Massachusetts – Business as Usual

Massachusetts – Business as Usual

© David Burton 2015

Passachusetts in the winter of 2015

     Massachusetts, my state that is overwhelmingly Democratic and where public labor unions remain supreme, continues its history of wasteful spending and cronyism.

     While he got ready to turn over the office to a Republican replacement, the outgoing Massachusetts Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, took the opportunity of making a veritable flood of appointments to various state boards and commissions during his last three months in office. He made these appointments 15 or more days before the new governor was sworn into office so that the new governor would be unable, under Massachusetts law, to revoke these appointments. “In November and December alone Patrick made 174 appointments, following another 124 in October.” (Ref. 1)

     Never mind performance or cost here in Massachusetts. Consider the state’s community college system where “hiring at the state’s 15 community colleges has increased as much as 30 percent during the Patrick administration. But enrollment, well, not so much – about16 percent.
     “And the number of those on community college payrolls making more than $100,000 a year has really ballooned – by about 70 percent between 2010 and 2013. So you know those schools aren’t simply adding scores of under-paid adjunct faculty, but rather keeping the tradition of top-heavy administrative posts alive. All of this while maintaining appallingly low graduation rates.” (Ref. 1)

     Here in Massachusetts, the teachers’ public employees union continues to contribute to the high cost of government. For example, “Boston taxpayers are paying roughly $6 million this year {2015} for 72 teachers no principal wanted to hire.” (Ref. 2). And that’s just in current salaries. It doesn’t consider the very significant retirement benefits that these unwanted teachers are accruing and that will have to be paid to them in the future.

     The city expects to pay the same amount next year for a similar number of “unemployable” teachers. Because of contracts negotiated by their unions, these “unemployable” teachers can’t legally be fired. Instead, they are assigned to something called an “excess pool” and put on “special assignment” as “co-teachers” to “improve their performance or relearn their jobs in other teachers’ classrooms”.[2] What all this mumbo-jumbo really means is they aren’t needed or wanted, but can’t be fired and they are being paid by the citizens of Massachusetts on another make-work fiasco.

     Still, there are some who are revolted by the system here in Massachusetts. The fact that “Boston is forced to shell out millions to pay for teachers no principal wants to hire is the epitome of a system that favors the employment needs of adults over the educational needs of children – or for that matter, the resources of the taxpayers.
     - - -
     “. . . Giving second, third and fourth chances to incompetent adults ignores the critical fact that a school system has one chance to get it right with a kid. If these teachers aren’t needed, they aren’t needed, and the system must be reformed to reflect that.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)

     Included in that “excess pool” was the Reverend Shaun O. Harrison who was fired in March of 2015 after he was accused being a drug dealer and of shooting a student who sold pot for him. Harrison had previously been dropped by a charter school, where he had been disciplined for shoving a student and making inappropriate comments. In spite of this, he was hired by a Boston school and then appointed to a dean’s position at Boston’s English High School.[2] If this were not so sad and true, it would be unbelievable. But again, this is Massachusetts, where public employee unions exert considerable power and influence over the state’s and local’s overwhelmingly Democratic politicians.

     Here in Massachusetts, an unholy alliance exists between public employee unions and the overwhelmingly Democratic politicians that run the arguably most blue state in the nation. (See references 4, 5 and 6). Just recently, another example surfaced.

