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The election of a President is over, and the results are bad news for many of us — and for two thirds of us in Massachusetts. We knew that a win by Mr. Trump would have significant consequences for Governor Baker, and that’s what is happening right now.
Specifically, ambitious politicians in the Democratic party — and their operatives — are trying to bait Governor Baker to step into the war of words over the more controversial of Mr. Trump’s executive appointments.
It would be stupid of Baker to take the bait. He won’t. His opportunistic opponents, whose first priority is to solidify their own followings, probably know that he won’t take their bait. All the better for them. If baker won’t play their game, they get their portion of the playing field all to themselves and can be re-elected.
Do not misunderstand my drift. I’m as appalled by the naming of Steve Bannon, a cynical devourer of racism and an entire banquet of other bigotries, as Mr Trump’s Chief strategist. I’m unhappy to see Senator Jefferson B. Sessions III named to the Attorney General’s duties. I’m horrified to see retire General Michael Flynn, a racist friend of Russia’s boss, Vladi Putin, chosen to be Mr. Trump’s National Security advisor. These are ignorant appointments, nails in the coffin of civil rights, immigrant welcome, and the national interest. Yet what can Governor Baker do about them ?
For baker to speak out, as if he were a Senator, would have no effect and would divide the constituency on which his won re-election depends. If you’re seeking elective office, or re-election, you DO NOT divide the voters whose votes you need in order to win. You unite them.
Baker was elected Governor not to be a voice advocate, as are our Senators and Congresspeople, but to reform state administration and make it work better for everybody who uses state services. That is what he is doing. Almost every day he initiates an improvement, or tweaks a reform, or presses forward a reform already underway.
Baker’s reform initiatives run the gamut from grants to improve drinking water safety — a significant issue, considering what happened to Flint, Michigan’s drinking water — and smoother veterans’ services to grants for affordable housing construction, workforce retraining, addiction treatment reforms, municipal law reform, and of course rearranging the MBTA. Just two weeks ago Baker announced a huge, $ 25 billion overhaul of the state’s health care service, a job which, as he told me recently, will not be simple and might take several years to accomplish.
These are major reforms. They may not win twitter wars or engage the appetites of protest, but, as Baker said during his 204 campaign, “at the end of the day, people want better state services delivered better to them.” It will be hard enough for Baker to accomplish these transformations, given the resistance posed by entrenched vested interests : we see it in the successful fight by teachers’ unions to turn back school reform (the Question 2 ballot initiative voted down by 63 to 36), and we see it in the protests stated by MBTA employees in response to outsourcing of much MBTA performance.
In other words, it will be hard for Baker to do what is always hard for elected officials to do : assure the taxpayer a dollar’s value for a dollar of taxes.
It’s not even clear that Baker will be able to avoid a tax hike. The state’s revenue is not increasing, but service costs are. Fortunately for baker, a question on the 2018 ballot — establishing a surtax on incomes over$ 1q,000,000 — will pass easily and thus provide the state new revenue without Baker having to advocate it. Here, his political opponents are, ironically, helping him. (Do recall that I oppose the two-tier tax. rather than punish the very successful, I advocate raising the minimum wage to $ 15/hour, which would give low-income workers discretionary spending ability and move them from EITC recipients to taxpayers, thereby providing much more new revenue to the state than the “millionaire’s tax” would bring.)
Yet these are arguments for another day. My point in this editorial is that baker is not going to be baited off his game, is not going to do his opportunist opponents’ work for them, and IS going to continue doing the nuts and bolts jobs of reform that the voters elected him to do and attention to which has made Baker the nation’s most popular Governor.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere