Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Media Log goes policy wonk! People don't want smaller government and lower taxes. They want bigger government and lower taxes. They want it all, and they want it right now. Politicians can choose between trying to explain that, you know, stuff costs money, or they can pander. The latter is a sure route to success. Mitt Romney last year pandered his way right into the corner office.

During the campaign, Romney said he could close the state's gaping budget deficit by putting his world-class management skills to work, by slashing the bureaucracy and eliminating duplication while not raising taxes and not cutting "essential" services. (Essential services are things that you need. Non-essential services are things that somebody else needs.) Of course he couldn't, and he began backtracking the moment he was elected.

Now he wants the legislature to give him the authority to cut local aid to the bone, which will force schools to close early and police officers and firefighters to be laid off. (Click here for today's Globe coverage, and here for today's Herald coverage.)

Since the legislators lack both guts and brains, they're almost certain to go along, notwithstanding their plaintive cry to Romney to explain what he's got in mind. But they shouldn't. Here's what they ought to do:

  • Borrow the $600 million needed to get through the rest of the fiscal year without any further cuts.
  • Reform the state tax system. That means going ahead with the voter-approved mandate to return the state income tax to five percent, but rethinking and possibly repealing the $3 billion to $4 billion in tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy that were passed during the 1990s. That's where the money is. Here's a good place to start: reversing the special-interest tax break that Fidelity got in the mid-'90s. Wonder what former Fidelity executive Robert Pozen -- currently receiving all kinds of praise for serving in the Romney administration without pay -- would think about that?
  • Go after the hackerama head-on. Today's Herald reports that MDC commissioner David Balfour continues to run amok, and that virtually the first act of Tim for Treasurer was to reward one of Tom Finneran's coat-holders with the six-figure job of "running" the Lottery. Ugh.

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