A nickel… and then a dime…

A nickel… and then a dime…

Must be nice to be a Boston Globemetro columnist. Brian McGrory—who against all odds is now the top metro columnists at the Globe but only because the rest have been downsized—was able to turn a trip to the men’s room at Fenway Park into a column. What talent, you say. Ah but he’s not done, because he’s now turned it into two columns.

The first column informed us that the Scottsdale, Arizona, police were advertising for new policemen in ballpark restrooms across the country. Let's not get into whether this is a good idea or not, McGrory says that the column inspired a Boston City Councilor to come up with his own innovative idea to improve public safety. This being Massachusetts, it involves raising taxes:

You see, Sam Yoon read that column and had an idea. Today, he plans to file legislation to create a special .5 percent sales tax in Boston, with all of the proceeds dedicated to public safety programs. If successful, the sales tax on goods sold in Boston would rise from 5 percent to 5.5 percent and reap, Yoon estimates, an additional $35 million a year.


“If you went to the grocery store and spent $100, would you add 50 cents to fight the number one problem, violence and crime?” Yoon added. “Residents would say, ‘Absolutely, if we knew what it would be spent on.’”

And therein, the genius of Yoon’s proposal: knowing what it would be spent on. People could measure the impact of the nominal new tax in crime statistics. They could see it in more cops patrolling Boston’s streets.

And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. Sure, maybe for a couple of years they might set aside that money just for public safety programs—which doesn’t necessarily mean more cops, mind you, since “public safety” is such an amorphous phrase—but after that what’s to stop them from saying, “oh we need this money in the general fund”?

And like many liberals, they don’t seem to understand basic economics, which in this case says that in changing economic circumstances, people change behavior. If the sales tax in Boston is 5.5 percent, but in Cambridge it’s 5 percent. Where do you think I will buy my new car or $2,000 computer or $10,000 in annual office supplies or other high ticket items? Yeah, on $100 in groceries I might not notice right away, but you can be sure that when $20, $200, or $2,000 people will notice. And suddenly that $35 million isn’t $35 million anymore and they’re looking to impose yet another tax.

McGrory thinks that for this idea Sam Yoon is “the most intelligent member of that august body,” the City Council. Well, if that’s your measuring stick…

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli