Taxes

When Liberalism Finally Collides With Reality

A rebellion is brewing in liberal Brookline, Massachusetts over raising property taxes.

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Brookline, Mass.—Voters here will go to the polls May 5 to decide on whether to raise property taxes by $7.67 million for a year to fund increased spending on public schools.

And the surprising thing, in the hometown of Michael Dukakis, a left-leaning enclave where Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 79 percent to 21 percent in 2012 and Elizabeth Warren took 74 percent of the vote in the Senate election against Scott Brown, is that there is some strong opposition.

Driving or walking through the streets here, one sees more than a few "NO on #1" lawn signs urging votes against the tax increase. Opponents of the tax increase have put up a slick website, betterbrooklineoverride.com, complete with an elaborate online calculator that allows residents to figure out "how much more you will pay over the next six years."

To appeal to the left-leaning Brookline electorate, opponents of the tax increase have also framed their campaign carefully. They insist that they aren't opposed to any tax increase; they just want a smaller increase, in the $5 million to $6 million range rather than the $7 to $8 million range. And they stress that the tax increase could force out Brookline's middle-class residents and seniors, damaging the town's economic diversity and hurting vulnerable elderly people.

A campaign opposing a $7.67 million tax increase in favor of a $6 million one instead may strike Grover Norquist types as weak beer. On the other hand, one has to start somewhere. In the language of the tax increase opponents can be found the sound of contemporary American coastal liberalism colliding with reality, and who knows where that may lead?

Thrift, after all, is a New England virtue, one that opponents of the tax increase wish were stressed more in their town government. "Money is not the answer to everything," a former selectman, Richard Benka, said in arguing against the tax increase at a forum hosted earlier this month by the Brookline League of Women Voters.

"They are asking to fund wants, not needs," said another opponent of the tax increase who spoke at the forum, Carol Levin.

The campaign against the tax increase says on its website that it is concerned about "the philosophy of bigger and more expensive is better." It says, "Current levels of school spending are unsustainable: even before the proposed override, spending has outpaced growth in enrollment and town revenues and far outpaced many residents' income growth."

Some historical and geographical context will be helpful to outsiders. Proposition 2 ½ , a statewide Massachusetts ballot initiative passed in 1980, limits property tax revenues in Massachusetts and their rate of increase. Cities and towns can override Proposition 2 ½; those that do so tend to have higher property taxes but also higher property values and better schools. The May 5 vote in Brookline is a Proposition 2 ½ override that would go along with the town's previous overrides.

Choices on these issues by local voters has significant effects. The border between Brookline and neighboring Boston isn't like the light versus dark in those NASA photos of South and North Korea, but it is nevertheless a significant dividing line, so much so that the same house might be worth $100,000 or $200,000 more on the Brookline side than on the Boston side. Residents of properties that straddle the line have launched elaborate campaigns to send their children to Brookline schools rather than Boston schools, and Brookline has responded with similarly elaborate campaigns to keep them out. The status quo, so far as I can tell, has to do not only with the location, relative to the Brookline-Boston border, of the bedroom in which the prospective student sleeps, but also, within the bedroom, the location of the prospective student's bed, and his or her sleeping body, relative to the border. This all has to do, too, not only with taxes but also with race and with Boston's legacy of court-ordered busing and school desegregation versus Brookline's neighborhood schools.

Meanwhile, Brookline has changed; its most famous residents are no longer Larry Bird and Michael Dukakis; they are now Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, and John Henry.

More famous than any of them is John F. Kennedy, the Democratic politician whose birthplace on Beals Street in Brookline is a National Historic Site. It was Kennedy, campaigning in Pennsylvania in the closing days of the 1960 presidential race, who said, "The property tax in most urban communities has reached the point of diminishing returns…I come from a city where the property tax is about $103 or $104 per thousand dollars, and the assessments reasonably high, and at that point I say it becomes confiscatory."

If Brookline's brewing tax rebellion has a national impact, let's just say it wouldn't be the first time.

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  1. Proposition 2 ?

    This is a joke, right?

    1. lol, the name ? no. Supported and lead by Citizens for Limited Taxation

  2. Voters in Brookline, Massachusetts, will go to the polls May 5 to decide on whether to raise property taxes by $7.67 million

    And that’s per-household!

  3. And they stress that the tax increase could force out Brookline’s middle-class residents and seniors, damaging the town’s economic diversity and hurting vulnerable elderly people.

    Unintended consequences? Unforeseen effects? These are not things that happen in carefully-planned policies like property tax increases.

    The government needs more revenue for its social programs, so the government collects more revenue for its social programs. Said social programs benefit the population. It’s all been mapped out. The opponents are starting to sound like those disgusting tea baggers, quite frankly.

    1. Slow clap.

  4. It was Kennedy, campaigning in Pennsylvania in the closing days of the 1960 presidential race, who said, “The property tax in most urban communities has reached the point of diminishing returns?I come from a city where the property tax is about $103 or $104 per thousand dollars, and the assessments reasonably high, and at that point I say it becomes confiscatory.”

    Huh. so much for that.

  5. What is surprising about this? Liberals want ‘YOU’ to pay more taxes. They themselves do not want to pay more taxes.

    1. Well, it has been said for decades that a Conservative is a Liberal who has been mugged. Maybe being mugged by your government counts?.

    2. Now, now, they will grudgingly pay 5% more after you’ve been forced to pay 25% more.

  6. The status quo, so far as I can tell, has to do not only with the location, relative to the Brookline-Boston border, of the bedroom in which the prospective student sleeps, but also, within the bedroom, the location of the prospective student’s bed, and his or her sleeping body, relative to the border.

    Is this a joke?

    1. That’s not the only place where such things happen. In Baltimore, it was resolved by having the city cede certain houses that straddled the border to a suburban county.

