I'm sure many of you have heard that Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed a tax on soda and candy in his new budget and I'm also sure that some people are quite angry about it.
There have been some people who have put forth the argument that such a tax would cause people to consume less soda or candy. I'm afraid they are delusional. A few cents more will not cause a kid or an adult to reconsider his or her choice and instead seek out an apple.
Speaking as fat man with a sweet tooth, I have to say if I have to pay an extra nickel for my Mr. Goodbar than I will do so without thinking. The argument that a tax on candy is a public health move is just silly. Taxes on booze and tobacco have not prevented people from drinking or smoking.
What the proposal really means is that Massachusetts is so desperate for income that any item is fair game for a tax. Please frame it as it really is: just another tax on items that haven't been taxed before.
What's the alternative? Cutting waste.
This to me is a perfect argument for term limits. We need a legislature that is willing to make hard decisions and seek long-term answers to reduce redundancy, patronage and waste.
Now I know we have some good state reps and senators out here and I don't mean to offend them, but I doubt any of the founding fathers saw elected office as a career for people. The conventional wisdom is the longer a person is in office, the greater that person's power grows; however, the political obligations owed by that officeholder grow as well.
That's where waste is tolerated.
Granted, Patrick's administration has made headway on the consolidation of government and I applaud him, but we need much more.
Of course, those who do see this as a way to prod us with bad habits into good living could consider other items to be taxed.
How about other non-healthy food items, such as chips, dips, cookies or pastries? A fast food tax that is based on calorie and fat levels the healthier the item, the lower the tax.
Why stop at food? How about the sale of "adult" magazines and videos a morality tax so to speak? We could hit it all: booze, smokes, bad food and porn!
Dust off those high hats the Puritan wore! Let's bring back stocks and dunking on the town green, too.
We can tax Bay State residents back to being fit and moral -- right!
The news that Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut were awarded funding to improve our North-South rail lines is excellent. The creation or recreations of stops for the Vermonter train in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield will have a long-term positive impact for travelers by providing more choice and in the short-term will help boost the construction economy.
I've used Amtrak a lot over the past 20 years. I've visited my family in Richmond, Va., riding on Amtrak as well as having taken numerous trips to New York City.
I'm a fan of rail travel. I can sleep or eat or play with my laptop.
Yes, I know Amtrak is one of the whipping boys of conservatives. They like to point to it as evidence that a government-run business is always a failure.
Consider the following: Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said Jan. 12 that Amtrak had set a first quarter ridership record carrying nearly 7.2 million passengers during the first three months of fiscal year 2010.
"The days of wondering if Amtrak is going to survive another year are behind us. This year, and the years ahead are, and will be, focused on growth," he said.
The ridership number is 1.4 percent above the previous record of about 7.1 million set in the first quarter of FY 2008 which was the best ridership year in Amtrak history.
Passenger rail was once an efficient and affordable way to travel before it was allowed to wither.
Considering the energy savings provided by mass transit it is now more important than ever to have a renewed rail infrastructure in this country.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.
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