Left In Lowell

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November 30, 2010

That’s No Farm Team

by at 3:28 pm.

(A silly reference to the minor league baseball system.)

The Patrick administration is announcing that, for the first time in this state’s history, a state bond program is rated at triple A.

Governor Deval Patrick, Treasurer Timothy Cahill and Legislative leaders today announced that the Commonwealth’s Accelerated Bridge Program bonds have been awarded the highest possible credit rating by two major rating agencies. Both Moody’s (Aaa) and Standard & Poor’s (AAA) assigned the Program’s triple-A credit ratings.

Over the life of the Accelerated Bridge Program, the triple-A ratings will save the Commonwealth an estimated $60 million in interest costs, and allow the state to continue to make critical investments in infrastructure at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“It is welcome news today that these rating agencies have assigned the Accelerated Bridge Program bonds the highest possible credit rating,” said Governor Patrick. “This is further proof that our strategy for finding new efficiencies in state government and investing in our broken infrastructure at record levels is paying
off. We will continue to manage state finances in a fiscally responsible way, as we have throughout these challenging times, in order to maintain our rating and our ability to make these much-needed investments.”

It’s really a shame that the election is over. I’d love to see Charlie Baker twisting himself in knots trying to spin this as a negative.

Thanks to the Governor for saving the Commonwealth a lot of money, and for beginning the process of fixing our long-neglected infrastructure. Not only is this of benefit to our economy because these bridges are essential to the movement of people and goods, but it is also important for public safety, and for keeping our Commonwealth’s good construction jobs. Win-win all around!

November 3, 2010

Now THAT Is Guarding the Change

by at 1:18 am.

“Patrick Roars to 2nd Term” reads the top headline on boston.com right now.

Patrick’s margin of victory was unmistakable tonight. Considering the problems we face and the tendency of voters to take out anxiety and anger out on the incumbents, deserving or not, beating Baker by around 7 points is a roar, and a resounding endorsement to start his second term.

Considering the mixed results nationwide, I am more convinced than ever that we chose the right state in which to settle. I think our future here is very bright - I only hope we can buck the national trends of obstruction and willful ignorance and economic self-destruction, in our small corner of the world. With four more years, we can really showcase a strong Progressive Experiment and pit it against the regression of the Republicans elsewhere.

Congratulations, Governor Patrick!

November 2, 2010

Go Vote - And NO On All Three

by at 8:04 am.

You know what to do today. Go exercise your democratic rights. (Update - find out where you vote and see a ballot preview here!)

Having been so busy lately (teaching, business, etc) I haven’t had much time to post about this election. But suffice to say, I am an enthusiastic NO on all three ballot questions. If any of these pass, we will see a regression in our state, and you will not like the results.

Regarding question one (return of the alcohol exemption) and question three (rollback of the sales tax to 3%), the last thing we need to do in the middle of a time of reduced revenues due to economic woes nationwide is to reduce revenues further by gutting taxes. Yes, math still works the way you were taught in school.

Look, no one loves paying taxes. Everyone would love to have that that $1.25 back on your $20 purchase. However, is that worth seeing more teachers laid off, fewer police, and longer lines at the RMV? We’ve cut the fat, folks, long ago. In fact, Patrick has done a lot to reform the state government - including state transportation department consolidation, which Republican governors have been talking about for years and never accomplished. We’ve started cutting the bone during this recession. Further reducing revenues is suicidal. Forget all the progress we’ve made on jobs, green initiatives, and our kids’ education if we have to cut more essential programs.

With regards to the alcohol tax rollback: don’t listen to the alcohol lobby that you are being “double taxed” on alcohol. What a lot of freaking whining! The excise tax is on volume and is so minuscule, it’s hardly even noticeable - if the excise tax were repealed, prices would hardly change at all. Most other states have a sales tax that applies to alcohol, alongside an excise tax. What the longstanding tax exemption on alcohol was, was a gift and a giveaway. Alcohol is not an essential purchase, so why the hell was it exempt? It should be subject to the same tax that is on all other nonessential goods.

