I consider myself to be a fiscal conservative. I don’t think that government
should spend money that it doesn’t have, and I don’t think it should provide
services that citizens don’t need or that the private sector can deliver more
I do believe that we should ensure a safety net for citizens who, through no
fault of their own, cannot provide for themselves. And too often, the reasons
why they can’t may lie with government’s own inactions, as we see with the
events that caused our current economic distress.
In thinking about government spending, I like to distinguish between “nice to do”
and “need to do.” We are currently paying for programs that are, at best, of
questionable benefit. While at the same time, we need to repair our crumbling
infrastructure and prepare our workforce for 21st Century jobs.
Here are types of Massachusetts government spending that I would advocate cutting:
- Eliminate the Governors Council. We are not a feudal society with a king and king’s council. We have a governor and a legislature.
- Substantially reduce or eliminate $145 million that Massachusetts annually spends on outside legal counsel. Each agency has its own staff lawyers.
- End the $7.8 million annual subsidy for the Hynes Convention Center and the $10 million subsidy for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. If the
rationale is that these institutions generate enormous business for Boston’s
hospitality industry, then the industry should pay the subsidy.
- Reduce the $39 million that the state spends on legislative operations. We don’t need a House Committee on Personnel and Administration when the House has a personnel office that does the same thing. Nor do we need so many court officers at the State House.
- Continue the reforms to our state pension and healthcare systems.
- As I mentioned in my previous blog article on the economy and jobs, create a state bank similar to the Bank of North Dakota, which is the only bank of its kind in the nation. We could call it the Commonwealth Bank of Massachusetts, whose sole purpose is to spur economic development.
From the history of all developed nations, I know that government investments in
education and infrastructure are essential to sustaining a robust, full employment economy. Just look at the GI Bill of Rights as one example, or our interstate highway system, public drinking water and the Internet.
Such investment supported the unprecedented U.S. economic expansion of the 1950s, 60s, early 70s. In more recent decades, disinvestment undermined our economic growth.
Our country, state and Bristol County itself cannot flourish and thrive when the
tension between classes of people becomes a “house divided”. When a small minority of people receives increasing amounts of the nation’s bounty—while the rest of us confront a lopsided declining share—we will fail as a nation.
The American experiment is predicated upon the fact that we are all in this together, that the American dream is not a rigged game. It is a promise not only of hope, but of reality—that it is within reach of those who work hard and who work smart.
Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in President Clinton’s administration from 1993 to 1997, best states this basic premise described above:
“The fundamental problem is that Americans no longer have the purchasing power to buy what the U.S. economy is producing. The reason is that a larger and larger portion of total income is going to the top. What’s broken is the basic bargain linking pay to production. The solution is to remake the bargain.”
If we are to achieve a vigorous economy, we must reinvest in our infrastructure. And while this will require some level of sacrifice from all of us, those who benefit most should pay a larger share. Accordingly, I would advocate the following:
- Raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour, thereby increasing income tax revenues and reducing social services costs.
- Increase the tax rate on dividend and interest income in order to raise $700 million in additional revenues. Create an exemption for moderate-income seniors.
- Retain the Massachusetts’ flat tax, but above a certain income level, institute a graduated tax, similar to the federal government’s Alternative Minimum Tax.
Massachusetts ranks 47th in the nation in its support for public higher education. This ranking is a terrible one, and it must be raised as much as it is possible to do so.
There are services essential to our wellbeing that only government can provide
effectively or economically. Mindlessly cutting government for its own sake can
sabotage economic growth while increasing societal costs. But every time we
consider spending taxpayers’ money, we should ask two questions:
Do we really need this? And
What is the fairest way to pay for it?
I am running for office because we need more independent leaders with vision who can collaborate with others to get the job of revitalizing our area done, and to restoring strength in our communities.
A. Keith Carreiro is a candidate to be the Massachusetts State Representative from Rehoboth, Seekonk, Precincts 4 and 5 of Swansea, and Precincts 1 and 2 of Norton. Keith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For the record, I believe that voters for the 4th Bristol District need to know that my opponent, Mr. Steven Howitt, will not take a few hours of his time to debate me. Apparently, he does not believe our fellow citizens need to hear why he should be re-elected, or why you should vote for me.