The calendar says it's time for a little spring
cleaning. No, not your mother's spring cleaning.
I was beginning that tradition. Had the living room rug rolled up, and
was carrying the cat to a room away from the hated vacuum cleaner, when
I tripped on the rug. Held the cat instead of catching myself, and
pulled a hamstring muscle. Now I'm doing RICE — Rest, Ice, Compress,
Elevate — with my leg while working on my laptop.
Far from being grateful, the cat resents having to share the lap with
the computer. Meanwhile, the pump on the fish tank has stalled, so in
order to get air to the goldfish, I swoosh a spoon around in the water
every time I hobble past the aquarium and hope the oxygen-producing
plants can survive without artificial light since the tank's bulb just
burned out too.
Did you ever wonder why and when, in our evolutionary history, man
decided to have pets like cats and fish? What do they do for the
survival of our species?
I get the hunting, herding and watchdogs, the mousers in the barn, and
the fish meal in the pond, but why did we evolve to have a cat purring
on our laps and a goldfish doing absolutely nothing but being beautiful.
* * *
The men on the Citizens for Limited Taxation staff
are also limping, Chip Ford with a twisted ankle and Chip Faulkner with
Fortunately we could e-mail our opinion on health-care reform to
legislators. Bottom line, organizations like ours that provide health
insurance shouldn't have to pay a surcharge on our premiums for other
companies' employees who do not have health insurance. We are also,
however, concerned about forcing those other companies to pay a new tax
to cover the state's free-care pool.
There is good news though. The Elder Affairs Committee has favorably
reported out a bill to repeal the nursing home tax, which is currently
assessed on self-paying patients to subsidize Medicaid patients. So if
it is finally clear that the state shouldn't penalize people who take
responsibility for their own treatment, it should also be clear that it
shouldn't punish companies who provide health insurance — or even those
who "just" provide jobs.
* * *
Faulkner is working on a legislative memo in
opposition to slot machines at state-subsidized race tracks.
I still think that Massachusetts should have a casino if people want
one, so they won't take their gambling business to Connecticut. But
there are good arguments for not giving Massachusetts gambling revenues
in addition to our high tax burden.
When Nevada lost gambling revenues after 9/11 because fewer gamblers
wanted to fly, it raised taxes to cover its budget deficit. However,
when the fiscal crisis was over, Nevada cut taxes.
If gambling revenues dropped here, Massachusetts would raise taxes
permanently as it always does. More money, from gambling or taxes, just
means more spending to Beacon Hill. Further, gambling has societal costs
that this state would insist on raising more taxes to address. A good or
neutral idea in other states is generally a bad idea here.
* * *
As Beacon Hill clears some long-awaited issues, like
the crime bill, off its desk, the sound of the Prop 2½ override cuckoo
is heard in many commonwealth towns.
In the spring, the teachers unions' fancy usually turns to higher
Happily, in my town we just have signs sprouting on lawns that urge
everyone to "Support Marblehead Teachers." This was puzzling until
someone told me that the signs refer to the fact that teachers here were
"working without a contract."
I once thought that this meant working without pay, since otherwise why
would unions make such a fuss about it? Most of us work without
contracts, without unions, without job security, and often without pay
raises. Life goes on.
* * *
Whatever raise Marblehead teachers get, less will
come from me this year.
After filling out the application, and showing the town assessors around
my house and yard, I did receive a small abatement on my property tax.
Was $74 worth the effort of challenging my assessment? Yes. It's never
just about the money; it's about the learning experience. I learned how
difficult the job of assessor is, and how complicated the determination
of a home's value.
I wonder what will happen to McMansion assessments as baby boomers'
knees age and they start hobbling around like the two Chips and I are
this week. I predict that ranch houses will increase in value in the
next decade, as stairs become difficult to climb.
* * *
Returning to the sound of the cuckoo, our
congressman, John Tierney, was one of the few silly Democrats calling
for President Bush to be impeached. J.T, call your planet.
Some people make fun of the president for wanting to install democracy
in Iraq. Sometimes I'm not sure democracy even works here, considering
the kind of people we elect.
* * *
Spring fever: Faulkner sent me a bumper sticker: "I'd
rather hunt with Dick Cheney than ride with Ted Kennedy."
But I'm still looking for one that says, "Rejoice. Our part of the globe
is finally warming."
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.