     The MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) is the public transit system in Boston and for many of Boston’s suburban communities. The transit authority’s unions and management benefit mightily from MBTA’s close ties to Massachusetts politicians. Massachusetts is a “state where retirees of its public transit agency benefit from millions in taxpayer subsidies to help fund their {very generous} pensions – then deny the public access to data on pension payouts and investments. [Emphasis mine]
     “The MBTA police retirement fund is the latest to claim a right to privacy over its pension data – even, yes, the names of those who serve on the fund’s board {claiming that it’s} a private plan . . .
     “Other MBTA retirement funds have made the same claim, strongly resisting requests to turn over the pension data . . . {However} a new law {was} passed requiring the records to be made public . . .
     “And of course whenever data has been released about the T pension system it general{ly} reveals eye-popping generosity.
     “. . . for example, . . . hundreds of former MBTA executives and union workers are collecting millions in extra pay each year on top of their pensions.
     “{A former} MBTA general manager . . . is the poster child for retirement largesse, collecting a $64,865 pension, $84,437 in annual deferred compensation – and $225,00 salary as executive director of the MBTA Retirement fund. [Emphasis mine]
     “And all told some 280 T retirees who are collecting lifetime pensions also benefit from a 401(A) plan, to which the MBTA contributes a healthy 8 percent match {a practice commonly referred to as “double dipping”}. That match cost the beleaguered agency $760,000 in the last fiscal year.
     “. . . Of course the public can’t object to such payments, if it doesn’t know about them.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 7)

     Administrative red tape, non-responsive public agencies, and public employees who are mainly interested in maintaining their status quo until they can receive their generous retirement benefits rather than providing efficient service are not unusual here in Massachusett.

     I live in Winthrop, a small town adjacent to Boston, Massachusetts. Over the past three years or so, I have become acquainted with the unbelievable number of obstacles facing anyone wishing to change the status quo in this town by bringing a new business to town, putting up a new structure, modernizing an older structure, or just trying to sell an older property.

     Steve Forbes described some of the problems that have caused Brazil’s current economic woes, It struck me that the sources of some of these problems are identical with those that have caused my town of Winthrop to be mired in a swamp of red tape, endless delays, cost-escalating acquiescence’s to obstructionist objectors, and a total lack of administrative initiative on the part of the town’s administrators. I am sure that other communities in Massachusetts are bedeviled by many of the same problems.

     Two of the causes of Brazil’s problems listed by Forbes that are similar to the problems found in Winthrop are : (1) “Starting a business. Setting up a legal business in Brazil is like maneuvering through an obstacle course, as one is required to go through 11.6 different procedures which on average, take a total of 83.6 days.” and (2) “Dealing with construction permits. This area gives a true picture of how difficult it is to get things done. . . . Each project requires 18.2 procedures . . . which take 426.1 days . . . to acquire.” (Ref. 8) My own experience, along with the experiences of others with whom I have talked, confirms that the same problems of dealing with public employees exist here in Masachusetts.

     Massachusetts may not be the only state struggling with issues of health care. But, consider the plight of some Massachusetts residents struggling - largely in vain - to arrange for their health care under the state’s mandated health care program. “A new wave of maddening problems has hit the state’s ever-embattled Obamacare agency, as enraged customers complain of triple charges, abrupt termination notices and hourlong waits to speak to unhelpful support reps.
     “{One irate customer reported that} he’s facing an $11,000 medical bill from an eye surgery . . . after the Connector retroactively canceled his insurance. . . . He . . . learned his {insurance} payment didn’t go through but was never notified of the failure or that his insurance was canceled until after the surgery. . . . {He} received no email, no telephone call, no piece of mail … indicating any kind of a problem.
      - - -
     “Frustrated customers have slammed the {Health Care} Connector’s Facebook page with complaints and problems . . . lamenting abruptly canceled health plans and long customer hold times.” (Ref. 9)

     How about another Massachusetts government agency, the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). The following are a few of the comments posted on Yahoo relative to this agency. (Ref.10).

     The whole unemployment system is a nightmare. . . What's the worst part of all is the unemployment website. . . {On} certain days, the website is so slow that I can't even file my claim online. . . . {T}heir website is basically non-functional. Oh and don't even get me started on calling. If you have pending issues, then you can't use the phone at all.

     DUA is a symbol of government INCOMPETENCE - calling them on the phone is a futile and frustrating undertaking (if you are patient enough and wait a couple of hours - two different people will tell you two different things). I would say forget about calling them - if transferred to a manager, that's just a pure fantasy - nobody picks up the phone and {you} will get disconnected. . . . this is INCOMPETENCE at its height - DUA makes the 3rd world countries look centuries ahead of us – {I} hope to never have to deal with these idiots ever again, even {though,} as a taxpayer{,} I paid into the system for 20 years!

