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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Maybe 'reform before revenue' does work

We are apparently getting an answer to the question of how many times do you hit a donkey with a 2-by-4 before it moves. In the case of the donkeys known as Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature, quite a lot.

But even these guys will eventually respond.

Another week, another love-in in the Senate Reading Room -- this time Senate President Terry Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo talking about pension reform. Gov. Deval Patrick was sitting on the sidelines this time around, applauding.

We've now seen the House take up ethics reform and the Senate on the verge of some meaningful first steps in ending pension abuses. The Senate has also done a transportation reform bill. And it's not even April.

For someone who has been highly critical of legislative schedules, that's a pretty good reform too. But there is still the matter of the Senate's apparent coolness to ethics reform.

The 2-by-4s in question come from several sources: mounting public outrage with elected officials in general, those feeding at the trough in particular. The Marian Walsh fiasco is a prime example.

It's even possible that Patrick's Bush-like approval rating may have convinced lawmakers to get their acts in gear even though they, unlike Patrick, have virtual free rides as a result of the Republican Party's heretofore inability to attract candidates for dog catcher.

The Senate pension proposal is a good start, but only that. It takes aim at many of the recent outrages uncovered by the Globe in Revere and other small towns where elected (and sometime unelected) officials took advantages of loopholes to pad their pensions -- arguing they are doing nothing illegal.

Great standard, huh?

The proposal, which echoes an earlier Patrick plan also would end the early retirement free ride at the MBTA and put a stop to politicians staying an extra day to collect an extra year -- or claims "bonuses" because they were kicked out by voters before age 55.

While those reforms are aimed at politicians -- who are as popular as the guys claiming AIG bonuses, there's still a long way to go. Public employee unions are likely to be strongly opposed to changes like reining in the MBTA pension system -- even if it is bankrupting the system and likely to produce service cuts that will result in job losses.

But at least the investment in 2-by-4s known as public outrage seem to have had a stimulus effect.

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Blogger Judy Meredith said...

Great image.
The way I remember the story is the farmer tried to get the mule to move first by dangling a carrot in front of his nose. To no avail. Only after several attempts did a neighbor suggest the use of a 2 x 4 to get the mule's attention.

Guess I'll modify my Hero theory.

March 31, 2009 1:48 PM  

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