A little history of Article 44

The 44th Article of Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, ratified by the people in 1915, is the reason we can’t have a graduated income tax in Massachusetts.  It reads, in pertinent part:

Full power and authority are hereby given and granted to the general court to impose and levy a tax on income in the manner hereinafter provided. Such tax may be at different rates upon income derived from different classes of property, but shall be levied at a uniform rate throughout the commonwealth upon incomes derived from the same class of property. The general court may tax income not derived from property at a lower rate than income derived from property, and may grant reasonable exemptions and abatements.

I got into a modest back-and-forth on Twitter with Rep. Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk) as to why Article 44 is in the Constitution in the first place.  Dan’s thesis, apparently, is that a graduated income tax constitutes “divide/conquer of electorate based on income,” and was barred because Article 44′s drafters objected to “[p]laying classes against each other and dividing Americans by elevating personal interest over common good.”  I was dubious that this was really what was in the drafters’ mind at the time, so I looked to see if someone might have investigated this question.

And, indeed, someone has, namely, Justice Cordy of the Supreme Judicial Court.  In a dissenting opinion in a case called Peterson v. Commissioner of Revenue (441 Mass. 420 (2004), if you’re keeping score), Cordy felt that the majority’s conclusion wasn’t consistent with what Article 44 was all about, so he dug into its history a bit.  Here’s what he found (warning: some legalese ahead):

Before art. 44 was ratified in 1915, the Legislature derived its authority to levy taxes solely from the enumeration of the powers of the General Court in Part II, c. 1, § 1, art. 4, of the Constitution of the Commonwealth (art. 4). That article provides that: “full power and authority are hereby given and granted to the said general court, from time to time . . . to impose and levy proportional and reasonable assessments, rates and taxes, upon all the inhabitants of, and persons resident, and estates lying, within the said Commonwealth.” This provision was repeatedly construed to require that municipalities (the principal collectors of taxes levied at the time) must apply a single rate of taxation to the total value of the property of all taxpayers in their respective communities, thereby ensuring that each taxpayer paid a share of the municipal burden proportional to his share of the wealth in the municipality. See Opinion of the Justices, 208 Mass. 616 , 618 (1911). While each municipality could apply a different rate of taxation on property in its community, the rate applied was required to be uniform for all property throughout that municipality. See id.

Until the late 1800′s, the requirements of art. 4 posed no real problems for the Legislature or municipalities: because “all the personal property of each individual was tangible and visible and kept in the town in which he dwelt . . . it was an easy matter to assess such property.” P. Nichols, Taxation in Massachusetts 463 (3d ed. 1938). However, as intangible property (stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments) became a more common and important component of wealth, the taxation of all property at a single rate that varied from municipality to municipality posed two related problems: First, because some intangible property constituted indirect ownership of tangible property (i.e., a corporate bond of a corporation that owned real estate), taxation of the value of intangible property and taxation of the value of the underlying asset was thought to amount to double taxation. See id. at 463-465. Accord First Report of the Special Commission to Develop a Master Plan Relative to Constitutional Limits on the Tax Power, 1969 Senate Doc. No. 126, at 33. Second, because tax rates were different in each municipality, and the rates of the property tax in larger cities (with the greatest financial needs) were higher, “the burden of the tax on intangibles alone furnished strong motive for concealment of intangible property, and also for transfers of domicile from Boston and other cities to smaller communities having lower tax rates and less efficient assessors.” Id. As a result of concealment and domicil shifting, [Note 3: Because intangible property was taxed at its owner's domicil, the wealthy could lower their tax burden by shifting their domicils from cities, with high tax rates and sophisticated assessors, to homes in rural communities with low tax rates and less aggressive and knowledgeable assessors. As a consequence, tax rates in the cities where resources were needed grew even higher (to make up for the lost wealth), and tax rates in rural communities moved artificially lower, magnifying the differences in municipal revenues. P. Nichols, Taxation in Massachusetts 464-465 (3d ed. 1938).] ”hardly a fifth of the personal property in [the] commonwealth was subjected to taxation.” P. Nichols, Taxation in Massachusetts, supra at 465.

