Calling BS on 1% Baker re: taxes

Charlie Baker says he’s against middle-class tax hikes. But he’s against the absolute best method for preventing them: A progressive, graduated income tax.

You have to give Baker for being nimble. In the one moment of Tuesday night’s debate, Martha Coakley indicated that she wasn’t completely opposed to a graduated income tax — which would of course be a good idea and has been part of the BMG platform.

Charlie Baker responded by attacking Coakley — not on the merits of a progressive tax itself, but by changing the subject to middle class taxes, saying you can’t trust the Dems to only tax the wealthy. He cited — correctly, as far as it goes — the series of tax hikes in 2009 that fell mostly on the middle class. New revenue was necessary in order to prevent massive layoffs of teachers, cops, firefighters, social workers (hey, they’re in the news these days too) — and also to protect the state’s bond rating. A lower bond rating means the state gets a worse deal on credit — which hurts taxpayers. You may have noticed that other states that didn’t bite this bullet have suffered that exact fate.

This is how Baker’s 1% ideology rolls: If you want to tax the rich at a higher rate, they say the middle class is next. Meanwhile, because of that very resistance, the only possible avenue to avoid a fiscal catastrophe is to raise taxes regressively, as we’ve been doing. Baker’s rhetorical sleight-of-hand leads to higher taxes for the middle class — and much worse services.

If we had been able to raise taxes progressively in 2009, we could have raised the revenue to protect critical state services without dinging the middle class – the people who need that money for fundamental things, as opposed to a second house or a fancy car. And only people like, well, Charlie Baker would have noticed.

So Coakley’s comments were criticized by Barbara Anderson, which is unsurprising. More surprising is Mass. Taxpayers’ Michael Widmer, who supported the gas tax increase and the sales tax increase back in 2009!

“If you’re trying to create jobs it doesn’t make sense to give opened-ended authority to the legislature to raise taxes on higher income individuals,” said Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer.

Widmer and MTF have been longtime opponents of the graduated income tax system.

Widmer told the Tax Fairness Commission in February that any change to the state’s income tax structure that would tax high income individuals at a higher rate would be hurt the state’s economy.

“Amending the state’s constitution and adding to the tax burden of middle and higher income taxpayers, including businesses that pay personal income taxes, would pose one more disincentive to job creation in the state,” said Widmer while testifying before the commission.

Martha Coakley’s comments on graduated income tax criticized by taxpayer watchdogs |

So to be clear: Widmer thinks that middle-class people who struggle to pay the bills from month-to-month should have higher taxes, but the rich should go unscathed. That’s the takeaway from his stated positions. No thank you. Good day sir.

And a progressive income tax structure costs the state jobs? As opposed to what we’ve been doing in a pinch? Oh please do show your work, Mr. Widmer. I’d love to see that research.

Is Charlie Baker really up 9?

The Globe’s latest poll says he is.  The Coakley campaign promptly put out a statement declaring that the poll is “clearly an outlier” and that every other independent poll has shown the race much tighter.  Well, maybe – certainly we’d all like to think so.

But if I recall correctly, the Globe poll was the one that picked up the Maura Healey surge in the primary.  After many weeks of polls showing the race basically tied, the Globe published a shocker just a couple of days before the election showing that she had jumped out to a 15-point lead.  A lot of people (including myself, frankly) didn’t believe it – we thought she was probably ahead, but by maybe 5 or 6 points.  As we now know, though, the Healey surge was real (she won by 25).

Lightning doesn’t routinely strike twice, so maybe the Globe poll nailed a late surprise surge in the AG primary, only to see another one in the Gov general where there isn’t one.  But you know what I’m going to say next.  There’s no way of knowing if the poll is right or wrong, and it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you do what you can to bring about the result you want.

Thoughts and Prayers with Mayor Menino and his Family

Very well said. The thoughts of all of us are with you and your family, Mr. Mayor. - promoted by david

Sad news from the Globe last night, former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has suspended cancer treatments and will be entering palliative care.

The former Mayor kept busy with a memoir and an urban policy initiative at Boston University. Sadly, he was hospitalized shortly after the start of his book tour where he finally made his decision to accept palliative care.

But as Menino embarked on a book tour last week in New York City, cancer and the treatment regimen had clearly taken their toll. He used a wheelchair, and his voice was often reduced to a rasp because of laryngitis.

Upon returning to Boston, he was hospitalized with dehydration at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is receiving palliative care, and doctors have told the former mayor the next step is hospice care.

“While I continue to fight this terrible disease, I feel it is time for me to spend more time with my family, grandkids, and friends,” Menino said in a statement issued by his former press secretary, Dot Joyce.

Current Mayor Marty Walsh had a very nice statement:

Mayor Martin J. Walsh spoke to Menino on Thursday evening and said the former mayor asked about recovery efforts in the wake of intense rain squalls.

“He was worried about how bad was the flooding and if we were able to clear the trees,” Walsh told reporters outside an event at Faneuil Hall. “Once you’re elected mayor, you’re always mayor of Boston. He’s a fighter. He’s going to continue to fight. I could hear it in his voice on the phone.”

A lot more can be said about his legacy as Mayor, there will be plenty of time for that later. Personally, I always found him to be a far more humble and intelligent man than the media portrayed, one firmly committed to liberal principles. But, for now I wish him and his family more good times and peace.

The many and the few

Paul Krugman nails an essential element of our ongoing political debate in his NYT column today “Plutocrats against Democracy.” It is a concise illustration, with some comparative global examples, of one way of understanding U.S. history: a continuous struggle, from the time of religious theocracy and slavery through the Gilded Age — and the Great Depression and New Deal that followed — between the many and the few.

It’s always good when leaders tell the truth, especially if that wasn’t their intention. So we should be grateful to Leung Chun-ying, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, for blurting out the real reason pro-democracy demonstrators can’t get what they want: With open voting, “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies” — policies, presumably, that would make the rich less rich and provide more aid to those with lower incomes.

So Mr. Leung is worried about the 50 percent of Hong Kong’s population that, he believes, would vote for bad policies because they don’t make enough money. This may sound like the 47 percent of Americans who Mitt Romney said would vote against him because they don’t pay income taxes and, therefore, don’t take responsibility for themselves, or the 60 percent that Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are “takers,” getting more from the government than they pay in. Indeed, these are all basically the same thing.

Read the whole thing here. Look no further if you want to understand why economic warrior Charlie Baker is making his case at a local country club in the final key weeks of the campaign.

Greed lies, in large part, at the base of this Republican argument, which feeds on ignorance. Societies with relatively generous social welfare policies, where economic power is comparatively widely distributed and popular interests are well represented, like democracies from western Europe to the developed states of Asia, are in general more prosperous and freer than those in which financial resources are concentrated and the people are weak, like totalitarian countries from Russia, China and North Korea, to the Middle East and Africa. We should move toward the former, as we did more or less from the Depression until the election of a Republican Congress and Ronald Reagan, and away from the latter. Republicans preach the opposite: their goal, as befits conservatives, is to take us back to the past. As Obama observed of Romney two years ago: “Governor, when it comes to your foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.” Charlie Baker has learned how to sugar-coat his message, but subscribes to the same regressive ideology.

Thus the importance of teachers, the essential task of door-to-door canvassers, in the last critical weeks before the election. We should make progress, not go back. Go Coakley!

“That’s how we do it,” she said. “One voter at a time.” GOTV Events

The people assemble. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Last week the Globe ran a story about me, focusing on canvassing and direct voter contact. The reporter spent a significant amount of time with me and highlighted the story of a voter I met. She was undecided when we first started speaking, but by the time we finished our conversation she was on board. In his words:

The screen door closed. Donaghue marked the result on her clipboard. “That’s how we do it,” she said. “One voter at a time.”

And that is how we will do it, with your help. We need you now. We’ll have fun while we are working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.

I’m listing a number of events that people can join this weekend.
10/25 09:00am Gov. Patrick/Steve Kerrigan, Canvass Launch, 369 Union Hall, 120 Bay State Dr., Braintree
10/25 10:00am Maura Healey/Rep. Decker, Rally/Canvass Launch, Cambridge HQ, 589 Mass. Ave.
10/25 10:15am Senator Ed Markey, Canvass Launch, Brockton HQ, 106 Torrey Street
10/25 11:00am Cong. Clark/Maura Healey, Melrose Rally/Canvass Launch, Memorial Hall Steps, 590 Main Street
10/25 12:00pm Maura Healey, Rally/Canvass Launch, Lexington HQ, 172 Bedford Street
10/25 12:45pm Senator Ed Markey, Canvass Launch, Falmouth HQ, 704 Main Street
10/25 12:30pm Governor Mike Dukakis, Canvass Launch, Beverly HQ, 160 Cabot Street
10/25 01:00pm Governor Patrick, Canvass Launch, 24 Samoset Street, Plymouth
10/25 01:00pm Cong. Clark Canvass Launch, Blackman Residence, 8 Garfield St. Natick
10/25 02:30pm Martha Coakley/Gov. Patrick/Cong. Tsongas, Rally/Canvass Launch, Lowell HQ, 175 Merrimack Street
10/26 11:00am Gov. Patrick/Congresswoman Clark, Rally/Canvass Launch, 45 Teel Street, Arlington
10/26 11:15am Senator Ed Markey, Newburyport Canvass Launch, Brown Square (next to City Hall), 60 Pleasant Street
10/26 12:00pm Maura Healey/Seth Moulton, Rally/Canvass Launch, Salem HQ, 10 Colonial Road
10/26 01:00pm Gov. Patrick/Cong. Clark, Canvass Launch, Danish Pastry House, 330 Boston Ave., Medford
10/26 01:30pm Cong. Kennedy, Phone Bank, Needham HQ, 50 Central Ave.
10/26 12:30pm Senator Warren, Canvass Launch, Framingham HQ, 303 Worcester Road
10/26 02:30pm Cong. Kennedy/Rep. Peisch, Canvass Launch, 314 Walnut Street, Wellesley
10/26 03:00pm Gov. Patrick/Seth Moulton, GOTV Rally, Beverly HQ, 160 Cabot St., Beverly
10/26 03:30pm Maura Healey/Rep. Garelick, Canvass Launch, Needham HQ, 50 Central Ave.
10/26 04:00pm Cong, Kennedy, Canvass or Phone Bank, 106 Davis Ave, Brookline
10/26 04:30pm Maura Healey, GOTV Rally, 7 Independence Lane, Medway

You can find details either on Martha Coakley’s or Maura Healey’s event listings. Details are also in this week’s Democratic Dispatch on some of the other events.

The closer we get to the election, the more things shift. If there are events of interest please add them in the comments. If you have a special guest coming or something big planned please let people know. If any of the above events change, I’ll try to update them here and add them as time permits. I’m off to the Boston rally on Friday and then straight to “Friday Doors and Drinks” so I need to crowd-source some because of time constraints.

UPDATED: Added E. Warren event and Deval Patrick event in Plymouth

BMG's ballot question endorsements: No, Yes, Yes, Yes

NYYY: New York Yankees, Yuck. Nice. - promoted by Bob_Neer

It’s that time of year again, when everyone from newspaper editors to neighbors to your cranky uncle is telling you how to vote on November’s ballot.  Herewith, your humble editors’ submission with respect to the four statewide ballot questions.  Spoiler: the correct answers are No on 1, and Yes on the rest.  They are all pretty easy calls, in our view.

NO on 1.  Question 1, if passed, would repeal the indexing provision that the legislature recently added to the gas tax.  The indexing provision adjusts the gas tax (currently 24 cents per gallon) “every year by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index over the preceding year.”  In other words, it automatically adjusts the gas tax for inflation.

An outrage, some cry!  Taxation without representation!  The legislature should have to vote every time a tax is raised!  There are many problems with this argument, not the least of which is that the sales tax for everything else is a percentage, and therefore automatically adjusts for inflation – if prices go up, so does the sales tax in dollar amount.  Frankly, a percentage sales tax is probably a better way to manage the gas tax as well, but since the tax is per gallon, failing to index results in the gas tax actually losing value over time.