On the sales tax reduction - really, you’re going to save about $3 on a $100 purchase. And remember, sales tax is not applied to most essentials in MA - clothing (unless you buy expensive Gucci) or groceries, for a start. A huge chunk of our discretionary spending budget comes from the sales tax. Is that worth seeing hundreds of teachers laid off? Or unsafe streets? The sales tax cut would be worth a loss of $20 million dollars to Lowell alone, if the cut were applied in full to local aid and Chapter 70 monies from the state. How many city services and school programs do you think $20 million would cut? And since it looks impossible, politically, for Congress to pass another stimulus bill next year, we will be losing the ARRA funding, which has been floating much of our state deficit from reduced tax receipts - our state would be further devastated by the loss of over half the sales tax.

On question 2, the elimination of comprehensive permitting to build affordable housing, also has a regressive result. Of course, many people are frustrated with this law and how it is applied in our communities. However, the repeal of it will have a devastating effect on families who need affordable housing. I don’t have to tell you we have some damned expensive housing costs here in MA. It’s a side effect of our leading-the-nation prosperity. The more people in the middle class and up can afford, the more expensive housing is. The more dense the jobs and opportunity, the more the demand for housing. For those who are in jobs that do not have the same level of opportunity, or for those who are underemployed, disabled, or retired with no savings, the availability of affordable housing is paramount to their survival.

Affecting how difficult is it to build affordable housing in Massachusetts means keeping some families out of the prosperity. That’s not what our state is all about. Maybe the law needs reform (and maybe it doesn’t), but eliminating it is no way to do it. It will only hurt some of our most vulnerable citizens. We’re better than that.

So, I will vote no to all three of the ballot questions. I wish we didn’t have to keep having the same damn debate over revenues and taxes - it’s exhausting to constantly have to defend what is undesirable by any human being. Where’s our ballot question enacting positive initiatives?? But as Governor Patrick has always said, we have to decide what we want government to do, and then decide how to pay for it. Ignoring the reality (and basic math) of the situation to vote for something that feels good now but will hurt us in the long run is just stupid.

October 31, 2010

Gov Stopping in Lowell TOMORROW! (UPDATED)

by at 11:15 am.

OK I’m a dumbass. The email SAID tomorrow, apparently I read it wrong, or too fast. Sorry about that! The Gov will be here TOMORROW (Monday) at 2pm. But that doesn’t excuse you from GOTV today. Do it before trick or treating tonight!

Just got word from our regional organizer that the Governor will be stopping in Lowell on his bus tour of the state. From his email:

The Governor is in the midst of a bus tour, that has been taking him across the state for one last contact with voters before Election Day. He will be coming by the Appleton Mills which is located at 219 Jackson st on Monday. If you are interested (and I hope you are!) please plan on arriving at 2pm, the Governor will be pulling up shortly thereafter.

You can help with GOTV by contacting the following people:
704 Middlesex Street, I-Hwei Warner, iwarner@devalpatrick.com
17 Kirk Street, Dan Lenos, dan@nikitsongas.com
73 East Merrimack Street, Melissa Roberts, donoghueforsenate@gmail.com

October 25, 2010

Baker’s Big Dig Memo

by at 10:53 am.

BMG has a full post on this, but I wanted to make a comment or two.

The memo found by an AP reporter is summed up thusly:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker wrote a memo labeling Big Dig spending “simply amazing,” warning that it would force “draconian” cuts to other road and bridge projects - and recommending they be taken only after his boss was re-elected in 1998.

So the smartest man in government played politics with the Big Dig, despite his claim that everything was hunky dory under his tenure as state budget guru? Shocked, I’m shocked.

Now, it is commendable that he would take a realistic look at the costs, since that was his job - but to suggest hiding it until after reelection (while understandable from a political point of view) is to not serve the public interests.

And the little-known fact is - fact, folks, yes - that the final price tag for the Big Dig was known about a decade before the number went public. The state knew that number, and they kept it hidden in fear of the political consequences. (The biggest problem was that since the project went on over such a long period, costs rose quite a lot - and of course, scope creep was another big factor.)

