The tax man speaketh

Letters to the Boston editor, May 15, 2009

I agree that we need to take a long, hard look at what we value in our state — healthy air and water, good schools, roads, safety — and figure out how we’re going to pay for it! While I also agree that this means Massachusetts needs to raise revenues, the authors of your recent “Tax Time?” editorial have missed the mark in their choice of the tax options on the table.

In that April 24 editorial, they wrote: “Increasing the income tax is the worst option. It is too broad-based, taking money from people who need every penny.” In reality, the income tax is one of our most progressive taxes (low-income residents pay a smaller share of their income than do wealthy residents). The only more progressive option is the capital-gains tax, because it is paid almost exclusively by higher-income folks with extra cash to invest. Better, the income tax has the greatest potential of any tax option to bring in additional funds. And because it is so progressive, it can be combined with other tax options — say, the more regressive sales tax — to create an adequate, balanced package.

This package could be put to one vote in a single revenue bill that could also include the governor’s candy and alcohol options. By creating an adequate, balanced tax-revenue package, we can all work together to build the communities and public structures that make Massachusetts a great place to live.

In full disclosure, I work on the ONE Massachusetts project at the Public Policy Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that deals with these types of issues. That being said, our organization has not endorsed a specific tax package, and the opinions I have stated above are my own.

Harmony Blakeway

Culture-shock jock
Per your “Boston’s Severin Problem” editorial: if WTKK does decide to reinstate shock jock Jay Severin after having suspended him for his egregious, racist characterizations of Mexicans, it might also consider changing its call letters to WKKK. At least then the radio station would be demonstrating the courage of its execrable convictions for enabling and condoning his hateful diatribes over the past decade.

John Kyper

If you listen to Jay Severin on a regular basis, you know that he differentiates between legal and illegal immigrants all the time. He absolutely did not direct his comments at all Mexicans during his recent screed.

The worst part of the recent broadcast that got him suspended was the use of the word “primitives” to describe Mexicans. But Severin was referring to the country of Mexico as a Second or Third World country. He was simply stating the obvious: many of the illegal immigrants have no English skills, minimal education, potentially less vaccinations against disease, etc., because of where they lived before coming to the US.

I view this as a matter of conditioning, not a race issue — and I think Severin is of the same opinion. We are talking about people who can’t, or chose not to, find jobs in Mexico, after all, and settle in our country. This is a burden on our government. Many are making do working under the table or with false Social Security numbers. Many are taking advantage of food stamps, welfare, public or subsidized housing, going to the emergency room for regular or easy-to-deal-with illnesses — all of which directly affects me.

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