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!

Canvass in Arlington on Sunday with Deval Patrick and Katherine Clark!

As Ed Markey likes to say, in Arlington we don’t agonize, we organize!  Join us Sunday as we hit the streets in one the state’s richest strongholds of Democratic voters – voters we need to turn out on November 4th in this non-presidential year.

Please sign up here (so that we know how many to expect):


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

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 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 02:30pm Cong. Kennedy/Rep. Peisch, Canvass Launch, 314 Walnut Street, Wellesley
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.

Savvy Election Insight. Not.

Yes, I know. After a short hiatus you expect some pithy insight into the governor’s race, casinos, and so on.

But I gotta tell you, I have nothing. Nothing at all. I’m voting for Martha. Will she win? I dunno. Can we trust the polls? I don’t think so, but really, I dunno. Are more people being turned off by Charlie than Martha as we head into the home stretch? I think so, but I dunno.

Low turnout? Sure. Does that mean less conservatives and right wingers or solid Dems and progressives. I dunno.

Will it favor the casino opponents? I think so, but really, I dunno.

No need to waste anymore of your time.




If you work for the state, that globe poll

Is bad news….If you recall, back in 2010, Baker vowed to cut 5,000 state employees.

The Case for YES on 3 (to Repeal the Casino Deal)

Here’s an animation that sums it up:

Families Against Mandatory Minimums releases survey of MA candidates' views on drug sentencing laws

Yesterday, the nonprofit group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) released the results of a survey that asked MA candidates their views on drug sentencing laws. Criminal justice reform is an important issue so I encourage everyone to read the full survey before voting, but here’s their summary:

Drug sentencing reform is now a mainstream issue. Some candidates specifically include the issue in their campaign materials. A few of the candidates we contacted requested more information, but nobody asked, “What’s a mandatory minimum sentence?” Even those who are still fine-tuning their positions understood the issue.

Drug sentencing reform is now also a bipartisan issue. Granted, Massachusetts is heavily Democratic, but Democrats and Republicans alike favor the repeal or reform of mandatory minimums as part of an overall approach to substance abuse. This is consistent with the bipartisan support for mandatory minimum reform at the federal level and in other states. Independent or minor party candidates also favor repeal.

Of the 22 candidates who responded to our survey, most of them – 86% – favor either repeal or reform of mandatory minimum sentences for drugs.

  • 16 (or nearly 73% ) support repeal;
  • Another 3 (or nearly 14%) support further reforms, short of outright repeal;
  • One candidate opposed repeal but is willing to listen to the experts on possible reforms;
  • Only one candidate opposes repeal or further reforms;
  • One candidate felt the issue was beyond the scope of the office he was seeking.

No candidate was in favor of longer mandatory minimum sentences or additional mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

One other highlight: John Miller, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, was one of few who declined to answer. Meanwhile, Maura Healey not only expressed her support for sensible reforms, she provided the most detailed response of all 22 candidates who responded.

Despite the rain - A Day to Celebrate at Fenway

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.

Wonk Post: MA Governor Polling Aggregate

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%.

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

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.

Good thing Scott Brown wasn't there.

No one has any issues with this Joan Vennochi  story slamming Sen Warren?


A couple notes here.

Fidelity is a private company. Owner Ned Johnson and his daughter Abigail are worth tens of billions. They are the .0001%.  I actually calculated that- it’s 300/300,000,000.

The SEC is a federal agency. it’s not like Fidelity can flee to another state.

At least it shows she has no hard feelings towards Fidelity and their Brown contributions. Or is maybe she’s thinking of reconstructing the Clinton Wall Street alliance for her 2016 run?

I dd enjoy her dig on Obama  which I hadn’t seen before.


 In an interview with Salon, she said of Obama, when “the going got tough, his economic team picked Wall Street . . . Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. Not young people who were struggling to get an education . . . 




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.

It's time to rally behind Coakley

Enough of the pussy footing around…I know she’s not everyone’s first choice but she earned the nomination fair and square. If she loses, it will only be because of Democrats defecting and falling for Baker the Faker’s Koch Brother ads.

Get out and and win this for Team Blue!!!!

Machiavellian Proposition

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.

Why we won't be at the bill signing at Fenway Park

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog)

Tomorrow, Governor Patrick will be at Fenway Park for the ceremonial signing of three pieces of legislation that are intended to make major changes in the care and services for the developmentally disabled in Massachusetts.

Many advocates will be there, but many if not most of those in attendance will be corporate providers to the Department of Developmental Services, who played key lobbying roles in the drafting of each piece of legislation last spring.  As a result, as we have pointed out, each of these new laws (because Patrick signed them for real in August) is flawed in a major way.

There really is no reason to celebrate unless and until changes are made in the laws, so we won’t be at the event tomorrow.  In a nutshell, here are the problems with the laws:

1.  National Background Check law: The law authorizes national criminal background checks for persons hired to work in an unsupervised capacity with persons with developmental disabilities.  It will ultimately require that both current and prospective caregivers in the DDS system submit their fingerprints to a federal database maintained by the FBI. Those requirements are long overdue, but they will be further delayed under the new law.

The fingerprint requirements will not be phased in under the law for all current employees in the system until January 2019, and will not take effect for new employees until January 2016. Another provision in the new law that raises questions appears to allow employees to be hired before the results of their background checks are obtained.

COFAR and the VOR, a national advocacy group for the developmentally disabled, sent a joint message to lawmakers this week that states: “Much harm can be done to vulnerable people due to the delayed implementation and the ambiguous language that we hope was not the intent of the Legislature.”