So really, it’s shocking for Baker to “discover” about the costs of the ‘Dig late in his tenure as Secretary of Administration and Finance, it really makes me wonder about the Republican executive branch’s handling of the whole project (Weld, then Cellucci). Who the hell in the executive branch was monitoring the thing??

And then, instead of leveling with people when the federal government threatened to, then cut off funding for the project, that it would be a burden to the state infrastructure budget, Baker and the Republicans came up with a crazy funding scheme that kicked the can down the road and nearly soaked the budget under Patrick’s tenure (luckily, Patrick was there to steer the “swaptions” ship to a better port.) They also hid the debt, in a manner of speaking, by burdening the Pike and the MBTA, among other agencies, with substantive portions of that debt - all while forcing the MBTA into “forward funding,” which set the MBTA budget in stone (instead of reimbursement for net cost of service, beyond revenues). This in turn has made it necessary for the MBTA to substantially raise fares, and the Pike to raise tolls.

Spot a pattern here? Baker wants you to believe that he was the smartest man in government back in the day, and that he would be again if elected. But all I see is politically-motivated coverups, schemes to put off the pain of debt, and mismanagement and subterfuge. I have not yet met a Republican businessman politician who doesn’t claim to be the guy who will be smart about managing the state but yet whose record says the exact opposite.

Democrats are better for business, better for our economy, better managers of taxpayer money, and at the same time more dedicated to providing a fair playing field for people and businesses to reach their potential, whether that’s strong education funding (first in the nation!), good public universities, ending homelessness while at the same time spending less, or reforming the state pension system, transportation system, or streamlining the permitting process for businesses - hands down, on all fronts, we deserve government under Deval Patrick…not tricks, lies, subterfuge and undue pain and suffering for our citizens from Republican slash and burn politics.

October 14, 2010

Patrick’s Good Review at…the Herald?

by at 9:44 am.

Via Charley (BMG) on Facebook (heavens, do we have to source Facebook now?), this link to a Boston Herald article on Patrick’s visit to the paper’s editorial board (bold mine):

There is a kind of unflappable reasonableness about Deval Patrick. The insurgent liberal who ran a brilliant grassroots campaign four years ago is now the incumbent who’s come to understand that the “merit” and “logic” of an issue is very often not enough to push it through the legislative meat grinder.

What Deval Patrick has come to learn in his first four years on Beacon Hill is that slogans and promises inevitably give way to building coalitions and seeking compromises.

I really can’t put it much better than that description of “unflappable reasonableness” written by Peter Gelzinis. It’s that unflappable reasonableness that lead me to support him in 2006, and that I continue to support. I find it ironic that in an age where partisans overuse the tired meme that “government is too partisan” and state that the people are tired of the bickering, here we have a reasoned, smart, quiet person just simply governing, but no one notices. Certainly, not the media, who would rather the strife. And so people don’t really get to have a sense of that reasonableness, unless they attend an event and get a chance to actually hear Deval Patrick in person.

The article mentions that Patrick isn’t much in the way of tooting his own horn, an essential part of politics. (Generally, it’s avoid taking responsibility for bad things and take responsibility for the good ones.) With this Governor, you just get a guy who wants things done. He’ll take the fanfare if you offer it, but generally, just wants to see that the state is better off when he leaves it, than when he went in.

And it is. Despite the downturn not of his making, this state is poised to lead the country on several economic and social fronts. We’re in the process of ending homelessness due to his support of the Housing First initiative. We’re educating our kids in the best schools in the country. And we’re bringing back jobs faster than any but one state in the union. Folks, that’s our choice in November. To go forward with the trends started under Patrick-Murray, or go backward to the old tired Republican playbooks (you know, the ones that slashed school funding, lost us some population, and reduced our economic might).

It’s time to give credit where it’s due - and, to guard the change.

September 16, 2010

Oh, Charlie…Tough Row to Hoe

by at 2:56 pm.

News today is that Massachusetts unemployment dropped again - to 8.8%, with another 4,000 new private sector jobs. The growth is less than the gangbuster spring we saw, but with the national average heading up from 9.5% in July to 9.6% in August (particularly, from the Census shedding their workers and government cuts federal, state and local), Massachusetts is looking particularly strong comparatively.

