^ Charlie Baker 2013 : taking it to real people in the real world

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GOP Governor hopeful Charlie Baker tweeted at 9:55 AM this morning :

“Visiting the team at the Dimock Center to discuss health and social service issues with one of Boston’s top provider groups.”

With that tweet — the first, since the campaign began, that i have seen in which he addresses health issues, and in Boston, no less — Baker pretty much said to the GOP right-wing “Game On !”

Baker does face a fight from the Right. He faced one, as Governor nominee, in 2010 too : but then, the GOP had a Senator, Scott Brown, who wielded his power to tamp down that year’s  Tea candidate, with complete success. This time there is no Senator Scott Brown in office, and the GOP right-wing looks far stronger. Its candidate in the Special Senate election, Michael Sullivan, won 33 % of the vote in the GOP Primary. Today’s Right uses all the social media linkages. A new pressure group,” Mass Fiscal Alliance,” is importing the Cato Institute’s anti-social safety net propaganda — devious stuff — into the boil.  The Right has also spurred a ballot referendum called “Tank the Tax,” collecting well more than the 68,000-odd voter signatures needed to be printed on the 2014 state ballot. This effort expanded the right wing’s reach beyond the Michael Sullivan voters into the 15 % vote that libertarian-ish Dan Winslow won at that Senate primary and even into the 51 % garnered by non-ideological Gabriel Gomez.

Baker’s challenge has steepened in the past week thanks to two developments : ( a ) one Max Fisher, a Tea Party member from Worcester County — ground zero for right-wing doom-saying in Massachusetts — announced his candidacy for Governor and ( b ) Karyn Polito, also of Worcester County, and a former State Representative, announced her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.  Fisher’s candidacy doesn’t scare a whole lot, but Polito’s does. She was a Sullivan supporter and — so reports today’s Boston Globe — spoke at a right-wing event honoring one Allen West, whom some may remember as an outspokenly hateful one-term Florida Congressman. West is a hero to the folks who sling the word “patriot” around as if mouthing a phrase with seven bleepable letters. That Polito would even be in the same county as such a man, much less speak in  his honor, casts a pall upon the GOP’s Governor prospects, already damaged in Massachusetts by the contemptuous 2012 Presidential campaign and all but poisoned by the recent government shut down.

Yet now, on the very morning of the Boston Globe article entitled “Running Mate Issue Gets Thornier for Baker,” Baker tweets about health care and social service ! It caught my attention, and it should catch yours. Either he sees Polito as his shield against the angry right, freeing him to discuss issues that matter to the vast majority of voters, or he is sending the right — and Polito — a message that he will not be intimidated, will in fact move aggressively away from right-ism and make IT his bogey man, as it already is for most Massachusetts voters.

We will soon find out which of the two courses Baker has chosen. Meanwhile, the fight is on, as anyone following Worcester County Tea-publican’s facebook threads and anti-Obama tempests should know.  The right has its guns locked and loaded, and how ! It is itching to win one… As accomodative Republicans mix on the same floor as power-groupies and the Right wing contempt machine, the Massaachusetts GOP convention of March 22nd should be a barn-burner.

It may come down to the supporters of state Representative Geoff Diehl, of Plymouth County. Though Diehl has got aboard the “Tank the Tax” referendum drive, to great effect, I sense that his instincts favor the reasonable side. He proclaims himself a “Charles Sumner Republican” in a context strongly advocat-ive of civil rights for all, including voting rights — the original GOP message. My guess is that at the Convention, Diehl’s supporters find an alternative Lieutenant Governor nominee to Polito; and by all means they go with Baker, not Max Fisher. The Republicans of Plymouth and Norfolk Counties are not Worcester Tea guns. My sense is that they congratulate Charlie Baker speaking to Boston area voters. I also sense that Baker sees these South Shore Republicans the same way that I do. Baker has tweeted his outreach to all voters, in social settings, as well as to business groups and innovators, who he addresses no differently from how Democrats Steve Grossman and Don Berwick speak.