By the early 1900′s, the Legislature was actively exploring a number of alternative proposals to address the growing problems occasioned by the taxation of intangible property, including: exempting some or all intangible property from the property tax and levying a Statewide special “excise” on intangible property; taxing personal property at a single rate uniform throughout the Commonwealth based on the average local tax rate; and requiring that intangible property be assessed based on the income it generated, rather than on its asset value. It sought advisory opinions from this court evaluating the constitutionality of these legislative proposals, and the court found each of them to be in excess of the taxing authority granted by art. 4. See Opinion of the Justices, 195 Mass. 607(1908); Opinion of the Justices, 208 Mass. 616 (1911); Opinion of the Justices, 220 Mass. 613 (1915).

Article 44 was adopted by the Legislature and ratified by the people in this context. [Note 4: Before it adopted the ultimate text of art. 44 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution (art. 44), the Legislature also considered other amendments that might solve these problems, including: amendments that would have eliminated the proportionality requirement entirely, 1914 House Doc. No. 729 and 1914 House Doc. No. 1052; and an amendment that would have authorized a single Commonwealth-wide tax rate for intangible property, 1914 House Doc. No. 1560.] Its adoption came “after prolonged study by successive Legislatures of the legal and practical aspects of income taxes, and after the proposal and consideration of numerous plans.” Opinion of the Justices, 266 Mass. 583, 587-588 (1929). Among the plans considered at length but rejected was an amendment to the Constitution explicitly authorizing a graduated tax on income. See 1914 Senate J. 1613-1614. “The Legislatures of the political years 1914 and 1915 [being] not unfamiliar with taxes graded as to rates and progressively increasing in proportion to the amount of property involved,” id. at 587, adopted language that rejected this approach.

The purpose of art. 44 was “not so much to produce additional revenue for public use, as to provide a more satisfactory system for the taxation of intangible personal property than that which had been in use since intangible property had come into existence.” P. Nichols, Taxation in Massachusetts, supra at 463. To accomplish this purpose, art. 44 gave the Legislature greater power and flexibility to structure a system of taxation, including the power to tax income and the ability to set different rates for the taxation of income derived from different classes of property.  [Note 5: In the year following the amendment, the Legislature enacted the first income tax law. It "was intended to enable the state to impose a tax on intangible securities which was capable of enforcement with some degree of equality and without driving capital out of the state. So far as it applied to income from property it affected only the classes of intangible property which were previously taxable on their capital value at the local rate, and as to such property it reduced the tax from a variable local rate, which amounted frequently to from 30 to 50 per cent of the income, to a fixed rate of 6 per cent, but provided means for the strict and impartial enforcement of the tax." P. Nichols, Taxation in Massachusetts, supra at 467.]  It also eliminated the requirement of proportionality for the taxation of income, requiring instead that a single rate of taxation be set for each type of income that would not vary from municipality to municipality, but would be the same throughout the Commonwealth. See, e.g., Knights v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 237 Mass. 493 , 495 (1921), aff’d sub nom. Knights v. Jackson, 260 U.S. 12 (1922) (“Under this amendment plainly income taxes are not required to be proportional or equal as between different validly established classes. They need only be reasonable and uniform . . .”).

Interesting, no?  So, on the one hand, the drafters of Article 44 considered and rejected a proposal that would have explicitly authorized a graduated income tax.  But, on the other, they dramatically expanded the legislature’s overall power to tax, and they did so because clever tax avoidance schemes by people who could afford them had gotten things to the point where barely 20% of the wealth that should have been taxed actually was taxed.  Cordy’s description of how “the wealthy could lower their tax burden by shifting their domicils from cities, with high tax rates and sophisticated assessors, to homes in rural communities with low tax rates and less aggressive and knowledgeable assessors” suggests that moving property out of the cities and into rural areas was the 1915 equivalent of moving your assets to the Cayman Islands.  Article 44 was an aggressive effort to clamp down hard on that practice.

What seems to be distinctly lacking is any major concern about how non-uniform tax rates might constitute some sort of class warfare where the wealthy and less-well-off are pitted against each other.  I’d be interested in knowing more about the consideration given to the graduated tax plan, and the reason for its rejection, but my suspicion is that the kind of “class warfare” rhetoric that meets any present-day suggestion that the wealthy should pay a higher rate than the less well-off is a recent invention.  Rather, it strikes me as plausible that the “uniform rate” requirement was instituted precisely to prevent the kind of tax avoidance schemes that wealthy people had been engaging in prior to Article 44′s ratification in which they moved property “to smaller communities having lower tax rates and less efficient assessors.”  Of course, I’d be happy to be proven wrong, and I welcome further discussion and elaboration on this interesting topic.



