I hate uninformative declarative statements because they steal our jobs and raise our taxes.
And if that was all I said, how would you learn anything? For example, today I went to learn a little more about Question 3
on the Massachusetts ballot. I read the two "argument" pieces to be found on boston.com and learned nothing, here are some examples:
"[Question 3] does NOT reduce spending for cities and towns, police, firefighters, schools, roads - NOR any essential service. Not a dime."
"We all want good schools, police and fire protection, safe roads and bridges, clean water, and quality health care. Cutting the sales tax by more than half will prevent us from achieving these goals we share."
How am I to know which is true? Neither "article" cites sources, the sources (the secretary of state's election website and boston.com who reprinted them) are moderately authoritative. Both authors work form activist organizations, so one *might* construe that they are experts, but really they just sound like kids on a playground.
So, to find more information we go to the Hidden Web. I searched for "Massachusetts Sales Tax" and "question 3" but because this is such a recent issue, there wasn't much. Top hits consisted of:
--A Nurses Union publication against question 3 with additional unsubstantiated, but better explained claims [Ohlson, R. (2010). GET THE FACTS! What are the facts about Question 3-- the ballot question that would cut the Massachusetts sales tax by more than half?. Massachusetts Nurse, 81(7), 8. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.]
--A USA Today article about how many states are considering lowering sales tax [Dennis, C. (Oct 10, 2010). Final push on for votes. USA Today, Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.]
So now what? New database new search found: Massachusetts Sales Tax Could Be Cut by More Than Half in November. July 19, 2010 v373 i33351 p36The Bond Buyer, 373, 33351. p.36. Retrieved November 02, 2010, from General Reference Center Gold via Gale:http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/start.do?prodId=GRGM&userGroupName=les_main
(Lesley access only, sorry). This article states:
"Roughly $4 billion of Massachusetts School Building Authority debt and $3.4 billion of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bonds are secured by a dedicated 20% of collections from the 5% tax, or one cent for every five cents collected...The money helps to pay down bonds used to finance the Central Artery project, known as the Big Dig. The 1.25 percentage point boost also supports $160 million of aid the state allocated to the MBTA in fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 to help the mass transit agency balance its operating budget."
So we're still paying for the Big Dig. The article also brings up the fact that currently MA bonds are very highly rated (AA+), which means we can sell them to investors to raise money. Many pension funds are required to invest only in AA or better rated assets (I learn that from Planet Money
). If Massachusetts' rating went down, say because we could no longer back up our promise to pay back bond purchasers, the state's ability to raise capitol would be diminished. Here's a Reuters article
on the same subject. Also, we know
what happens when the MBTA even starts to talk about cutting back service...no one wants that.
Since this is such a current issue, most of my sources will be online. I want to know when this thingy (law? bill?) was proposed and by who. I found Ballotpdia
which, much like Wikipedia, is probably only as trustworthy as it's users make it...but they
cite sources!The Roll Back Taxes website, sponsors of the measure
the Opposition, has a scary map and tiny list of articles in the lower right corner (mostly editorials)
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, they're against Question 3, there are many allegations that they are "fat cats" (just Google it, I don't have time for everything)
But even those are not so good. Here's a pro-question 3 article from the Boston Globe, but it only sort-of gives evidence. The author does cite a study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Sufolk that claims jobs will be created by a tax cut. I intend to read this study as it comes from an academic source and has many citations. HOWEVER, the press release quotes the BHI's executive director David G. Tuerck...who is listed as a speaker for the Third International Conference on Climate Change, hosted by the Heartland Institute. This conference is generally attended by people who don't believe in global warming. [EVKIN, A. (2009, March 9). Skeptics Gather to Discuss Why Global Warming Isn't Such a Big Worry. New York Times, p. 12. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.] Although this doesn't entirely destroy Tuerck's credibility or the report issued by his institute, it certainly increases my skepticism.
In the end, especially since voting closed an half hour ago, I guess you could do worse than pick an organization whose values you believe in and do what they suggest, be it a union, non-profit, political party, or pundit. I guess it's nearly impossible to actually evaluate these things in advance.