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Howie Carr: Taxachusetts – it’s back

Why are we still here in Massachusetts?

Because we’re not all there.

Someone told me that joke recently, and it seemed appropriate for what’s going on. I mean, everything has been spiraling out of control here for quite some time. But it seems to be getting worse, crazier, not making any sense whatsoever.

Just to take one example – nip bottles of alcohol. There’s a movement to outlaw the little mini-containers, and I get it.

Winos chug them – the smaller the bottle, the larger the problem. They increase litter. And perhaps worst of all, they’re easy to hide and drink while you’re driving.

Remember what they found in Rep. David “Sleepy” LeBouef’s wrecked car when he was lugged for driving legless last year — multiple containers of Dr. McGillicuddy’s non-prescription Wild Grape elixirs.

So you can understand why it might be good public policy to get rid of nips. Yet at the same moment, some legislators on Beacon Hill are pushing to allow barrooms to sell mixed drinks to go.

How does that make sense? You want to outlaw mini-bottles, but simultaneously allow drivers to grab cold highballs that go down easier than straight booze, and will likely contain more booze than the standard 1.7-ounce “airplane” bottle.

Also, don’t most states, including Massachusetts, have a law on the books against “open containers” in cars?

How about gambling? First the state legalized casinos, and now sports betting. Guess what’s happened – state lottery sales have taken a big hit, especially from sports betting. Who could have ever seen that one coming?

We all understand that gambling, like booze or drugs, can get out of control. What used to be called a “vice” is now a “disease.”

Once you had to know a bookie to make a bet on a sporting event. Now you just need an app on your cell phone. How do you think business is doing?

What the Lottery did to bingo games at your local parish church a half-century ago, online sports betting is now doing to the Lottery. Once again, it’s Schumpeter’s creative destruction of capitalism, even if the Lottery is a state-run enterprise.

But the Lottery has a solution to its declining revenues. It’s peddling a new scratch ticket – a $50 scratch ticket! What could possibly go wrong?

I was only a kid at the time, but I can still remember the arguments made in the Legislature against the Lottery back in the early 70’s. Oh sure, the Catholic church said, Beacon Hill will start off with just a once-a-week drawing. But then it’ll be twice a week. Then they’ll go to daily numbers, like the Mob. Then it’ll be Keno, and punch cards, and big multi-state games….

Guess where the $50 scratch tickets are selling fastest? (Hint: it’s not Weston.)

Next we have drugs. By a narrow margin, Massachusetts legalized weed a few years back. (I voted against it.) It just didn’t seem like this society needed yet another drug, gateway or otherwise.

As the Commonwealth made it easier to get a good buzz on, we also decided to outlaw menthol cigarettes, because they’re so addictive. Now, does anyone seriously believe that if you have a severe tobacco jones, you’re just going to quit because you can’t get Newports?

No, you’re just going to switch to Marlboros or something else. Or if you live close enough to the border you’re just going to drive to New Hampshire or Rhode Island.

But cigarettes are so dangerous, right? Of course they are. On the other hand, has anyone working in a cigarette factory or distribution center ever died after inhaling tobacco dust that caused a fatal asthma attack?

But that’s just what happened to a young woman in Holyoke who worked for one of the new weed companies. She died last year after breathing in cannabis dust. The company that owned the facility just announced that it is closing down all of its operations in Massachusetts.

Newports take decades to kill you. Weed can apparently get the job done in a matter of months.

Have you heard about the plummeting tax revenues in the Commonwealth? Working people, Americans, are fleeing the state at the rate of 1,100 a week.

Non-working people, illegal immigrants, are flooding into the Commonwealth. Unlike the people who were leaving, they must be supported. In Taunton, among other places, they’ve taken over an entire hotel, 160 rooms.

According to the city, the state is paying the hotel chain more than $150 a night for each room. Plus all the illegals get three hot meals a day, delivered, which costs an additional $37 per day, per person.

No wonder the state’s taxpayers are clearing out. In terms of flight per 1,000 residents, Massachusetts ranks now fourth in the nation, trailing only New York, California and Illinois.

Just like with the death and unemployment rates during the recent Panic, Massachusetts is punching way above its weight class.

The median rent in Boston is the second-highest in the nation, behind only New York City — $3,839 a month here vs. $4,032 in New York, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

The proposed solution? A new “transfer” tax on real estate transactions. That’s what the “advocates” are lobbying for on Beacon Hill for this week – maybe up to 2% on transactions of over a million bucks.

Someone would have to pay that extra $20,000 or so to the hackerama. Who do you think would end up footing the bill – the tenant or the landlord?

But that’s okay, because the money from this latest new tax would be used for… affordable housing. Wink wink nudge nudge.

Then there’s mass transit. There’s not enough money for the MBTA. Hey, let’s make everything free! That should solve the funding problem!

Did any of these people ever hear of the old saw, that if you want to get more of something, you just have the government subsidize it. (Think illegals on welfare.)

If you want to get less of something, you just tax it more. (Think American citizens who aren’t on welfare.)

Taxachusetts – it’s back. As for all of us who’ve been in Massachusetts most of our lives, we’re here, as the old country song goes, for better or for worse.

But not for long.

 

 

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