And an inadequate gas tax is a real problem, since the gas tax funds road and bridge projects around the state.  Needless to say, these projects are necessary.  MA’s infrastructure is not getting any younger; much maintenance has been deferred way longer than it should have been; and catastrophes like this one only seem likely to happen more often if something isn’t done.

The legislature isn’t very good at enacting sensible tax policy.  This gas tax bill was a rare exception (it probably didn’t go far enough, but it was a big improvement over what was in place before).  We see no good argument for undoing it.

YES on 2.  Question 2, if passed, would update the bottle bill (which requires a five-cent deposit on certain beverage containers, refunded when the bottle is returned) to include water, juice, sports drink, and other now-popular drinks.  The statistics around the bottle bill are overwhelming: 80% of containers with a deposit, but only 23% of containers without, are recycled.  Lots of anecdotal observations support this: it’s actually pretty rare to see a Coke can or beer bottle on the street, but plastic water and juice bottles are ubiquitous.

So, the bottle bill works, and things that work should be encouraged and expanded to keep up with the times.  Furthermore, the folks urging you to vote “no” have been … massaging the facts, shall we say, with respect to current recycling rates in Massachusetts.  This is bad behavior that should be punished; if it isn’t, they and others will assume (correctly) that they can get away it, and will behave similarly in the future.

YES on 3.  Question 3, if passed, would pretty much repeal the state’s casino law by making slot machines and table games illegal again in Massachusetts.  We’ve talked about this issue a great deal on BMG in recent months, so there’s no need to rehash those arguments in detail here.  In brief, we think casinos are a lousy economic development strategy (recent events in Atlantic City and elsewhere suggest that they are not the golden goose their boosters would have you believe), we think they prey on people who really don’t need another toilet down which to flush their money, and we think the shenanigans at the Mass. Gaming Commission have amply demonstrated that they tend to operate in a shady fashion.  We recognize that Springfield, in particular, could use an infusion of economic activity of just about any kind.  We are happy to see recent news reports that just such a thing appears to be happening, and we hope this is the start of a trend.  Building a plant to assemble desperately-needed subway cars is real economic development.  Gambling isn’t.

YES on 4.  Question 4, if passed, would require employers with 11 or more employees to allow their employees to “earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, while employees working for smaller employers could earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.”  This one is really so easy.  Of course employees should be able to take a modest number of sick days per year (five seems perfectly reasonable) without putting their jobs in jeopardy or (at larger employers) taking a financial hit for it.  If you’re sick and you stay home and rest, (a) you will get better and therefore return to productivity much faster, and (b) you won’t get your colleagues or the people next to you on the T sick.  It is both sensible economic policy and sensible public health policy.

Wonk Post: MA Governor Polling Aggregate

Worrisome. Call your friends. Forward emails. Knock on doors. - promoted by Bob_Neer

From HuffPo/Pollster:

HuffPost Model Estimate

Charlie Baker 45.5%
Martha Coakley 44.6%
Undecided 9.9%
CONFIDENCE OF WIN The probability that Baker will beat Coakley is 51%.

Despite the rain - A Day to Celebrate at Fenway

N.B.! - promoted by Bob_Neer

Today Governor Patrick will be joined by legislative leaders and scores of families and advocates as he signs three pieces of legislation that greatly improve the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

And why celebrate?TomH

  • Autism omnibus opens the door to persons with developmental disabilities who also have Autism, Prader-Willi syndrome and Smith Magenis syndrome to receive adults services through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS); a door opened to hundreds who did not have access.  The bill also extends health services at MassHealth for critical therapies and communication devices in addition to three other sections that address the needs of the growing population with autism.
  • National Background check focuses on safety, ensuring that those accepting jobs with persons served by DDS will be subject to a full criminal background check especially relevant since so many workers reside in neighboring states; only in the last session did a similar bill get approved for children in educational programs.
  • The “Real Lives” bill places in statute, self-direction for those receiving funding from the state for their services.  Too often, people have to move from the communities in which they live to get the assistance they need.  This allows for flexibility and choice subject to procedures established by the DDS.

