Crazy News From The Fringe

October 30, 2008

Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot Tuesday is the abolition of state income taxes. No, that’s not a joke. I could probably just end this post here, as the craziness of the proposition should speak for itself, however, apparently about 1 in every 2 or 3 voters in the Commonwealth believe this to be a good idea. I’m assuming they don’t all live in makeshift wooden shacks out in the forest.

The proposition is supported by crazy woman Carla “Small Government is Beautiful” Howell and her partner Michael Cloud. Howell and Cloud are both former Libertarian Party candidates for office. Howell’s grandfather was governor of the Commonwealth, her grandmother a famous Boston socialite. Howell and Cloud live together with their cats in Wayland and operate their organization out of their home.

The first line of their argument on the ballot in favor of the proposition is, “41% of government spending is wasted.” That’s a startling number for two reasons. First, that’s an awful lot of waste. Second, that’s pretty remarkable, measuring “waste” to such precision – what statistics geniuses managed to do that? Well, according to the Boston Globe:

“That figure doesn’t come from a line-by-line review of the state budget or an audit of government practices. It’s merely perception.”

Merely perception?!? That can’t mean what I think it means, could it?

Yes it does. The figure comes from – wait for it – “an April poll that asked 500 voters to speculate on the share of every tax dollar that state government wastes.”

I just want to be perfectly clear about this. Let it really sink in. They surveyed 500 voters. They asked each of them to take a wild, random guess about how much of their taxes they think are wasted. Then they averaged out their responses, and got 41%. I couldn’t make stuff like this up if I tried, folks.

And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this is batshit insane:

“‘It’s an absurd number,’ said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed budget research group. ‘That’s pulled out of the air. The public may think there’s 41 percent waste, but that has nothing to do with the facts.'”

Now, of course, that’s Michael “Workers Of The World United” Widmer of the MTF, which is a business-backed group. And I read “business-backed” to mean “somewhere to the left of Trotsky,” of course. And he probably supports the Terrorists.

And it’s all good, you see:

“Supporters of repealing the income tax say the figure is meaningful whether or not voters know its origins – and whether or not it’s precise.
‘We put it in quotes,’ said Carla Howell.”

Oh! They put it in quotes! Why didn’t you say so! Then of course it doesn’t matter that they pulled it out of their Libertarian asses!

“Howell, a former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, said she found it useful to be able to cite a number; the survey of 500 likely Massachusetts voters – conducted by the Republican pollster Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates – provided her with a tangible figure.”

Sounds fair to me. They didn’t have a number. They really, really, wanted a number. So they made one up! Or, more precisely, they took one from a Republican-sponsored poll that has nothing to do with the actual amount of government waste. What’s wrong with that?

“The actual percentage, 41, is not essential, she said.
‘It could be low. It could well be that the state government is wasting 70 percent of our dollars, or more,’ Howell said. ‘It’s the nature of government to be wasteful.'”

There you go. We’re going to say there’s 41% waste (not 40%, because that would sound like we’re making up a number – we’re going to say 41% because using a not-so-even number makes it look science-y and intellectual-y). But look, people, we really have no idea. And it doesn’t matter! It could be 70%. It could be 2%. But the thing is, it’s probably a lot. Probably even more than the 41% we made up. Because government is wasteful (which is what we’re trying to argue using the 41% number in the first place).

In related news, Carla Howell’s IQ is exactly 41, which makes her a moron. You see, I asked a bunch of people I know what they think her IQ is. I got a whole bunch of answers, and then I averaged them. I used Excel, so it’s real super-science-y. Anways, the average – let’s call it the “mean” to make it sound super-duper-science-y! – was 41. Now, I don’t know if that’s her IQ in REALITY, you see, so I’m going to use quotes. Carla Howell’s IQ is “41.” There, that looks about right. Now, I don’t know if that’s accurate at all, but you see, that’s not ESSENTIAL. In fact, her IQ is probably lower. It’s probably about 10. And I say that because it is the NATURE of Carla Howell to be a moron. Which justifies my saying that her IQ is “41.”

But listen, Joe-the-Plumber-Average-Six-Pack-Joe is eating it up:

“Charles Ormsby, who gave $65 to the committee and put its yellow-and-black campaign sign in his North Andover yard, said he has no qualms about displaying the figure, although he thinks the exact percentage is unknowable.”

Unknowable!!! Kinda like the existence of God! Can you prove that it’s NOT 41%??

“‘If I had to guess, I’d say it’s even greater,’ said Ormsby, who is retired from the defense and computing industries and serves on his town’s School Committee, as a fiscal conservative and opponent of overrides.
Ormsby said he wants government to be able to operate more like the private sector, without things like union contracts, lifetime pensions for employees, and prevailing-wage laws for contractors. He sees cutting the income tax – and the revenue it generates – as a start.”

Right on! Goddamn prevailing-wage laws! Fuck ’em! Get a second job!

I’m tempted to go on at length to make a serious argument defending income tax, but you know, it’s so absolutely stupid that I don’t know if I can do it. My brain already hurts from the above. And is Carla Howell really worth the effort? Yes, about 40% of the public is going to support this insanity. I don’t know what to say. A far as I can tell, the Libertarians have 2 arguments to make: (1) why should I pay for your fill-in-the-blank, and (2) now you’re being ridiculous. As in:

POOR PERSON: I need the state to pay for my kids’ education because I’m poor.

LIBERTARIAN: Why should I have to pay for YOUR kids’ education?

POOR PERSON: Well, I don’t own a house and you do. Why should I have to pay for a police force to protect YOUR HOUSE? Pay for your own private security guards. And pave your own road while your at it.

LIBERTARIAN: Well, now you’re just being ridiculous.

I’m not sure the thinking is any deeper than that. “I no like pay tax. Would rather pay Disney trip. Me hungry now. No like fire.” That’s about it.

Needless to say, VOTE NO ON QUESTION 1. That is, if you like having a government.

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