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In what some are describing as a "conspiracy" against the initiative, the state media has been nearly silent on the issue.

Want to Cut Taxes? Don’t Look to the Media for Help

By Mark T. Moore

President Bush recently signed into law an increase in the federal government’s credit limit from $5.95 trillion to $6.4 trillion dollars, a nearly eight percent increase. Forget about the relative merit, or lack thereof, of each of the federal programs accounting for the increased demand of taxpayer money, focus instead on the fact that our federal government can unilaterally raise its own credit limit. Imagine having the power to raise your own credit limit; that’s a scary thought for most of us.

As is often the case, budget binges come in waves, and state governments, despite a nationwide epidemic of budget shortfalls, continue pushing the spending bandwagon. Take Massachusetts ("Taxachusetts" for some) for example. During the past decade, citizens there have seen their state’s budget increase from $10 billion in 1991 to $23 billion in 2001.

In response to the state’s ballooning budget, the Massachusetts Libertarian candidate for governor, Carla Howell, began a campaign to drastically reverse the trend. Howell’s group, calling itself "Carla Howell’s Libertarian Committee for Small Government", has collected enough signatures to put a measure on November’s ballot that would repeal the Massachusetts income tax.

Thanks to the efforts of Howell and thousands of concerned citizens, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to vote for their own tax cuts. Ending the income tax would cut the Massachusetts budget by nearly half, forcing politicians to prioritize truly necessary programs and cut waste. This is grassroots activism at its best. This is big news. But try convincing the media of that.

In what some are describing as a "conspiracy" against the initiative, the state media has been nearly silent on the issue. Only one broadcast TV station has covered this story in the past eight months, and then only locally. There has been virtually no newspaper coverage. It is as if the media would like people to go to the polls ignorant to the fact that such a measure even exists. If the media can be enraptured by the banal story of a wealthy egotist circling the bottom of the Earth in a balloon, news of a state’s citizens having the chance to repeal their state income tax ought to at least warrant a sound bite. If people have not heard about the topic, they obviously have no chance to debate the measure’s pros and cons.

An objective media would be all over this story. If the measure passes, it will have huge ramifications for the state and country. Other governments would be put on notice that they are accountable for their spending. It would be a triumph of the little guys over the big guys, a truly American story. So why does Big Media -- or even state media for that matter -- not cover it?

It’s no longer news that much of our nation’s media has a decidedly liberal agenda. It likely does not want the Massachusetts (or any other state’s) income tax to be repealed and keeping voters uninformed is the best way to accomplish that goal. But why does Big Media care about government spending?

It’s actually quite simple; reducing government power reduces the Fourth Estate’s relevance, influence and power. Big Media has taken it upon itself to help shape the country’s priorities whether citizens like it or not. For example, much of Big Media reported negatively on the Bush Administration’s tax cuts. It also supports campaign finance reform, which gives an almost monopoly voice to Big Media at election time.

By controlling information on the airwaves, Big Media will be better able to help elect government officials who will then spend taxpayer money the way that Big Media wants them to. Big Media will protect the government cookie jar, increasing its role as de facto policy maker. For Big Media, it pays to be friends with a government that can raise its own credit limit because, in a way, that power is then enjoyed by it as well. That’s a pretty cozy symbiosis, one that neither Big Media nor certain politicians would want to give up just because some citizens don’t share or can’t afford the Big Government dream. The phrase, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," has never rung more true. Massachusetts voters have a chance to reverse that this November.

[Posted July 19, 2002]

Mark T. Moore holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics & Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara and is currently pursuing a Juris Doctor & Master of Public Policy degree at Pepperdine University.




Update:

November 7, 2002
Income Tax Barely Survives in Taxachusetts

On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters nearly passed a statewide ballot initiative (Question 1) to eliminate the state income tax. The measure failed 55-45 percent. However, the vote sent a strong message to Beacon Hill that there's little support among Bay State citizens for tax increases as a way to solve Massachusetts' budget crisis. It appears the tax-happy appropriators in the state house are going to have to do what the citizens they represent do when times are tough: CUT SPENDING.


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