     I can honestly say I have NEVER dealt with a more frustrating and horribly put together system in my entire life. . . . The automated system hangs up on you with no notice. It takes at least 10 calls in a row to even get put on hold for a claims rep, and then you're told the wait time will be anything from 45 minutes MINIMUM typically and it only goes outrageously higher from there.

     And what about that Massachusetts reputation for having a hostile environment when it comes to attracting businesses into the state and keeping them here? Has there been improvement in recent years? An article in 2013 implied that things had not gotten much better.

     “It’s That ’70s Show time at Chief Executive magazine. A generation after Massachusetts was dubbed “Taxachusetts” for its putative hostility to business, the charge has been resurrected in the magazine via its latest state rankings {in June of 2013}, determined by a survey responded to by 736 CEOs. The commonwealth was rated 47th among states for the warmth of its business climate, slightly better than New York, Illinois, and dead-last California. Texas won the best-of designation.
     “’If I were designing Hell for a company, I couldn’t do as good a job as Massachusetts has,’ one anonymous CEO told the magazine. Another groused that the company was moving operations out of Massachusetts and three other states and firing employees there, as ‘the regulatory and tax environment has become untenable.’ The magazine itself slammed Governor Deval Patrick’s plans to raise income taxes and eliminate corporate deductions . . .” (Ref. 11).

     On the lighter side of some of the things that bother me about Massachusetts is the wicked rough winter that we had here in 2015. From late January through mid-March, Boston had received the most snow in its recorded history – over 9-feet of the white fluffy stuff. And that was accompanied by one of the coldest winters in its history. Fortunately New Englanders are a hearty and inventive breed, especially when it comes to finances. One enterprising Massachusetts resident found a way to profit from adversity.

     A Massachusetts man got the idea that he could do his part to get rid of some of the snow—and make some profits while he was at it. The enterprising young man offered “Guaranteed Snow on Arrival!” which include 6 lbs. of fresh Massachusetts winter snow. The “Limited Supply” snow came in a thick Styrofoam container and was shipped overnight, at a cost of only “$99 Now Only $89!”[12]. Like the saying goes: ”When life serves you lemons, make lemonade.” In Massachusetts, that is translated into: ”When life serves you lemons, make and sell lemonade.”

     My state of Massachusetts has long had a history of electing United States’ senators and congressmen who, to put it mildly, are very left-leaning and extremely liberal. Our current U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, fit this mold.

     “Five years after the enactment of Obamacare, which set off a chorus of criticism for its new tax on medical device companies, {Senator} Markey has come up with his own plan to offer relief to an industry that helps fuel the economy of his home state.
     “Markey wants to eliminate the 2.3 percent excise tax on the sale of medical devices - but only by ‘ending tax givaways’ for ‘big oil.’ [Emphasis mine]
     “Oh, wake us up when this exercise in cost-shifting and empty posturing is over, won’t you?
     “Like other Democrats – this state’s senior senator, Elizabeth Warren, comes to mind – Markey distorts the picture in a way that suggests the IRS is handing over bags of cash to oil and gas companies that it doesn’t give to anyone else.
     “In fact, ‘big oil’ is subject to the same tax treatment as similar U.S. corporations. It’s just that Markey and Warren and their like-minded colleagues and supporters think oil companies should be subject to higher taxes. So they decry the ‘subsidies’ and ‘giveaways’ that they say make the industry so profitable.” (Ref. 13).

     Markeys’ bill would prevent the nation’s largest oil companies from using the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) method of accounting for inventory. LIFO is currently allowed as an accounting method for essentially every business, big or small, and every individual tax payer in this country! But “big oil” would be singled out for special treatment!

     “. . . {In Massachusetts' Senator} Markey’s world there are ‘good’ corporations and there are ‘bad’ corporations, and why not pull the levers of tax code to punish the latter? (Ref. 13).