When COFAR contacted the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee last summer to ask why the committee had approved the delays and the ambiguous provision in the new law’s requirements, a staff member referred us to Johnston Associates, a Beacon Hill lobbying firm.  A member of the firm said providers and some other advocates had pushed for the delays.  No one could or would give us an answer as to why language was inserted that appears to allow the hiring of employees before their background checks are done.

2. The ‘Real Lives’ law: This legislation had been pushed for years on Beacon Hill by the providers.  The stated intent of the measure is to introduce “person-centered planning” into the DDS care system by allowing each DDS client to “direct the decision-making process” and manage their own “individual budgets” for care.

In the wake of criticism earlier this year from COFAR, legislators removed a provision from the bill, which would have named the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers and the Arc of Massachusetts to a board that would advise DDS in developing the person-centered planning system.  Another provision that was thankfully removed would have established a “contingency fund” to compensate providers that lose funding when clients move out of their residential facilities.

But the new law still raises a number of concerns, including providing what appears to be only a limited role for guardians and family members in the person-centered planning process.  The law also introduces a central role in the process for vaguely defined “financial management services” and other privately run entities.

In a joint statement this week, the VOR and COFAR called on legislators to “ensure that vulnerable individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the support of legal guardians, when appointed, rather than financial managers or independent facilitators” in undertaking person-centered planning.

The joint statement also urged legislators to add a provision to the law ensuring that persons seeking DDS services would have an explicit choice among a range of care options and settings, including state-operated facilities and group homes, provider-operated homes, shared living arrangements, and home-based care.  State-operated care is often not presented as an option to people seeking DDS residential services.  Those persons are instead presented only with the option of corporate provider-operated residential care.

3. The DDS eligibility expansion law: This legislation is intended to fill a major gap in DDS care in Massachusetts by extending eligibility for services to people with autism and two other specified disabilities known as Prader-Willi Syndrome and Smith-Magenis Syndrome.

Until the enactment of this law,  DDS had restricted eligibility for DDS services to people with “intellectual disabilities,” as measured by a score of approximately 70 or below on an IQ test. That left out many people with developmental disabilities, including autism, even though those conditions may severely restrict an individual’s ability to function successfully in society.  If those people score higher than 70 on an IQ test, they are routinely denied services.

However, in specifying three developmental disabilities that make individuals eligible for DDS services, the new law necessarily leaves out other conditions that often result in many of the same types of functional limitations, such as Williams Syndromespina bifida, and cerebral palsy.  The new law was the product of closed-door negotiations among legislators, administration officials, and selected advocacy organizations.

In addition to changing that eligibility standard, the new law establishes a permanent new autism commission and authorizes the establishment of tax-free, individual savings accounts to pay for a variety of DDS and other services. The commission will consist of 35 members, including legislators, administration officials, the Arc of Massachusetts, and advocates from autism advocacy organizations.   There are no seats on the commission for any advocates of state-run care for the developmentally disabled.

The VOR and COFAR urged legislators this week to make changes in the law “to better identify and serve eligible individuals in need of services and supports.”

In sum, while these new laws have many well-intentioned supporters, major changes are needed in each piece of legislation to enable it to fulfill its purpose and prevent it from doing more harm than good.  It is not yet time for everyone to pat themselves on the back as will no doubt be happening tomorrow at Fenway Park.

TPM: Coakley In Trouble

Talking Points Memo: Is Martha Coakley About To Blow Another Major Race In Massachusetts?

Coakley’s late drop-off seems eerily reminiscent of the 2010 special election against upstart Republican candidate Scott Brown, when the Democrat blew a huge lead, fell behind in the final stretch, and went on to lose.

Very disturbing statistics in the article, with an appalling trend chart. Nothing irreversible — remember Obama after the first debate — but we now have trouble here in River City.

Money Matters: Spending and Expected Vote Share

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.

RIP WaPo Editor Ben Bradlee

Legendary Executive Editor and Washington Post VP passed away this evening at the age of 93.  He is survived by his wife columnist Sally Quinn among others.  Bradlee is probably best known for his support of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate reporting.


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


Charlie What Happened to your Tax Reform Centerpiece 5 - 5 - 5

Here is Charlie Baker in 2010 waxing poetic on the will of the people and making Massachusetts affordable and competitive.

Photo link to C-Span clip

Baker: To simplify our business and get that back to 5%. I think we should repeal the increase in the sales tax as well. We need to create a Massachusetts that is affordable and competitive to get people back to work. 200,000 people are out of work.

But today, the Globe posted an interview with Charlie on taxes, funny, that 5 – 5 – 5 thing, well you are SOL. Charlie Empty Suit 2.0, it doesn’t matter your positions and think tank work over the course of your lifetime matter, just smile and make up something that you think people want to hear.

In your last campaign, you supported lowering the income, sales, and corporate tax rates to 5 percent. Why do you no longer support that plan?

Massachusetts is facing a different set of economic realities with the national economy on the rebound. My mission will be to improve life across Massachusetts, including communities and geographies that are seeing a slower economic recovery. Lower and fairer taxes are an important part of creating jobs and accomplishing that goal.

Blah, blah, blah, blah blah, jobs, blah, blah taxes. Wait what was the question?

That my friends is a whole lot of nothing, yes lower taxes which I’m not in favor of you know, lowering. But I said it. See.

Let me translate his real answer for you: I would like to be elected governor

Do you support rolling the income tax back to 5 percent, in line with the voter-passed ballot question in 2000? Why or why not? Would you commit to doing immediately upon taking office?

I support upholding the will of the voters by rolling the income tax back to 5% as quickly as possible.

Well how’s that for specifics folks.

But let me translate for you again: I would like to be elected governor

Looks like Charlie learned a lot from good ole Mitt, but what we don’t need is a clownish political caricature, pushing empty promises.