Discuss

21 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. With all that said, why do our local communities still solely rely on the property tax as a primary way to provide revenue for services?

    Look at Springfield; where did Friendly’s build its plant? 10 feet from Springfield’s border, in Wilbraham. How about Milton Bradley? It moved from downtown Springfield to East Longmeadow in the 60′s. Suburban industrial parks have long been the rage – not recruiting companies from out-of-state, but instead recruiting them from urban areas with higher taxes to compensate for higher services.

    As it was then, it is now – as people flee, the tax rates must go up on everyone else. Springfield is at its Proposition 2.5 Ceiling – the only community in the state – not because it is overspending on luxuries, but because its population is sufficiently poor to not have valuable property.

    How about tax reform in MA? Let’s move away from the “give state aid to poor communities” model, which doesn’t work because state aid is usually the first thing cut, and because this makes everyone treat those communities like welfare queens; instead, how about increasing the sales tax to 7%, and giving 2% to the community where it is collected? Cut income taxes/state aid a bit to compensate. No incentive for businesses to shop among communities, and this helps the cities help themselves.

    • 1. Communities don’t solely rely on property tax. In my community (IIRC), it’s about 80%. Assorted state aids, auto excise tax [property-ish], permits and fees, parking revenue, and a few other bits-and-bobs make up the rest.

      One way to “correct” for the Friendly’s phenomenon is for the state to property-tax all property of a particular flavor [industrial, commercial office park, McMansions, whatever] state-wide at a set rate, and then give some fraction of that money directly to the community which must provide the services necessary for it, and then distribute the rest of the revenue some other way statewide. It would reduce the property-tax shopping phenomenon, and thereby mitigate the hollowing out tax base from places like Springfield. It could also use this system to “adjust” for the differential from property tax and PILOTs and nonprofits. As things are now, communities with lots of non-profits [universities, government agencies, charities, hospitals, religious institutions, etc] suffer because they’ve got to provide public services to an organization which isn’t paying property taxes. In many cases, the entire state benefits from that non-profit, but the locality is doing the subsidizing, not the whole state. As things stand now, the fiscal folks within a municipality frown when a new non-profit moves in because you just took a property out of the tax base.

      • Seems like that would sting poorer cities

        The notion of equity sounds good, and tax-exempt property is definitely an issue. That said, Boston (where I live) has LOTS of commercial property (which is taxed at IIRC triple the residential rate), and as such taxes on residential property are quite low (especially if you get the residential tax exemption). Ditto other cities with lots of commercial property. e.g. Somerville. I’d hate to have the folks in our working-to-lower-middle-class neighborhoods send a chunk of our commercial property tax $ to wealthy bedroom communities.

      • Balanced revenue sources

        We’re are not going to be able to solve the issue of “what should be a fair way for the state government to distribute massive amounts of money from one community to another”, especially since the balance of political power lies with the people and communities who have the money.

        I think we need to take a step back and realize that using a single mechanism for communities to fund services – the property tax (state aid and/or the excise tax is not locally controlled) – is going to produce winners and losers. It doesn’t have to be this way.

        Every community has strengths and weaknesses. Why not open up the options available to communities? The restaurant tax was a step in this direction, a local sales tax could be another step. Let communities become more self-sufficient.

        I even think that the $25/1000 ceiling should be abolished. It is completely arbitrary, it exists just because it is the same numerals as “2.5″. Why not $30/1000? Or $50/1000? Why should there be a limit – why not let the electoral process work in our communities – if the rate gets too high, our democratically elected representatives suffer politically. Or maybe the limit should not be on the rate, but on the per-unit amount – some housing units pay $25k per year while others pay $500 per year. That difference is staggering and it drives inequality.

        Of course, the underlying problem is precisely why Proposition 2.5 was designed – “sorting” of residents, i.e. economic segregation. People want high services for themselves but don’t want to pay for others. Proposition 2.5 further inspired people to sort themselves into communities where that could happen. As the segregation becomes more pronounced, a one-stop solution becomes more expensive.

        The contrast in communities is evident in an article in today’s Springfield Republican. Springfield is at $25/1000 for its valuations. Longmeadow is at $21.54/1000. Sounds like both communities are pretty close to each other, doesn’t it? One at the limit, the other just under it. Wrong. Longmeadow collects more than two and a half times more tax levy per resident, $2,774 to $1,106. The difference in levy ceilings would allow for a 3-to-1 ratio.

