Boston Globe Magazine editor does taxes. Charlie Pierce, the man who thought that Scott Brown supporters were clearly (clearly in the mind of clairvoyant Globe-speak) delusional, now tackles the history of tax policy in Massachusetts. He does a little bit better with explaining tax revolts than predicting elections.
As usual Pierce, like others at the Globe, misses the point. If we are indeed a low or average tax state it’s because of folks like CLT and once-vibrant High Tech Council. Think Proposition 2 1/2. Think other ballot questions such as the tax cap, the 1998 rollback and its ancillary effects as a fairly dependable chill on taxes.
Charlie doesn’t get the deadweight loss of raising the Massachusetts sales tax focusing instead on the supposedly irrational transaction cost (i.e. $2.75 gallon gas for a ride to NH). In his push to justify tax hikes, Pierece doesn’t understand the fact that taxes distort economic behavior. But what does one expect from journalists trained in static analysis?
Notwithstanding gas prices, Massachusetts consumers cross the border to buy big ticket items such as jewelry and electronics. Once there they may buy items like clothing, (yes items that like clothing that are not taxed here in Massachusetts) tobacco, liquor (which is market-rate cheaper and now subject to MA-sales tax) and even lottery tickets. If smart they don’t stop for a snack in NH which has a 9% meals tax. (But MA which is supposed to think of the poor, has a 6.25% meals tax now)
Charlie Pierce’s article isn’t all bad. He quotes Barbara Anderson who sums up the tax revolt tradition in Massachusetts brilliantly.
“To me,” she says, “taxes have never been about the money. It’s been about power and who’s in charge and who’s in control.”
Given what taxpayers have to endure in terms of government incompetency and its cost to the economy and morale, it’s baffling why the Tea Party movement isn’t even bigger in Massachusetts