, Salem, MA

March 26, 2013

Our view: Let's have real 'adult conversations'

The Salem News

---- — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has an off-putting habit of talking down to the very people he’s trying to persuade to see things his way.

Whenever the governor is attempting to schmooze Bay State taxpayers into opening their wallets, he casts himself as the one who gets it and who has been trying ever so patiently to explain things to the rubes who just refuse to understand.

Like when Patrick was stumping in 2009 for a 19-cents-per-gallon hike in the state’s gas tax — which would have made ours the highest in the nation — he told an audience in Haverhill that “grown-ups” understand we “can’t have something for nothing.” At the time, the state budget was something around $28 billion — which is a whole lot of “nothing.”

Patrick rolled out his condescending attitude again in 2011 when he said we need to have “an adult conversation” about raising revenues to fund improvements to the state’s aging transportation infrastructure.

Now, Patrick is again trying raise taxes — $1.9 billion this time, which he plans to raise largely by hiking the state income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent while dropping the sales tax to 4 percent. Even as Democratic leaders of the Legislature are scuttling away from Patrick’s revenue proposals like crabs along the tide line, the governor proclaims that he thinks the $1.9 billion figure is the “right number” to fund his transportation and education plans. And, again, he has called for an “adult conversation.”

And that’s ironic, given whom he rolled out last week to plead his case for him — dozens of kids.

So much for adult conversations.

Last week, the governor appeared on the Statehouse steps surrounded by 100 teenagers affiliated with a coalition of youth groups and advocates calling itself Youth of Massachusetts Organizing for a Reformed Economy, or YMORE. Its mission, according to a press release, is “to raise teen voices for fair revenue.” Word to the wise: “Fair” never means “less.”

As they surrounded the governor, the young people held signs, some with one-word slogans such as “compassion,” “equity” and “courage.”

It’s a pity that no one has the “courage” to tell these young people the truth: The politicians they so willingly serve are bankrupting their futures. There is no free lunch. Someone, someday, will have to pay for all the marvelous programs and initiatives purchased today with borrowed or squandered money. Guess who, kids!

Massachusetts is struggling to claw its way out of a recession. The state’s tax-supported debt is among the highest in the nation. Its pension system is woefully underfunded. Yet, Patrick wants to raise taxes on every wage-earner in the state.

By all means, let’s send the kids home and have an adult conversation. There is a real discussion to be had, for example, over the spending needed to repair our state’s crumbling infrastructure. Of course, for a conversation to occur, both sides need to listen.