        State aid is supposed to equalize things, isn’t it? Let’s look at that. Adding local tax levy + state aid, we get a per-person revenue of $3,143 for Longmeadow and $3,227 for Springfield. So Springfield gets a little bit more when all is said and done. But here’s the catch: It costs a lot more to provide services to the lower class as opposed to the upper class. More policing. More education. More code enforcement. More fires to fight (because of people doing stupid things like trying to heat their apartment with their stove). More money for parks (which compensate for the smaller lot sizes). More money for libraries. More money for social services. I don’t know how to precisely quantify these costs, but the end results make it very evident that something is wrong – comparing similarly sized properties, Longmeadow is priced 2-3x higher than Springfield.

        That’s the feedback loop. Property values drive revenue which drives services which drive property values.

        Keep in mind that state aid, particularly not related to schools, has been frozen or cut about 2/3 of the years since Proposition 2.5 went into effect. This is devastating to communities that rely on state aid to make up for property value deficiencies. Hitting the Proposition 2.5 ceiling at the same time is even worse, and trying to recover from both a massive unexpected snowstorm and a tornado make it the trifecta.

        So how about we start talking about ways to allow communities to offer services in a more equitable manner, in a way that both prevents cost-shifting by the wealthy and plays to a community’s strengths, rather than weakness?

    • Why?

      Because the property tax is the revenue source to which the legislature restricts (for the most part) cites and towns.

      Instead of calling for an end to local aid (!), and its progressive equalizing effect, why not fight for more and more predictable funding of local services from the property tax? Ending that practice would just make the inequities of the system worse.

      • Look at history

        Look at local aid across history, since Proposition 2.5. There are a lot of different buckets, and I may be missing some nuances (like the elimination of the Quinn bill funding which is a de facto local cut), but state aid is not very reliable or consistent. Certainly less so than the property tax, which increases nearly every year by at least 2.5%.

        Looking at Springfield, general government state aid has been increased 20 times and has been level-funded or decreased 12 times since 1981 (so my earlier statement of 2/3 cuts was off – the number is really 3/8) including reductions each year from 2009 to 2012. General government state aid is lower in FY13 than it was in FY01.

        Chapter 70 money has increased, but Chapter 70 is a make-whole to bring communities to their minimum required spending levels. Most other communities use local revenue to spend above their minimums. If general government aid is shorted, there is no way to reduce it further to spend more on schools.

        There are two ways to solve the problem of under-funded/under-serviced poor communities; either specifically give them (and just them) more state aid, or allow them to raise revenue themselves. Given that every time this issue is raised here, most liberal Democrats gaze at their shoes, mutter something about cities already getting plenty of aid, and then turn away, it’s clear to me that it’s a non-starter in the less liberal legislature; the more achievable goal would be to allow cities to raise the revenue in ways other than the property tax – to be more self-sufficient. I think that would sell better.

        I specifically said give additional state aid to “just the poor communities” because I think the imbalance is the problem that needs solving. Giving all communities a 50% increase in aid will not solve the imbalance. Wealthy communities will either reduce their taxes (making them more attractive), increase their services (making them more attractive), or will pay their employees (read: teachers) more or will reduce class sizes further, (making them more attractive). None of those things will break the property value feedback loop, and some of them might even make it worse.

        • Yip

          My question: what (new) tools of self-sufficiency do you envision for municipalities? Would those tools be fore all munis or just the “poor” ones?

          I think that you’re on the right track here, and though I doubt that any of these new tools would be substantial in size, they would certainly help.

          One small tool I’d like to see: the state should help poor munis pay for energy efficiency and renewables on muni buildings. Pay for a few Springfield deep-energy retrofits in buildings which will have a long muni lifetime (next 50+ years). If Springfield puts on a new roof when a building needs it, the state should put the PV on top. The idea is that the state could help Springfield drive down its operating costs. $50,000 buys a city employee, whether it comes from budget savings or new revenue. One way that the state could help places like Springfield is to allocate money to help them drive down their costs with long term investments… the kinds of things that Springfield simply can’t afford to do on their own, but are wise investments.

          I’m an energy guy, so I think in terms of saving money by saving energy. Surely there are other kinds of investments which can help lighten the operational costs too…

  2. There really should not be any constitutionalized restrictions regarding form, source, rates, etc., IMO. The only restriction should be against so narrowly targeting a tax that it becomes essentially a bill of attainder.