We might even see more of Baker out and about in Boston. Meets and greets, perhaps. Wouldn’t that be something ? Baker of course wants to steer clear of the ballot referenda. He wants not to become the grinch of welfare “reform.” He does not want to be talking “2nd Amendment.” Would you ?

No, Baker wants to talk innovation, health care, empowerment for immigrants, school reform, the huge numbers of homeless that the State now houses;  transportation improvements — all the issues that matter to most Massachusetts voters. He wants to move Massachusetts forward, not backward. The question is, will be allow himself to do that ?

We will soon find out what Baker is thinking — I may well have it wrong. In any case, don’t count out Geoff Diehl. His is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Geoff Diehl (R-Abington) : a good guy makes his pact with an unserious rant

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Massachusetts voters going to the polls next November face at least two referendum questions. One, we support : raising the minimum wage to $ 11.00 an hour. we have already editorialized our reasons for casting a “yes’ on this referendum. The  proposal, we strongly dislike. This one seeks to cancel the three percent gas tax hike enacted earlier this year, by which our state will fund all sorts of needed road and public transit repair and upgrades.

That “Transpo Bill,” as it has come to be known, has already taken one hit : repeal of the software tax included in the original enactment. We agreed that taxing technology was a wrong idea. Technology should be encouraged and aided, not nicked. It is different with the gas tax. Driving wears and tears our roads and bridges; their upkeep is a public charge –and we make it so because driving keeps the economy moving, pun intended — and thus the gas tax.

The same people who initiated the software tax repeal now initiate the gas tax repeal. This time, their motives are suspect. From what they say at facebook and on twitter, they appear to oppose all public spending, or to view it suspiciously, as if public spending were a kind of con man come to scam us. Many of these opponents are Tea sorts, who view public spending as extortion money paid to “moochers” and “illeagl aliens.” We’ve already seen their impact upon the EBT program, a food-buying fund by which those living on the margins try to survive.

A referendum that begins with this mindset is tainted ab initio. By two arguments, its sponsors seek to justify it. We reject both :

1. they tell us that gas tax revenue is often spent by the state on programs other than road and bridge repair and transit upgrades. True enough, but so what ? This happens because the anti-public spending crowd denies the state funds that it needs for those other programs, many of them immediate, such as policing, courts, and administration, to pay for which the State’s Commissioner of Administration and Finance simply decides to defer road and transit work. Denying the State new gas tax revenue is going to worsen this situation, not improve it.

2. they say that pegging gas tax increases to the cost of living index is “taxation without representation.” Representaive Geoff Diehl (R-Abington), one of the repeal referendum’s leaders, and usually one of the really good guys, actually tweeted last night that every single “COLA” hike, every year, should be voted on by the legislature !

Keep in mind that the gas tax hike itself is three percent. On a 20-gallon fill-up at current gas prices — about $ 3.35 a gallon — that’s a tax of $ 2.01 per fill up. the usual “COLA” hike these days runs about two percent. two percent of $ 2.01 = $ 0.04 ! For four cents a fill up we’re to call the legislature into session to vote ?

The entire argument crashes and burns. We already peg our sales tax to prices; and prices go up, automatically, without the legislature voting. That the gas tax hike takes effect without a legislative vote is simply to tie it to the price of gas. Otherwise the gas tax hike would be assessed upon gas only at the price of gas on the day the tax hike took effect.

The referendum proponents already know this. They know the whole flap is a nullity. Its  REAL purpose is to raise the hue and cry against “moochers” and “illegal aliens,” anti-spenders’ favorite scapegoats, and thus to help elect no-spending legislators in Districts outside the Boston media zone, within which the unseriousness of this device would be fully and quickly debunked.

Someday, if and when the no-spending crowd actually adduces a serious reason — and attacks upon its scapegoats’ desperate lives is both flip and despicable — for why they oppose taxes to fund State spending, we will listen respectfully to their arguments and maybe even agree. I’m not holding my breath.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere