As John McCain and Sarah Palin crisscross the United States accusing Barack Obama of promoting naive proletariat principles, people need to look no further than true blue Massachusetts for proof that Democrats and socialists are distinctly different breeds. Around here, while liberals expectedly defend “tax me” politics, conservatives are the ones who push “share the wealth” rhetoric.
The Committee for Small Government (CFSG) surfaced in 2002 with a mission to eliminate the Massachusetts income tax. That year, committee co-founders Carla Howell and Michael Cloud landed a binding referendum on the statewide ballot that would achieve their goal. The effort ultimately failed, but only after a surprising 45 percent of voters backed the measure. That result inspired CFSG volunteers — who, according to the committee’s Web site, number in the thousands — to return in 2007 and gather nearly 80,000 signatures to set in place Question 1, on which a “yes” vote supports abolishing the state income tax by 2009.
Cloud and Howell, both prominent Libertarians, have had relative success on the Commonwealth’s lopsided political landscape. In 2000, Howell ran for US Senate and received more than 300,000 nods as a third-party candidate. Cloud came even closer in 2004 against Senator John Kerry, winning a notable 19 percent of the vote. In May this year, as the anti-tax movement was gathering steam for its latest run at the ballot, observers including Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) President Michael Widmer predicted that, with Question 1, the pair could possibly achieve more than just a symbolic victory.
Massachusetts was virtually split over Question 1 until recently. A WBZ-TV/Survey USA poll conducted on September 24 found that 31 percent of voters favored the measure, while 34 percent opposed it. However, the most recent poll — taken three weeks following the aforementioned survey and about two weeks prior to Election Day — shows that only 28 percent of voters remain eager to vote “yes,” while 44 percent are dead against the initiative.
What happened? According to Jamaica Plain–based Union of Minority Neighborhoods organizer Horace Small, the CFSG picked the wrong state, and an even worse economy, to advocate selective socialism. While Question 1 defenders advertise that the proposed cut would save the average taxpayer $3600, people making less than $10,000 annually would only save about $53, while someone earning more than $100,000 would grip roughly $16,300.
“People around here who think they’re going to save money if Question 1 passes have it all wrong,” says Small. “Sure, people should vote for this, but not if they like snow plows or sending their kids to public school. I find it fascinating how Carla Howell is always the first person in line promoting socialism for the rich.”
The anti-tax tide turns
CSFG operatives entered the final theater of their anti-tax crusade on October 4, when about 200 heads rallied with the group inside the Great Hall at Quincy Market. For three hours, fringe conservatives railed against all things bureaucratic, from “union bums” to US Representative Barney Frank, who was declared the “architect of this current financial meltdown.” Cambridge Republican Garrett Quinn ripped “greedy government hacks,” and cheers erupted when Republican State Senate candidate Brion Cangiamila lambasted “people who blew money on toys they can’t afford.”