  3. Interesting

    Keep in mind that Peterson dealt with the situation where the General Court tried to increase the tax rate on capital gains in the middle of the year. All gains from January 1, 2002 through May 2, 2002 would be taxed at one rate, and all gains from May 2, 2002 through December 31, 2002 would be taxed at another. The Supreme Court concluded that the word “income” necessarily incorporates an element of time (i.e. a tax period). The legislature cannot apply different rates to the same income received in the same tax period.

    I wonder whether the legislature could have simply started a new tax period on May 2, 2002 and applied a different rate. The tax period for personal income tax has always been 1 year. But there are many tax types where the tax period is quarterly, monthly, etc. (i.e. sales and use tax, withholding tax, etc.). Of course the administration of the tax would have been a nightmare, requiring 2 different MA returns for the same federal income year. But it would probably be legally possible.

    But to your larger point, I don’t know if I agree with your conclusions based on Justice Cordy’s research. I think Justice Cordy’s reference to “a greater flexibility to structure a system of taxation” should be understood in the context of the SJC Opinions from 1908, 1911, and 1915 finding that the MA constitutional was extremely restrictive when it came to imposing state level taxes. As you say, they “dramatically expanded” the taxes that the MA legislature can impose. But in that deamatic expansion, they specifically considered and rejected the possibility of a progressive income tax in favor of a flat uniform rate (at least according to J. Cordy’s reading of 1914 Senate J. 1613-1614).

    There is no further discussion of why a progressive income tax was rejected. I find your theory that the “uniform rate” language was designed to prevent tax avoidance within MA interesting. But do you really think that the drafters of the amendment were concerned that the state level tax would be imposed on the same class of income based on geography? The very concept of a state level tax would eliminate the type of geographic tax structuring that occurred before the amendment. Is it possible that the drafters were actually concerned about a regressive tax? About a “class warfare” progressive tax? Maybe. But it all needs to be considered in context.

    • Couple of things.

      First, on the merits of the Peterson case, it seems to me pretty obvious that the majority got it wrong. Marshall’s and Cordy’s dissenting opinions are far more convincing. The fact that, as you point out, there seems to be a straightforward, if administratively challenging, workaround for the constitutional problem suggests to me that perhaps there never really was a constitutional problem to begin with.

      Second, I absolutely agree that it would be interesting to know more about the discussion and debate over the amendment that would have allowed for a progressive income tax. Specifically, I’d like to know whether part of the concern was that allowing for non-uniform rates on “incomes derived from the same class of property” could reopen the problem of moving assets around the state to more favorable locations that they seem clearly to have been trying to address. It’s interesting to me that the amendment doesn’t address salaries or wages specifically, but rather talks about income “derived from property,” which is not really the way we speak about it now. I wonder whether there’s more to be learned there. I certainly agree with you that “it all needs to be considered in context,” so I’d like to know more about what the context actually was.

      • In fact...

        I now wonder whether the SJC hasn’t been misreading the amendment all along. Might one argue that income in exchange for services – salary, hourly wage, or whatever – isn’t “income derived from property” at all, and therefore that the uniformity requirement never should have been applied to such income? The amendment itself specifically talks about “income not derived from property” being taxed at a lower rate than “income derived from property,” so clearly they were thinking about the treatment of such income. Why isn’t the better reading that the uniformity requirement only applies to “income derived from property” (put in place presumably to avoid the moving around of assets that we’ve been discussing), and that otherwise Article 44 clearly gives the legislature the right to tax all sorts of income, but places no restriction on the manner in which “income not derived from property” can be taxed?

        That might explain why a “graduated income tax” amendment was rejected – it was seen as unnecessary when it came to wages, since (on this reading) nothing in Article 44 would prevent the legislature from putting such an income tax into effect.

        • I started my last reply before you posted this comment

          And I think you make a good point. Its certainly not a plain reading of Art 44 to prevent a progressive income tax on income in exchange for services. But looking at a federal form 1040, most of the federal items of income (even many that are ordinary income) are at least arguably “derived from property” – interest, dividends, capital gains, business income, IRA distributions, pensions, annuities, rent, royalties, flow-throughs, farm income, and social security benefits. Maybe MA could have a progressive tax on wages, alimony, and unemployment income?