     “Big bad Oil” has been a familiar whipping boy for Democrats bent on redistributing the wealth of this nation and of creating a socialistic economic system. As I have pointed out previously[14], “big Oil” does not make obscene profits from oil and gas – the U.S. government does through its tax on gasoline, and without taking the financial risks that “big oil” does. Markey’s proposed bill is blatantly unfair to one segment of the U.S. economy, but it once again presents him and our other Massachusetts Democratic legislators as the saviors of the poor and downtrodden masses who are being exploited by the bourgeois rich. Robin Hood once again will come to their rescue by “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor!” At least the “robbing” part is correct!

     For whatever reason, Massachusetts state politicians never seem to learn. Well maybe they do and I just don’t understand their logic. As indicated in what follows, what I and others perceive as an outrageously stupid idea, makes sense when one considers the financial and political benefits that would accrue to the politician that could make the wished-for legislaion happen.

     Late in March 2015, express toll lanes were proposed for a major, and highly congested segment of Route 3, the north-south road that carries a large portion of the year-round weekday commuter traffic into and out of Boston, and a road that carries a large portion of the Cape Cod bound traffic during the summer months.

     The project, dubbed, Project Mobility, “will be a private-public partnership with a corporation to build new lanes. . . . Who will get the contract? That’s undetermined for now, but we all know it will be a company with huge political connections. [Emphasis mine] . . . The biggest problem with the whole concept, other than taking more money out of our wallets, is that DOT {Department of Transportation} feels that this will help traffic on Route 3. How will crossing lanes to get into the special lanes speed things up? It won’t. [Emphasis mine] Anyone who drives down the Southeast Expressway knows that the HOV {High Occupancy Vehicle} lane causes backups . . . So before spending all this money to build express lanes, couldn’t the state simply end the HOV lanes?” (Ref. 15).

     For a discussion of the stupidity of HOV lanes in the 21st century here in Massachusetts and related issues, read the section titled Eliminate the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes on Massachusetts highways in the article C'mon Governor Patrick, Let's See You Get Out There and Lead! (Ref. 16).

     Sometimes, we here in Massachusetts shoot ourselves in the foot. Massachusetts and the rest of the Northeast have high demands, for oil, coal, gas and electricity because of the frequently harsh winters that occur here. Energy cost are generally higher than in the rest of the country, largely because the energy transmission/transportation systems are inadequate to meet the rising demands. Opposition to improving the transmission/transportation systems have been stymied by the environmental and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) zealots. Once more, these zealots here in Massachusetts are creating financial hardships for the populace here.

     For years, Massachusetts NIMBY’s have been fighting in the courts to keep an offshore windfarm from being build off the southern shore of Cape Cod – it might obstruct their view of the Atlantic Ocean. As of 2011, New England was getting about 20% of its energy from natural gas. Imported LNG provided natural gas at reasonable prices. An LNG terminal, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was scheduled for a river in Fall River, Massachusetts. The city objected, so its congressman, the then-powerful Barney Frank "tucked" language into a transportation bill that blocked the demolition of an historic bridge – even though a new span was already in the works upriver – thus making it impossible for large tankers to get to the LNG terminal. The old bridge was definitely not historic. Then the Massachusetts congressional delegation got really creative and secured a wild and scenic designation for the industrial waterway, As anyone who has ever viewed this river, the Taunton River could never be described as wild or scenic. When The LNG terminal developers redid their plan by moving the plant a mile away, Barney Frank and another representative secured language “in a House appropriations bill that would essentially block the Department of Energy from conducting a required regulatory review.” So, it was to hell with those in Massachusetts looking forward to lower fuel prices, the assurance of an adequate supply of heating fuel and a reduction in the amount of pollution dumped into the atmosphere. Rules, laws and regulations are simply obstacles to be overcome by whatever devious means necessary.[17].

