Thinking for the long-term on Question 3

mwang

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A good education, as every Wayland High School student is lucky enough to know, does more than teach dates, facts and names. A good education teaches students how to think: to analyze critically, to set priorities and to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term success.

Too many high school and even college graduates leave the American educational system without learning some of these fundamental skills. One ability in particular appears to be in short supply: long-term thinking. Quick satisfaction, in other words, is being prioritized over sustainable growth.

Short-term thinking is why the financial industry (and its lapdogs in Congress) is calling for less regulation only two years after a once-a-generation financial crisis that was caused by deregulation.

Short-term thinking is why self-described “deficit fighters” want to increase the deficit $3 trillion over the next decade.

Short-term thinking is why Congress has passed neither climate change legislation nor a clean energy bill.

A failure to think about the long-term brings us today to Massachusetts, where it appears that short-term thinking could emerge victorious over long-term thinking on Election Day this November. I’m referring, of course, to Question 3.

Question 3, a ballot initiative, would slash the state sales tax more than in half, from the current rate of 6.25% down to 3%. The initiative was proposed by Carla Howell, a Wayland resident and persistent “starve the beast” activist. Howell was also behind the 2002 and 2008 attempts to “starve” the government by eliminating the state income tax.

Howell suffers from the same lack of critical thinking ability that afflicts many of those on the national political stage. While at first glance a tax cut may be seductive, Howell and her supporters have not done the long-term math.

The non-partisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) has done the math. In a report entitled “Question 3: Heading Over the Cliff,” the Foundation outlines how the tax cut would increase the state deficit by $2.5 billion by reducing revenue by the equivalent of 5% of the state budget.

Approval of the initiative would result in “across-the-board cuts of approximately 30 percent in virtually all state programs, including local aid, higher education, human services, prisons, courts,” and more, the Foundation writes.

According to the (blatantly partisan) Vote No on Question 3 campaign, this would result in Wayland alone losing over $737,000 dollars in local aid. This would mean devastating cuts to not only the town administration, but also to the Wayland school system. Remember last year’s budget cuts debate? Question 3 would cause a repeat of the depressing experience.

Even if you are not the parent of a student in the Wayland public school system, carefully consider the long-term consequences of Question 3. Especially if you live in Wayland, you have a very important reason to vote against Question 3 as well.

There is only one difference between Wayland and any of the other scores of suburbs in Massachusetts: Wayland’s record as a town with a fantastic public school system. It is what brings new families to move here and is certainly the reason my family moved here years ago. Most importantly for those who live here without children, it is what drives property value in our town.

Question 3, with its consequential budget cuts, would drastically weaken our reputation as a strong educational town. That, in turn, would make Wayland a much less vibrant town and quite possibly weaken housing prices.

So, let’s summarize. If across-the-board budget cuts don’t bother you, consider the effect of Question 3 on Wayland’s educational system. If cuts to our educational system don’t trouble you, consider the effects of the initiative to your home’s value.

Education is what makes Wayland and Massachusetts as whole special; don’t let Question 3 ruin that. Ignore the short-term pleasure. Think about the long-term.

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