hill pols confront their own British-like horror in the form of mere working taxpayers demanding accountability from their overlords.

So, like Lord North, the Legislature and its union and interest group beneficiaries warn of the end times. Gov. Deval Patrick says Question 1 is dumb, irresponsible and foolish. The Massachusetts Teacher's Association says Question 1 would devastate Massachusetts' economy and quality of life and that the consequences would be dire.

Here's what's dumb, irresponsible, foolish, dire and devastating to Massachusetts' economy and quality of life: being the 48th worst state in population retention. What is the one thing that would reverse this exodus in the quickest possible time? How about an average pay raise of $3,700 per Massachusetts worker? That's what Question 1 would accomplish.

Multiplied by today's 3.4 million workers, this equals nearly $12.6 billion dollars, the amount now confiscated by the Massachusetts income tax. Question 1 is really about who would do a better job spending this money. The answer is easy: People spend their own money more productively and profitably than politicians do.

Is there middle ground? No. The Statehouse cannot be trusted on taxes. Beacon Hill makes up the rules as it goes. For example, it currently says it has until 2014 to decide if it will finally obey the people's vote of 2000 to restore the 5 percent rate. What next?

The people of Massachusetts need to say "enough." And it might be the last best chance. No state can lose 550,000 people to other states, as the commonwealth did from 1991 to 2007, and continue to prosper.

Faced with this mass exodus, and a legislature that spends the people's money like drunken sailors anticipating state pensions, Question 1 provides voters with the only political tool they have to make Massachusetts a miracle once again.

Beacon Hill and its assortment of well-fed hangers-on have aimed all the guns of demagoguery at Question 1. If they are successful, you can bet that more families will find better places to live than Massachusetts.

But Joe Biden—he would be right at home.

Matt Kinnaman