05/06/08

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Pigging out on your money
Big Surprise: Tax Hogs Fear Loss of State Income Tax!

Dr. Charles Ormsby

Most parents are watchful of the company their children keep. If you hang out with a questionable crowd, your character and morals will be in doubt.

Hang out with druggies or thieves and your involvement with drugs or your respect for property rights will be suspect.

I’ve been the focus of such doubts myself on two occasions.

First, since I went to college in the late sixties and early seventies (spending four years at Cornell, the “Berkeley of the East,” and then five years in liberal Cambridge), it is often presumed that I must have experimented with illicit drugs. While that presumption would be false, it is understandable.

Now it is happening again. I must confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with … I’m ashamed to admit this … the “village people.” You know what I’m referring to: big-government types.

Of course, being from Taxachusetts we are all accused of being tax-and-spend liberals when we encounter people from states south of Washington, D.C. or more than a few hundred miles from the ocean.

“Oh, you’re from Massachusetts,” they say as they clutch their wallets, back away and look at you like you are a leper. If you are from Massachusetts, you are guilty; case closed.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I hear complaints from local citizens that the North Andover School Committee (of which I am a member) has done this or that, with the assumption that its members are a monolithic, single-brained, five-headed monster.

Unfortunately, fulfilling my duties as a School Committee member requires me to mingle with the village people on a regular basis.

This wouldn’t be so bad if they shared a diversity of opinions, but instead they seem to embrace a single ideological perspective: Growing the size of government and increasing our taxes is always desirable. Never, ever, reduce tax revenues or government programs!

A recent meeting at North Andover’s Middle School organized by our legislators and supported by our town officials provides a prime example.

The meeting was purportedly arranged to give citizens an update on the generosity of our state government and to permit local officials to genuflect to the extraordinary efforts, wisdom and kindness of our legislative delegation.

Even by Massachusetts’ standards, this was a one-sided affair; a contest with just one contestant; a super bowl with just one team on the field.

Have you ever heard anyone begin a story with, “There are two kinds of people …”? Well, they were right. You can guess what these two “kinds” are.

With a few exceptions including a senior citizen who came to complain about the Legislature squandering taxpayers’ money by handing out undeserved pensions (three cheers for her!), the meeting was dominated by one kind.

Given that our citizenry is pretty diverse politically, why were the views of those attending this meeting so one-sided? What gave rise to this preponderance of a single ideological perspective?

I could begin answering this question by referencing the concentration of flies around a certain substance dropped by farm animals … actually, I think I will.

Flies go where they need to, to get what they want. They swarm around warm smelly stuff that they like and which the animals no longer have a use for. While their culinary choice may be disgusting, they are at least morally accountable since they don’t take anything the original owner seeks to keep.

But other insects are not so respectful of the barnyard animals. They are equipped with devices designed to administer local anesthesia and then drain the lifeblood from animals that would prefer to keep the blood for themselves.

If these insects were people, their thievery would be contemptible.

With the exceptions noted earlier, it appears that those who attended this meeting have one thing in common. They are all net consumers of your tax dollars; i.e., they receive more in payments, goods and services from the government than they pay in taxes. They and their families personally benefit from higher taxes and their lives would be diminished if our tax burden were reduced.

While there was considerable oratory at this meeting regarding the great benefits of government spending, no attendees thought to acknowledge their shared conflict of interest.

After the initial pontification period ended, the time came for questions from the audience.

Amazingly, one gentleman went to the microphone and decried the lack of state aid to the city of Lawrence whose annual budget is supported with $140 million annually from the state; not to mention being given a new high school costing the state well over $100 million with essentially no contribution coming from Lawrence residents. He concluded with a plea for greater social justice!

Then North Andover United (NAU) took over the microphone. NAU, in case you are unaware, is the group that pretends to be a neutral arbiter of tax and spend issues but which campaigns full time for increased government services requiring, you guessed it, HIGHER taxes!

I thought I’d heard softball questions before, but NAU’s doe-eyed pleading for reassurance from our legislators should be nominated for the softball hall of fame.

A leader of NAU asked (I’m paraphrasing), “Do you think it would be good if the taxpayers of Massachusetts eliminated the income tax thus requiring you to reduce state spending?”

Oh my GOD! You would think that Armageddon was at hand.

Reduce government spending? Disaster! Even the great depression would be a welcome alternative.

I was waiting for someone to cry, “Give us more taxes or give us death!”

These people, as they say, need to get a grip. If the income tax is eliminated in Massachusetts, the total of our state and local taxes, on a per capita basis, will merely drop to just above the level that currently exists in New Hampshire – the fastest growing state in New England.

Here are the current state and local per capita tax burdens in New Hampshire and Massachusetts (from the U. S. Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau):

* Massachusetts: $5,203
* New Hampshire: $3,321
* Difference: $1,882 more in Massachusetts for every man, woman and child.

When you multiply this difference by Massachusetts’ state population, you get over $12 billion, which is more than the projected reduction in tax revenues if the state income tax is eliminated.

But the argument for eliminating the income tax is not merely that it won’t do harm. It is that it will lead to tremendous growth in the state’s economy, create a multitude of jobs, and ensure a better standard of living for our citizens.

Why? Because, a dollar you earn will be spent wisely by you; whereas that same dollar, taken from you and spent by a government agency, will often be squandered or used to enrich public sector employees beyond what they could have earned in the private sector.
Check out the income taxes you paid to Massachusetts last year. How much better off would you be if you could keep those earnings year after year? Would you be able to save more and be more secure? Would you have more job opportunities as businesses moved into Massachusetts and prospered? Would Massachusetts begin to grow again instead of standing out as one of the few states losing population?

Remember the barnyard animals that keep having their blood drained by the insect swarm. If you reduce the flow of blood to the insects, they will protest vehemently … but the animals will regain their health and will live longer, more robust, and happier lives.

Now for the important question: Are you one of those having the life sucked out of you, or are you one of those living off the lifeblood of others?

Ignore the protests of the village people. The sky will not fall, but a heavy burden will be lifted from your shoulders.

If you are tired of your earnings being sucked dry to support a ruling class of ravenous public employees and special interests, STAND UP for yourself and your family by supporting the initiative to END THE INCOME TAX .

Visit www.smallgovernmentact.org and offer to help out in any way you can.  

Dr. Ormsby is a member of the North  Andover School Committee. He is a graduate of Cornell and has a doctorate from MIT. You can contact Dr. Ormsby via email: ccormsby@comcast.net

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