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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  • Here’s the problem with your reasoning…there is no counter solution. That is why I love those who purport that an idea like “nickel for public safety” is some type of liberal tax & spend remedy. Not sure if you have noticed but the streets of Boston are a bit vicious at the moment…and summer will only bring more madness. Ok, so let’s scrap Yoon’s idea and save our nickels for those “big-ticket” purchases (sorry Cambridge retail community). What you don’t seem to realize is that the people who are being affected most by the violence are not worried about finding a deal on a $2000 computer or $10,000 in office supplies. Instead these people are worried about sending their kids to school in the morning or walking to the local grocery store without the interference of passing bullets. So again, let’s shelf the sales tax increase…then what’s the plan? While opponents of such “liberal” ideas are busy criticizing (and protecting those precious pennies) community citizens are dying on the streets. At least elected officials like Yoon are WORKING and THINKING about solutions. The two main elements of public safety, prevention of crime and criminal prosecutiom, require RESOURCES i.e. DOLLARS, MONEY, $$$. The discussion needs to be initiated around generating additional revenue…period. Increasing the sales tax by 0.05% is one idea. What’s yours?

  • No, here’s the problem with your reasoning. Liberals think that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by the injudicious application of money and/or laws.

    The roots of the violence in Boston fall is in the problem of the failed families, caused in part by the “great” liberal policies of the War on Poverty.

    While the people most affected by the violence aren’t buying thousands of dollars in supples, the burden for paying for police and other safety services will increasingly fall upon them as businesses and those individuals who can abandon the city do so in order to find a place that doesn’t suck them dry for solutions that fix nothing.

    More money is not a solution. It’s a political shibboleth.

  • Clap, clap, clap…thank you for a wonderfully predictable dissertation on liberal thinking.

    With all due respect, Mr. Bettinelli but even if your rant is accurate…what in your conservative wisdom is the answer to crime and violence?

    Your observation of failed families is in fact true but you (arrongantly I might add) ignore any next logical conclusion. The “great leberal policies” you refer to is, I assume, a euphemism for welfare…which again I can agree is a flawed system. Still, you do not offer alternative solutions which as far as I’m concerned keeps you relegated to the part of the problem.

    And to be clear, I will stand as the resident expert on the dynamic of falied families and what is best for them. I have been working with impoverished families in Boston and the Greater Boston area for years now. I provide direct home care, intervention and family stabilization services. I can tell you first hand that these families are in need of many things from basic educational and parenting skills to professinal job training and financial literacy.

    At the base of all the needs is the proverbial and absolute bottomline. Dollars and sense. Programs cost money. Education costs money. Police officers cost money. Summer jobs cost money. And the people who are hired or contracted to provide all of these needed services COST MONEY. More money is not a solution, you’re right…it is a requirement. A prerequisite to public safety and family stability. While it is true money alone cannot solve all of the community’s problems, money provides access and enables good people to do good work.

    Don’t try to speak from your conservative and detached pulpit and tell us what poor people need. You are quick to dismiss liberal ideas but apparently have none of your own.

  • “I’m probably more humble now about the speed with which government programs can solve every problem. For example, I think the impact of parents and communities is at least as significant as the amount of money that’s put into education.”

    -noted “conservative” Barack Obama, quoted in the latest issue of The New Yorker

  • I should add that the effect of parents and communities is at least significant as the amount of money spent by government. I don’t Obama has hit the nail on the head here, but he’s on the right track: government spending is not the solution or THE requirement.

    All the money in the world can’t replace parents and families and community (by which I mean the organic institutions of community, like churches, not artificially constructed elements) and the problems cannot be solved in one generation—or to be more accurate—on politician’s term in office.

  • I agree with Harding. The number of shootings in Boston went up 35% in 2005 years, and such a dramatic change stems from a deeper problem going on in our streets and in our homes. Expenditures like the “Shot Spotter” are not going to do anything other then let the BPD know where to pick up the body. We need money to implement prevention programs so that there is no body to begin with. Yoon’s Nickel proposal is a great start to raising these funds. I personally do not mind spending a little extra on my dinner, if I know that it is going to crime prevention.