    2. It has to be… how do they know such information?

      1. In Massachusetts, the property tax isn’t just based on your deeded property, the taxman comes in and assesses the value of your interior.

        1. So throw a big party and trash the place the night before?

        2. New Hampshire is similar, though the assessor can decide not to come into the house.

          If he wants to come into your house, and you don’t let him, you lose the right to challenge his assessment.

          1. Live free or, oh come on in, I wouldn’t want to lose permission to appeal.

            1. If he wants to come into your house, and you don’t let him

              What if she decides she doesn’t want to despite you saying she has your consent to search — while you don blue gloves, chamber a round, and give her stinkeye. Maybe throw a plastic tarp on the floor, a La Dexter.

  7. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the county executive wants a tax increase for the county’s horrible public schools. The less goodthinkful have been pointing out that the county already has one of the five best funded school systems in America. The true believers have gone past simply ignoring funding statistics to actively arguing why such statistics don’t prove anything.

    1. The true believers have gone past simply ignoring funding statistics to actively arguing why such statistics don’t prove anything.

      You yourself said that the schools are horrible. Therefore being the best funded school systems in America doesn’t prove anything.

      1. It proves something about the efficacy of throwing money at the problem.

        1. That there’s never enough?

    2. You’ll never find a dumber bunch than public school proponents. Well, maybe net neutrality advocates. Okay, you’ll never find a more mendacious bunch… except possibly anyone still harping on the war on women trope. Okay, you’ll never find anyone whose matrix of dumbness and mendacity equals or exceeds… you know what? I need a pen and napkin.

  8. You know, you people bitch all the time, but the idea that plebs might have input in whether their taxes are to go up? Nigh unthinkable up here.

    So our beloved city mayors, because they want a pharaonic $7.5 billion bundle of transit projects needed to come up with $2.5 billion in cash themselves, then province and state are supposed to chip in equivalent amounts. Their solution (which they waited to even come up with for years in hopes that Liberals will get the boot and socialists will go in) is increasing sales tax by 0.5% and giving them all the money. Provincial government, which is supposed to eat the political fallout of increasing tax and then deliver money to these fucks, said, sure, if populace of the metro area agrees.

    You’d think they’d said, “sure, if twenty puppies a drowned each day” from the reaction of all the great and good. Literally only people who don’t want to see the tax go up are…well…majority of population. Every business, government, academic and media organization is fighting for it (using millions of public dollars, of course). And they are butthurt that government dared ASKED the populace whether they want to pay more or not. Just command it, and they can eat dick.

    1. (screw you word limit, I’m verbose!)

      Luckily for the mayors, it’s a mail-in ballot with no verification beyond birth date, so I’m expecting a surprising surge in YES votes coming in waves when the tally is revealed. If they bother telling us daily tallies (the votes are being received and counted over period of two months, but no results are given).

  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMzdtFknWYM

    This is all I can think of after reading the title.

  10. And they stress that the tax increase could force out Brookline’s middle-class residents and seniors,

    So, the tax increase will meet its goals then. This is Brookline after all.

  11. Residents of properties that straddle the line have launched elaborate campaigns to send their children to Brookline schools rather than Boston schools,

    Except when Brookline residents want to send their kids to Boston Latin School, then they launch elaborate cheating schemes.

  12. and at that point I say it becomes confiscatory.”

    That’s the part progressives love the most.

  13. Ira Stoll on Liberalism Colliding With Reality

    Do you have time?

    Residents of properties that straddle the line have launched elaborate campaigns to send their children to Brookline schools rather than Boston schools, and Brookline has responded with similarly elaborate campaigns to keep them out.

    Of course if you have two county governments giving away free shit, people will tend to move where the free shit is better. That is what economists mean when they say “incentives matter.”

  14. “Meanwhile, Brookline has changed; its most famous residents are no longer Larry Bird and Michael Dukakis; they are now Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, and *John Henry*.”

    John Henry said to the captain,
    “Well, a man ain’t nothin’ but a man
    And before I let a steam drill beat me down
    Gonna die with the hammer in my hand…

    “I’m throwin’ nine pounds from my hips on down
    Just listen to that cold steel ring”…

    John Henry drove his fifteen feet
    and the stream drill only made nine.

    1. That steam drill is a phallic symbol
      But it only drilled up to nine
      So, following this same metaphor
      Its dick is shorter than mine

  15. There may be some vocal opposition to the tax increase but if you think it won’t pass, you’re out of your damned mind.

    I lived in the greater Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area for a bunch of years and while a few people may squawk about taxes going up, they inevitable go up.

  16. Stop calling what Warren et al. espouse as “liberalism.” It is the opposite.

    1. ^^^THIS^^^

      Let them have the meaningless descriptor ‘progressive’.

      1. If you are going down the wrong road, the most Progressive person is the first one to realize the error and turn around.

  17. A campaign opposing a $7.67 million tax increase in favor of a $6 million one instead may strike Grover Norquist types as weak beer. On the other hand, one has to start somewhere. In the language of the tax increase opponents can be found the sound of contemporary American coastal liberalism colliding with reality

    That campaign is just the more communist wing of the left duking it out with the more socialist wing how fast to get to 100% tax rates.

  18. “I come from a city where the property tax is about $103 or $104 per thousand dollars, and the assessments reasonably high, and at that point I say it becomes confiscatory.”
    Err, no, it ‘becomes’ confiscatory when it ‘becomes’ a property tax. Did a real person actually say this?

  19. Liberalism collides with reality. But don’t expect the closed head injury to be treated.

  20. “…Brookline’s brewing tax rebellion….” What rebellion? A few people are vocally opposed, without any indication it’s widespread. If the Increase is voted down, and not replaced with anything close to a still-confiscatory $6 million increase, then there will be a story.

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