     “There is near-universal agreement that the Northeast has to expand its energy supply to rein in the nation’s highest costs and that cheap, abundant, relatively clean natural gas could be at least a short-term answer. But heels dig deep when it comes to those thorniest of questions: how and where?
     “Proposals to build or expand natural gas pipelines {were} met with citizen discontent. At the end of {2014}, a Massachusetts route . . . generated so much venom that the company {proposing the route} nudged it north into New Hampshire.
      - - -
     “Everyone seems to know the Northeast has a pipeline capacity problem, but not many seem to be willing to make many concessions to fix that problem. . . . According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Englanders paid $14.52 per thousand cubic feet of gas in 2014, compared to $10.94 for the rest of the nation. . . . {N}atural gas availability is ‘one of the most serious challenges’ the region faces as more coal and oil units go offline. . . . ‘Why in the hell is it {the revised pipeline route} in New Hampshire anyway? They want to get it {natural gas} from New York to Massachusetts and if you draw that line on a map, it sure doesn’t go through New Hampshire.’” (Ref. 18).

     Still In spite of all the complaining and bitching above, there are many quite nice things here in Massachusetts. We have some great professional sports teams - the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Bruins, and the Celtics. Our colleges and universities are top notch. There is a rich cultural environment, particularly in Boston. And, after all, isn't this where it all started around 1776 - the Adams boys, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin Paul Revere, William Dawes, the Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord?

     The scenery and the environment here isn’t normally bad either – there’s Cape Cod, and the Berkshires. And, oh yes, we even set a proud new new record this year – we had over 9 feet of snow here in the Boston area, the highest amount ever recorded. That was accompanied by some 10 consecutive weekends with snow – and even on 30 March 2015, as I write this article, there is light snow falling outside my window overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A few weeks back, I even had the unusual experience of witnessing chunks of ice floating by my window. This past February was the coldest on record here and, as March comes to an end, it has followed February as being one of the coldest in recorded Boston history. And all of this while the rest of North America was reported as having the warmest winter on record!

     As I've noted, we have an extremely highly paid and competent transportation union and management to operate our public transportation system here in Massachusetts. So who cares if its freezing cold and the snow was over my head? But, wait! Our well-oiled MBTA system with its high paid management and union went down almost as soon as the snow began to fall in late January and only resumed full serve this week in very late March, meaning much of the system was either totally shut down or operating with reduced service for some two solid months! Oh well. Enduring weather like we’ve had this winter while putting up with no public transportation or with intermittent transportation services is supposedly what makes those of us who choose to live in Massachusetts so hardy and resourceful.


  1. Patrick’s board binge, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 10, 27 December 2014.
  2. TEACHERS IN LIMBO, Jack Encarnacao, Boston Herald, Page 7, 18 March 2015.
  3. Drain ‘excess’ pool, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 16, 19 March 2015.
  4. Massachusetts --- Democratic, Liberal and Totally Clueless, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu, 31 December 2011.
  5. Massachusetts: Democratic, Unionized and Very Expensive, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu, 2 July 2013.
  6. Massachusetts: Democratic, Unionized and Very Expensive - Part 2, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu,
    15 August 2013.
  7. More pension Games, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 14, 30 March 2015.
  8. Can Brazil be more than a pretend power?, Steve Forbes, Forbes, Page 15, 24 November 2014.
  9. HEALTH DISCONNECTOR, Chris Cassidy, Boston Herald, Page 7, 24 March 2015.
  10. Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance,, Accessed 24 March 2015.
  11. Does Massachusetts Hate Business?, Rich Barlow, BU Today, 19 June 2013.
  12. Brilliant Guy in Massachusetts Is Selling Snow for ‘Only $89', Brad Tuttle, Money, 24 February 2015.
  13. Markey’s tax tricks, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 14, 30 March 2015.
  14. Another Dog and Pony Show, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu, 19 May 2011.
  15. Project will take its toll on South Shore drivers, Holly Robichaud, Boston Herald, Page 8, 30 March 2015.
  16. C'mon Governor Patrick, Let's See You Get Out There and Lead!, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu,
    5 November 2009.
  17. Why Do Massachusetts Voters Keep Re-electing Barney Frank to Congress?, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu,
    25 November 2011.
  18. Pipeline spat intensifies, Associated press, Boston Herald, Page 17, 30 March 2015.


30 March 2015 {Article 216; State_12}    
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