I once pledged to die for Andy Card, should he ever need
someone to step between him and terrible danger.
Chief-of-staff to the President of the United States isn't a
terribly dangerous job, is it?
At the time I said it, he was just the state representative
from Holbrook. And I was the taxpayer activist who had just led the statewide property tax limit Proposition 2½ to victory on
the 1980 ballot.
I had been the office secretary while Citizens for Limited
Taxation (CLT) collected signatures for Prop 2½. When my boss left I took over as executive director because CLT had little
money and I was willing to work cheap; but I knew very little about politics or tax policy. Nevertheless, I was a taxpayer
who did know that we in Taxachusetts were paying too much in total taxes in general and property
taxes in particular. This qualified me to work for and vote for Prop 2½. However, it did not
necessarily prepare me to debate it with experienced politicians and other opponents.
I somehow got through the fall campaign, which as it turned
out was the easy part. As soon as Prop 2½ became law, its opponents stepped up the rhetoric against it -- rather like
opponents of George W. Bush are presently fighting his presidency hoping to repeal it or something. So I continued the
campaign, lobbying against killer amendments, doing campaign follow-up
interviews, and participating in forums about the new law's implementation.
The first few years of the new law required roughly half the
commonwealth's communities to actually cut their property taxes, while the rest were limited in the amount they could grow. Andy
Card was part of a group of legislators who were urging the state to give more "local" aid to the cities and towns.
I had only the vaguest notion of what "local aid" was, but it sounded good so I
confidently repeated the demand whenever someone asked how mayors and selectmen were going to cope.
Then, during a forum on a local television station, my
opponent from the Massachusetts Teachers Association insisted that I explain exactly how this local aid thing would work, what
formula would be used, what the time frame would be. I gave it my best shot, which from the expression on the faces of
the audience, made no sense at all.
Fortunately, one of the people in that audience was Andy
Card, who leapt to his feet and said I was absolutely right, but perhaps he could rephrase my explanation in a way that was easier
to understand. So Andy went to a microphone and outlined the whole thing, while I nodded in agreement, or
whatever, all the while thinking, I would die for that man.....
And now he is the chief-of-staff to the President of the
United States, which isn't a really dangerous job, is it? But if ever President Bush has trouble explaining some complicated
national issue, all he has to do is let Andy rephrase his position and everything will work out fine.
Representative Card did help lead the fight to get more
state funding for the cities and towns, initially making up over half the lost revenue from the initial property tax cuts.
Eventually Proposition 2½ settled into the fairly simple limit on property tax growth that is still with us today, with local
aid that increases almost every year.
Having played his role in fighting Taxachusetts, Andy
turned his attention to legislative reform. He was the most knowledgeable Republican on House rules, able to outmaneuver the
Democrat leadership on more than one occasion. A persuasive speaker, he was ever the gentleman, respected and liked by
members from both parties.
In 1982 he left the legislature with a 94% CLT Taxpayer
Rating, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor in the Republican primary. Years later he went to work at the George Bush White
Now he stands at the right hand of the new President Bush
and is one of the most powerful people in America. One very trite phrase applies: it couldn't have happened to a nicer man.
He is so nice that no one is ever likely to take a swing at
him, so maybe I can honor my debt by just writing this admiring column. Thanks, Andy, for the support twenty years ago, and for
helping run the country now.