(I really shouldn’t use Howie Carr as a source twice in one week, but I disagreed with him the first time, so I think it’s OK.)
This week, talk-show host, Boston Herald columnist, and all-around gadfly Howie Carr published what has to be one of his easiest pieces of the year: he calls around to the offices of prominent Massachusetts Democrats and asks them about their tax filings.
Several years ago, the Massachusetts legislature voted to raise the state income tax. (Remember, in liberal-speak, tax cuts are always temporary, and the “natural” state of any tax is higher. This applies even when the hike was passed with a promise that it would be temporary, as it was in Massachusetts. This also applies, on the federal level, to the Bush tax cuts, although there Congress wrote their transient nature into the law.) But some anti-tax activists, with the cooperation of some very clever Republicans, wrote a nice little poison pill into the law: the higher tax rate would be voluntary — taxpayers could check off a box to tax themselves at the higher rate, but the default would be the lower rate.
This stroke of genius has spiked several efforts to jack up the tax rate in Massachusetts, and driven quite a few Democrats to fits of impotent fury.
“We need to raise the income tax! The state needs more money!”
“Oh, really? Good heavens! Do you really mean that?”
“Yes, it’s an emergency!”
“So, I take it that you’re already paying the higher rate voluntarily, to help out in this crisis?”
“Um… er… ah…”
“So, you’re saying that it’s critical that we all give more money to the state, but you aren’t? That it’s essential that the state make us all do what you’re not willing to do voluntarily?”
“We all have to make sacrifices! It’s for the common good! It’s for the CHILDREN, man!”
“OK, fine. If it’s that important, then let’s all pay the higher taxes. You first.”
And that’s pretty much where it ends.
Every year, a minuscule percentage of Massachusetts taxpayers choose to fork over a measly additional half-percent in their taxes. Last year, according to Howie, it was barely 1,200 out of 3.3 million. And this year, going by Howie’s figures, it’ll be even fewer — if the current trend continues, it’ll probably not make 750 — or, to use Howie’s numbers, less than 0.0004% of Massachusetts taxpayers think the state is in such a crisis, that they’re willing to make the personal sacrifice without the state coercing it out of them.
And very few of them — if any — are in the best position to know the shape of the state: the people elected and selected to run the state.
It’s kind of like what Glenn Reynolds says about global warming — “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who say it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”
In Massachusetts, apparently the state’s financial woes aren’t at a crisis stage yet.