Super-Duper Tuesday (Really?)
Feb 05, 2008

Ridiculous fifth-grade name aside, I suppose this is a big day. Not for me, however. This morning I drove Jessi over to our polling place to vote in the primaries before work. I suspected it wouldn't really work, but I decided to go in and see about voting myself. My name was in the rolls, but rather than the familiar D, R, G, W, or, apparently, U next to my name there was a very cryptic and unknown symbol: L 'L, what's L?', said the woman checking people off in the book. 'Do you know what L is?' The gentleman next to her mused, 'L? Liberal? That's Democrat, right?'. My clarification that L stood for Libertarian didn't really clear things up very much, and they ended up having to make a phone call to ...someone who told them that there was no Libertarian ballot and that I wasn't eligible to vote. I figured this was probably the case as I hadn't heard anything from either the state or national party about primaries, but it was disappointing none the less, especially as we have a local, George Phillies of Worcester, in the running for the LP presidential nomination. Phillies also happens to be my favorite candidate for President being not only a Libertarian, but a science fiction author and college professor as well. With any luck he'll get the nomination and I'll actually get a candidate that I want to vote for this time around (in '04 none of the candidates I liked got their respective nominations: Dean, Nolan, McCain; I'm not longer a McCain supporter however so his likely nomination this year doesn't really help things). Oh well, at least I won't be barred from voting in November. Which brings me to another topic I've been meaning to discuss: a particular ballot question. Come November there will be a rather important question on the ballot, the question of whether or not to end the Massachusetts state income tax. If you check out their website it sounds like they actually have a decent chance of passing this. It was on the ballot before in '02 and just barely failed with only 45.3% of the vote. That was with very little publicity and the media presenting it as a cause that couldn't possibly succeed. However with that strong a showing in '02, no one can claim this time around that it has no chance. It very clearly has a chance, and therefore media reaction to it has been a little more positive this year. They're also investing a lot more in publicity to spread awareness, so I think there's a very good chance this might pass in November. That said, I don't want it to, I think we should keep the income tax. Well, that's not entirely true either, I don't want the income tax, but I think that repealing it right now is the wrong thing to do. This is Massachusetts, after all, and with a democratic legislature and Deval Patrick in the Governor's office I find it unlikely that, even given an $11b drop in tax revenue, the state is going to put the brakes on any spending. Instead they'll just look for different ways to bring in money like increasing the sales tax, increasing fees, and just generally taxing more things. One area where spending is probably likely to fall, however, is local aid. A lot of the cities and towns of Massachusetts are already suffering from anemic income and getting very little help from the state. This clearly isn't going to improve if we stop giving the state part of our paychecks. So how are those municipalities going to keep making ends meet? Easy, they'll keep doing what they always do and raise property taxes. I pay enough in property taxes as it is (about three times more each quarter than Jessi's mom in Illinois pays in a year), and I find property taxes to be by far the more egregious kind of tax. Think about what it means to have to pay property tax. Essentially, it means that you can never actually own property. In all but name, the State owns your property and you merely rent it from them. Don't believe me? Try not paying your property taxes and see what happens: the same thing that happens if you stop paying your rent. You have to pay for the privilege of living on your own land! I say that rather than repealing the income tax, by far the better thing to do would be to repeal property taxes. This would a) strengthen the right of people to own property, b) reduce the cost of living significantly by lowering rent as well, and therefore c) reduce the prices of goods and services by lowering the costs for the providers and sellers. Now, maybe repealing the income tax would actually be successful. Maybe next year we'd get a budget that was $11b lighter (wasn't that one of Patrick's campaign promises anyway?). Maybe Massachusetts will implement something like the FairTax on a state level, and prove one and for all that either it can work or it can't. Probably not, but one can hope. Regardless, I think our first priority should be repealing property taxes. I would much rather see that happen, and I think it's a revenue loss that could be more easily and quickly accommodated (rent assistance payouts, for example, would suddenly become much lower which would free up more money for local aid to compensate). But we'll see what happens in November. I may even vote in favor of repealing the income tax just on principle; if it passes and our legislature and governor surprise me by taking it in stride there could still be some good that comes of it.
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