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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's the economy, stupid!

Massachusetts has lost more than 100,000 jobs during the Romney-Healey years. Home sales are slumping after some of the biggest price run-ups in the nation. People are moving farther away from the central cities (and the jobs) to afford staying here. Those that stay have a hard time affording health care. Many are opting out of the Commonwealth altogether.

So in the face of the strong evidence that the Massachusetts economy -- the ability to attract jobs and workers -- should be the centerpiece of the 2006 gubernatorial election, what is Kerry Healey talking about? Illegal immigrants and crime.

Reading straight from the GOP fear and smear playbook, the second banana of the Romney-Healey administration knows she can't run on the team's pathetic record. So she raises issues like criminal offender record checks and licensing illegal immigrants to change the subject.

When pressed. I'm sure the braintrust would argue that illegal immigrants and criminals take jobs away from law-abiding, hardworking, taxpaying residents. To a certain extent that is true.

But the service sector jobs -- McDonald's, Staples, Home Depot -- are not the jobs that will help the state's economy grow from the abyss of the Romney-Healey recession. Rather, it is the technology sector jobs that Romney and Healey promised-- and for the most part failed to deliver -- that will produce the jobs and amenities that attracted so many of us to Massachusetts.

There's definitely room in this campaign to discuss issues like CORI and whether to punish employers who hire undocumented workers (that one should be resolved nationally but won't because of GOP demagoguery).

But first and foremost we should be talking about property tax rates that have soared in the absence of increased local aid -- local aid used to pay for education, firefighters and yes, police officers to control rising crime rates and capture undocumented workers driving without a license.

We should talk about rising health care costs and whether the new law will be effective in controlling those highest-in-the-nation costs.

We should be talking about whether we are doing all we can to improve our public education system -- elementary, secondary and higher ed.

We should be talking about how to lure high-paying jobs into the Commonwealth (and the service sector jobs that come with them).

We should talk about how we can make owning or renting a home affordable for our citizens.

We should talk about transportation systems that don't allow ceiling tiles to fall down on people, bridges to crumble or tolerate public transit that is slow, unreliable and expensive -- and going higher. Remember, the Romney-Healy administration is only against higher taxes, not higher fees.

I haven't heard Kerry Healey talk a lot about these issues during her nearly four years in the Statehouse. Why am I not surprised she doesn't want to start now -- not when GOP fear and smear hot buttons are so easily available.


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