For most of my adult life I lived in Massachusetts. Massachusetts and I totally meshed. I loved the beauty of it - the old stone walls, the close-packed rustic little towns, the elegant white church steeples. I loved Ted Kennedy slugging away for us in Washington. I loved the unexpected mix of grimy working-class mill cities like Lawrence and ultra-liberal, eggheaded cities like Cambridge. Massachusetts was, to my mind, always going to be on the right side of any policy issue. Like California, it was always going to be among the first to try something innovative. It's no surprise that gay/lesbian marriages and universal health care are both being pioneered in Massachusetts.
Then I moved to New Hampshire, a state that always, forgive me, gave me the creeps. There were a lot of things to feel weird about, such as the way the southern urban areas suddenly give way to ... nothing. Cross the state line, drive half an hour north, and you're nowhere. It's essentially unsettled, like certain parts of Saskatchewan. You don't even know which direction you're headed half the time. Only trees for company, and the occasional shack-turned-taxidermy shop. Creepy, as I say.
But what really bugged me was the superior attitude that New Hampshire people always seemed to be flinging around. And always about taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. They didn't have those nasty taxes, at least not the way the "massholes" from "Taxachusetts" did. No sales tax, no income tax, and willing to throw out any would-be governor who wouldn't pledge to keep it that way. We thought, 'What rubes.' They thought, 'What suckers.'
Then I moved here. David was here, so I sort of had to.
Since moving, I admit I've come to appreciate a few things about the state. There's an upside to the tax thing: I got a de facto raise of $200 per month (no income tax, remember). And so far, I haven't seen the minimalist public services that I expected. The schools, at least here on the Seacoast, seem great, the parks are manicured, the beaches kept clean. I wouldn't be surprised if some essential public need has indeed been ignored, and eventually I'll discover what it is. But from my current, not-too-needy perspective, things look good.
But there's this: New Hampshire, so self-proud, is actually financing itself on the back of its southern (and northern) neighbors. It does this three ways: through interstate tolls that back up traffic on summer weekends for miles, through huge state-sponsored liquor stores on that same interstate (located conveniently near the borders of Massachusetts and Maine), and through high restaurant and lodging taxes targeted to hit out-of-staters.
I say good for you, New Hampshire, that you're able to let your own residents off the hook for taxes. But shame on you for making the "massholes" and other unlucky neighbors pay your taxes for you.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Posted by MW at Monday, August 06, 2007