NEWS FLASH: It's a close race.

… and the smug, lazy national media had the stories written a year ago. “Smug”, “lazy” — you think I’m being harsh? How about “Martha Chokeley” from Tiger Beat on the Potomac? This tendentious drool from the WaPo? No wonder keen observer Prof. Peter Ubertaccio declares that the national media coverage of the race has “jumped the shark”.

Can we have some perspective? To those of you in the national media who smell blood, how about putting things in context:

  • We had 16 years of Republican governors. An actually moderate GOP candidate is not automatically overwhelmed in this, the supposedly bluest of states.
  • Charlie Baker ran an embarrassing, tone-deaf, and profoundly cowardly race in 2010 versus one of the most talented campaigners in the country, who had a grassroots organization the likes of which we have never seen. Oh gosh, he didn’t even recognize himself on the campaign trail, so we’re told. He lost by only 6 points.
  • Scott Brown also ran an embarrassing, knuckle-headed, and insulting campaign versus a national icon with many millions $$$ pouring in from around the country. He lost by only 7.5 points.

This year, things are different. Martha Coakley is indeed warm and personable (go talk to her!); but she’s no Deval Patrick; no one is. And Charlie Baker is running a safe-as-milk campaign, with just enough screw-the-poor to send out a dog whistle to the Herald readership.

And how is Martha actually doing? Well, she’s been doing pretty well in the debates. It has struck me that a very decent grassroots organization has been in effect from early primary days. She’s been campaigning hard. I can’t think of a recent, major gaffe — can you?

The polls are tight. Is she “choking?” Come on. This is about where it would have been with Steve Grossman, or Don Berwick, or even Dan Wolf, for that matter. The dumb and nasty national press prefers to overlook actual Massachusetts political history and structure, because tossing insults is so much easier.

So we gotta get it done on 11/4. Call your friends.

Machiavellian Proposition

BMG's longest-term differently-winged member makes a case. - promoted by david

I would like to propose that Blue Mass Group support David D’Arcangelo for Secretary of State.

I have been on BMG about ten years – long enough to absorb what is important to you (in a hive-mind way) and what you believe in.  I don’t agree with some of your solutions to problems, but we often agree on what constitutes a problem.  And your party’s Secretary of State falls into that category.

Money Matters: Spending and Expected Vote Share

Wonk alert! :-) - promoted by david

A little background on myself: my name is Christian Schlachte and I am the assistant research director at the research wing of Sage Systems, LLC. Our focus here will mainly be less political, and more policy/attitude based. We will spend most of our time asking questions about various attitudes and positions that Massachusetts residents hold, on the issues that matter most. Because there is such high quality research/polling on political attitudes in the state, we want to add value where we can. Much of the future work that will be done in this vein will be similar to this post: seeking to take advantage of historical, publicly available data and looking for the intersections between the commonwealth, public policy, and all of us.

We have been doing a review of the recent primary and were interested in the late Grossman surge to finish in a much stronger second than many pundits expected.. One thing we’ve come across is a correlation between Grossman’s cumulative average spending and his poll standing (expected vote share). We computed cumulative average spending by looking at the total Treasurer Grossman spent in each reporting period (including all of the previous reporting periods) and dividing that number by what numbered reporting period that was. For example, if Treasurer Grossman had spent 2 million dollars over 10 reporting periods, his cumulative average spending would be $200,000 for that 10th reporting period.


A splendid BMGer, who will indeed be very missed. -Bob
Bumped, for Striker. - promoted by david

RIP…John Laughlin, IUPAT…union activist to the core…political field marshal and excellent writer…you will be missed.

John’s wake will be held:

Monday, October 27
Solimine Funeral Home
426 Broadway (Rt. 129)
Lynn, MA 01904
4-8 PM

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, October 28 at:
Carson Place
Boston Teachers Union Hall
180 Mt. Vernon Street
Dorchester, MA 02125
Doors open at noon; the service begins at 12:30PM.