Thursday, August 27, 2009

Other Side Brings a Consultant on Board

Let me set the stage. Do you know how much you paid in Maine State Income Tax last year?

You probably have a rough idea, but may not remember the exact number. I’m guessing if you had ten minutes to dig through your files, though, you could find the specific amount.

OK, good job; now the next question. Do you know how much you paid in Maine State Sales Tax last year? If you’re like most of us, you don’t have a clue. $1.18 here, $18.00 there, and 30 cents for a Starbucks coffee; it’s all so easy to forget, and terribly inconvenient to keep track of. And sure as shooting, if I gave you a week to figure it out, you couldn’t come up with an answer. If you could, though, I bet you’d be damn surprised by how high the number is.

Hopefully this gives you some context for the “tax reform” legislation recently enacted by our benevolent State Government. Devoted as this act was to easing our pain, there are still those who doubt the true motivation behind the law, and so a citizens' veto drive is under way.

The Times Record editorialized on this very subject yesterday (Wednesday, August 26th.) I’ve often suspected that the paper runs editorials composed in the State Capitol by majority staff, and this item fits the profile, if there is such a thing. It is one of their finer examples of smarmy and condescending rhetoric, in which they reveal their disdain for us, and infer that we should know our place. Lapdog vs. watchdog, take your pick. I know where I line up.

Here are some of the best lines from the editorial:

”Critics of Maine’s new tax reform law betray the poverty of their ideas when they bad-mouth the statewide roadshow that Maine Revenue Services begins on Monday to explain the law to taxpayers.”
“Far easier to just keep repeating the slogan “Still fed up with taxes ” and call for a veto without offering any alternative.”

If that doesn’t sound like it was scripted in the Majority staff offices in Augusta, nothing does.

And I would respond as follows. “Supporters of Maine’s new tax reform law betray their naiveté in comprehending the real tax issue, and their inability to report objectively in the best interest of their readers.” And so the outlook for the old media continues to decline, just as the outlook for Maine does, and the two are intertwined.

Further, any journalist worthy of the title, and even more so an “editor,” would understand enough about the balance of power in Augusta to know that the ability to offer “alternatives” is non-existent. The committees squelch any minority offerings before they see the light of day, and the captive lap-dog media is not going to provide any coverage even if the alternatives made sense.

I’m obviously very biased about this subject, and unlike the Times Record, I decided to do something about it to maintain your respect. The surprising growth in Side readership, and the financial returns that accompany it, put us in a position to bring in a recognized consultant to provide expertise and objectivity.

And so it is with great delight that I introduce Side readers to Mr. O’Seau ObVeeous. Mr. ObVeeous is of French extraction, and is a Credentialed Captain and Master Mariner, with years of experience at guiding ships safely through the cesspools and swamps of government waters.

I present now the transcript of an interview I conducted with Mr. ObVeeous today.

Side: Welcome, Mr. ObVeeous. Thank you for your interest in helping our readers get the ‘rest of the story.’ Do you mind if I call you O’Seau?

ObVeeous: Actually, I’d prefer that you call me Captain ObVeeous. I worked very hard to reach this position, and I want you to address me by my official title.

Side: I apologize Captain. Have you had a chance to read and digest the editorial page I gave you, and if so, what is your initial reaction?

ObVeeous: Yes I have, and before I get more specific, can I keep the page? I caught some fish today, and I need something to wrap them in.

Side: Of course you can, Captain Sir. And your thoughts?

ObVeeous: Thanks. And let me be blunt: anyone who thinks that the ruling majority in Augusta is going to do anything, anything at all, to intentionally reduce state revenues and ease the burden on taxpayers is a few keys shy of a full keyboard, and shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Side: That seems a bit harsh, even for a Times Record editorial. Excuse me….I think I hear some music coming from your coat pocket; what is that?

ObVeeous: Not harsh at all. Anyone worth his salt, if you’ll pardon the mariner’s pun, knows that Maine’s so called tax reform is a cynical attempt to rig the rankings put out by those national taxpayer watchdog groups. In other words, make your state look better without giving up a damn thing.

Side: And the music, Captain Sir?

ObVeeous: Oh….that’s the musical Chicago playing on my MePod. I just love it. I don’t know if there is a real Billy Flynn in the Maine legislature, but there might as well be. Just listen to these words from “Razzle Dazzle.” They fit the situation perfectly.

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

Side: Wow! That’s pretty catchy stuff. But why do you think it fits the bill here?

ObVeeous: Well, to begin with, they even pulled the wool over the eyes of the Wall Street Journal, which should have known better. Instead, they became putty in the hands of the reigning Democrat majority and their propaganda machine, the same way the jury became putty in Billy’s hands at Roxie’s trial.

Side: Hmmm….good points, Captain Sir. Can you elaborate?

ObVeeous: You bet your dinghy I can, you squid. Sure, they lowered the income tax rate, but they also eliminated the deductions for property taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable donations. How many of your readers know that? Some bean counters I know calculated the effect overall, and while on its face the tax rate was lowered by 2%, the effective tax rate for most Mainers will dip only a skosh. And with all the new stuff covered by the sales tax, and the increased rates on so-called tourist items, your friends can figure on paying more in total taxes, even if they can’t figure out how and why. I bet they don’t even know Maine residents pay about two-thirds of the so called “tourist taxes” the politicians claim they’re exporting.

Side: Well, you’re certainly earning your fees today, Captain Sir! I hope our readers appreciate your expertise and insights.

ObVeeous: That’s what I’m here for matey. And did I tell you that anyone who thinks that the ruling majority in Augusta is going to do anything, anything at all, to intentionally reduce state revenues and ease the burden on taxpayers is a few keys shy of a full keyboard, and shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Let alone write editorials on the subject. While I’ve got your ear, why don’t we just listen to the rest of Billy’s act. It says more about the “tax reform” show than any editorial ever could, and it fits perfectly with the old soft shoe act practiced in the halls of the state house.

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em

Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous
Row after row will crow vociferous

Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?
Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

Give 'em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They'll let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Show 'em the first rate sorceror you are
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you've got no talent
Razzle Dazzle 'em

Poppy, my boy, if that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does.

You don’t suppose any of those folks up in the state house wear pink feather boas and carry sequined fans, do you?

Side: Not that I’ve ever seen, Captain Sir. But who knows what they do in those cactus meetings they have.

ObVeeous: “Cactus meetings?” What the hell are those?

Side: That’s something better left for another time, Captain Sir. Do you have anything else to say in closing?

ObVeeous: Yes I do. Tell that editor guy I’m gonna pay for his membership in Krugman’s KKK. And tell that Senator Peter Mills the same thing. He probably deserves a charter membership.

Side: I wish you hadn’t mentioned that, Captain Sir. That column is still in draft form, and I’m not sure when it will be published.

ObVeeous: Sorry, Poppy, but look at it this way. At least your readers have something to look forward to. It won’t match what I had to say, but what could? Am I the best money you ever spent or what?

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