        • It would make a LOT of sense

          … if the phrase “income not derived from property” referred to earnings. In fact, Mr. Nichols says “it was generally supposed” that that was the intended meaning (p. 471).

          But the SJC ruled otherwise in Raymer v. Tax Commmissioner, 239 Mass. 410 (1921), holding that a university professor’s salary was “income derived from property” within the meaning of amendment 44. As the Justices said in a 1981 Opinion to the House (383 Mass. 940 (1981)), the Raymer case makes “the significance of the third sentence of the amendment unclear.” Yes, it kind of does. The Justices didn’t try to achieve clarity about the amendment, but instead went on to say that “it is generally agreed that the requirement of uniform rates of taxation in art. 44 applies to both earned and unearned income,” and on that basis advised the House that a proposed law to impose an income tax of 30 percent of the taxpayer’s federal income tax would necessarily be a graduated income tax (because the federal income tax was graduated) and would therefore violate art. 44.

          I also think it’s interesting that the year before the Legislature first proposed art. 44, they voted to ratify the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which clearly provides for a graduated income tax. Massachusetts voted to ratify the amendment only after it was a foregone conclusion (Delaware had put the amendment over the top a month before). So what do we conclude — that our legislators felt strongly that the federal income tax should be graduated and equally strongly that the state income tax should not be? Or that they just went along with the herd on the federal amendment but maintained an ideological opposition at the state level? Something else?

          Great post and comments.

          • Thanks for pointing to the Raymer case -

            a singularly unconvincing opinion if ever there was one! This whole thing is fascinating – a constitutional amendment adopted in the progressive era, apparently for the most progressive of reasons, is then (arguably) misinterpreted by the SJC which at the time was apparently enthralled with the peculiar notions of the Lochner era as to how contracts work (its citations to Coppage v. Kansas and Adair v. U.S. are dead giveaways in that regard), which ultimately leads to an incredibly regressive result, namely, the impossibility of adopting a graduate tax on income of any sort, earned or unearned.

            Someone should really dig into the research and write this whole thing up.

            • And in yet another fascinating wrinkle,

              one of the dissenting Justices in both the Coppage and Adair US Supreme Court cases, upon which the SJC relied heavily in its conclusion that earned income is “income derived from property,” was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, who previously had sat on the SJC.

            • Agreed

              A weak opinion. Its hard to think of an item of income that’s not “derived from property” under the standards in this case. Gifts, other than those received through a trust or will? Found cash? I wonder what the court would come up with if the legislature passed a progressive tax on “income not derived from property” and then asked the SJC for an opinion.

      • I disagree with you on the merits of the Peterson case

        I think the majority rightly read an element of time into the concept of income. The legislature has the ability to define what is a tax period, but then within that tax period they need to apply the same rates to the same classes of income. They could avoid the problem, but it would take a fairly dramatic redesign of the MA personal income tax system. I strongly disagree that a possible avenue of avoidance for a constitutional problem means that the problem either does not exist or should just be ignored.

        And I agree with you that its not inherently obvious that income “derived from property” includes income paid for performing services. But it’s pretty well established in SJC case law that it does. 386 Mass. 1223; 398 Mass. 40. It might not be a plain reading of the statute, but I think that horse has left the barn.

        I usually hate researching “lesiglative intent” since different members of the legislature can intend differently with the same vote, but it might be interesting to read 1914 Senate J. 1613-1614 that was cited by J. Cordy. That might give some insight as to why a progressive income tax was rejected.

  4. That is quite interesting

    Thanks for pointing it out.

    From a policy perspective, rather than a purely legal one, I am beginning to think that Winslow might just be right–not about the intent of Art 44, but about the shortcomings of graduated rates.

    In this looming game of chicken in Congress, Democrats have planted their flag on a purely symbolic issue. A tax hike/expiration of a tax cut on only the “rich” really does nothing to address the existing long term budget issue. It is rather like GOP efforts to “solve” the budget problems by cutting funding for PBS.

    The fact that these things are purely symbolic- a “get” for liberal populists– suggests that a system in which when tax rates go up, they go up for everyone, and vice versa, might be an overall improvement.

  5. Thanks for this

    very interesting. It should be revisited. How does that happen? If someone files a lawsuit would it go through the courts again? Can Massachusetts just test the constitution and see what happens? It seems as though there is plenty of doubt about its meaning and purpose, and how it applies in today’s environment.

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