To be honest, though things are not peachy just yet, I wouldn’t want to be Charlie Baker (or Tim Cahill) trying to tell everyone that things are going downhill - since all the numbers indicate that in MA, they aren’t. The fact is, our problems were far shallower than they had any right to be, that Massachusetts under Patrick has reversed its population decline, and our recovery is faster and sooner than the rest of the country. That’s no accident, but a result of careful, responsible, and progressive policies put in place largely by this Governor.

So, let’s finish what we started. Come really to work this Saturday at 11am at Tsongas HQ, where the Governor will attend a unity rally and then kick off a canvass.

Update: And, in a nice change of pace, as reported by johnk on BMG, the July numbers for jobs in MA were actually upwardly revised. Yes, upwardly. John also says,

To get a sense of the accomplishment for the 64,300 job gains in 2010, Massachusetts ranks 3rd in the country in the rate of job growth.

Yeah baby. Progressive policies WORK!

September 15, 2010

Get Your Unity On

by at 6:29 pm.

And prepare to work!

Governor Patrick will be here Saturday, Sept 18th for a unity rally with all our Democratic candidates. It will take place at 11 AM at the Tsongas campaign HQ, 17 Kirk St downtown.

Patrick will rally the troops ahead of a canvass scheduled for after the unity event, so, time to get fired up, ready to go! This thing is not going to win itself!

September 7, 2010

FriendBank - Weekly Phonebank for Gov Patrick in Lowell

by at 12:33 pm.

Tomorrow night will be the first in a weekly evening “friend bank” for Deval Patrick organizers. Tomorrow it will start at 6pm at 17 Kirk St (the Niki Tsongas campaign HQ). Next week and beyond it will be weekly on Tuesday nights at 6pm.

For information, contact I-Hwei Warner at iwarner@devalpatrick.com.

Come on, people, a governor doesn’t elect himself. We have to work at it. See you tomorrow!

August 25, 2010

Lowell Sun Editorial, FULL of Sunshine…

by at 3:55 pm.

Or rather, it’s full of sh*t. Probably another edition of Jim “Logic? What’s that?” Campanini drivel. It has his signature pull-it-out-of-my…well. You know.

In it, he blames Obama, Patrick, and the Democrats for the reslumping economy we are, it appears, going through now. Of course, Campanini (ahem, I mean “the editor who wrote this”) has a real, electoral reason for doing this - he wants Republicans to win, so he’s gotta paint this as a problem with the leadership of the Democrats. To do so, he has to ignore general consensus of real economists (the reality-based ones who don’t work for the Heritage Foundation). Particularly with Mass job increases at 20 year highs, he has to make you think that despite this progress, it’s not progress.

All the real economists (the ones that win Nobel Prizes) have rejected trickle down (hey even Bush Sr. called it “voodoo” after all), affirmed Keynesian economics, and basically have said for a couple YEARS now that the big problem with the economy is that we didn’t stimulate it enough - and 1/3 of that stimulus bill we did get was, actually, useless tax cuts, to boot. (I find it odd how this is never mentioned in the context of conservative rants about the stimulus package. Maybe because it would help prove they are full of crap?)

These smart economists are now saying that what we’re seeing has an awful lot in common with the slowdown and retrenching of the unemployment rate in the 1930s after FDR and Congress got all deficit-hawky. And they are right, there’s a ton in common. And this deficit worry is the prevailing idiocy here and around the world. End result? Since we haven’t yet dug ourselves out of the hole we were in, we’re sliding back in now that we put the brakes on powering our way up.

It’s sort of like worrying about how to fix the patient’s broken arm while he’s still on the surgeon’s table having a heart attack. Simple triage dictates you deal with the worst problems first, then move on once you’ve stabilized the patient. This is pretty conventional wisdom for those who don’t still believe in the tooth fairy and Reaganomics.

And I love, just adore the whole concept of ignoring why we’re in this mess of a economic pothole in the first place - the tender ministrations of one George W. “I went to business school!” Bush. Who. Cut. Taxes.

Here’s the other piece of logic stupidity this editorial commits - it fails to take into account that the ONLY reason Obama has not fixed the economy more substantially (besides just how bloody deep it was to begin with) is the Republicans (and the few conservaDems) watered down any attempt to actually do the real things that needed doing - like going all in on stimulus rather that doing what most economists tell us is dipping one’s toe in.

If anyone’s to blame for the failures of this economy, it’s Bush, first, and second, Republicans in the Senate who prevented Obama from enacting a decent agenda that had a shot at actually working. But I can tell you, far smarter people than Jim Campanini say that the only reason we’re treading water instead of drowning to our deaths is because of the stimulus that was put into place. Without it, we’d be far, far worse off.

Oh, hell, for fun, because I haven’t done this in a while, let’s pick apart the arguments in the editorial one at at time…

Both Obama and Patrick have tried to tax and spend their way out of the recession rather than rein in fiscal policies and promote business investment.

In a recession, (says all the smart people in the world), if unemployment is high and there are no buyers, businesses will not invest in anything. Why in the hell would they?? They won’t create widgets (or houses, or sell services) if people are not buying them. Businesses are not stupid. They know that a widget sitting on a shelve is lost revenue. Apparently, this editor thinks that businesses are dumb and will build widgets if they get tax cuts - regardless of whether or not they have buyers!

However, if more people are employed (those much-maligned teachers and fire fighters and public employees whose essential jobs were saved, to name a few), they buy things. They buy services. They, in effect, create, what’s that word…demand. But this writer here thinks the Demand Faerie brings that to businesses in the night, I guess…

Democrats who once hailed the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan are now making excuses for its failure to create jobs. They say the package wasn’t big enough. What gall.

Who has gall? This writer ignores the fact that fully one third of the stimulus was in tax cuts as a sop to the GOP to get them to stop filibustering it. Otherwise, it would have been 1/3 more effective than it was. It was, at the time, being lamented as too small - our economy is just too big for a few hundreds of billions to drag us out of a Bush-dug recession.

Reviving the economy should have been Obama’s No. 1 priority.

I agree. And it was. The Republicans however, prefer a shitty economy so they could run on it, and blocked all the effective stuff that would have been otherwise directed towards the economy. Note, however, that the stimulus bill was basically one of the first things Obama ever worked on - a fact conveniently not noted here.

Instead, he directed Democrats to push through a costly health-care law that, when it kicks in in 2014, will add more financial burdens on business and workers.

Again, that was after the stimulus-that-was-small-and-1/3-tax-cuts was passed, and it was evident that none more would be had with the Republican filibuster threat. Also, health care is a huge, just ginormous portion of our GDP - more than all the socialized countries who’ve taken health care off the books of their private sector. Addressing it was a necessary long-term help to our economy, though obviously not a short term solution. Our businesses are drowning in health care costs that are just insane.

The bulk of the money has gone to protect government jobs — union teachers, police, firefighters, etc. — while ignoring the private sector, which creates jobs.

Yeah, cuz we don’t need those stinkin’ police, firefighters, and teachers…or their spending money to stimulate the economy, either. And of course, the editor here ignores the 20-year-high rate of private sector job increases in MA in the last few months. Funny how that happens. How much better does he think the private sector job growth can get, without breaking all records??

With more one-time stimulus money on the way, Patrick will be spreading the wealth to municipal governments to protect even more union jobs. It’s an election year, after all. A responsible leader, however, would tuck that money away in the state’s rainy-day fund, leaving it for the challenges of fiscal 2012.

Shorter Jim Campanini: unions suck. I hate them! Damn the weekends they gave us, and damn them for serving the Commonwealth with crazy policing, firefighting, and teaching all over the place. They should paid $20K a year, or not at all!

And, in the middle of the worst recession in ages, we should be SAVING! Saving for a rainy day! The hell with the reason we have a rainy day fund in the first place!

God, can you get any sillier than pretty much this entire editorial?

Of course, if you’re Campanini (*ahem* this editorial writer), facts and the words of real smart economists don’t really influence your view of the universe. You have your narrative all picked out and then torturously try to twist everything fit it. Reality doesn’t really factor in to it.

Whereas I’d rather actually solve the real problems of our time. But hey, that’s just me.

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