, Newburyport, MA


September 23, 2013

Things have changed since Colonial times

To the editor:

Sept. 14’s paper revels in the near third of a million bonanza for the Town of Salisbury netted after seizing parcels of land for auction. Oft forgotten are the owners of homes, stores, farms, ranches, restaurants and even land preserves who are to see the last remnants of their family estates taken from them. “Democracy can only survive until the people realize that they can pay themselves from the treasury,” one Scottish professor famously warns.

How quick are we to forget our own history. From Colonial times until living memory, homeowners unable to meet the demands of a majority-supported levy never feared being thrown out simply for being unable — or even unwilling — to pay. Because only social pressure could be brought to bear against those who didn’t pay, public funds once had to be handled honestly, openly and without even the hint of public largess. Taking nearly half the national income upon penalty of jail time, politicians today “generously” dole your money out to every constituency, union, government contractor, foreign government and Wall Street investment house that can hold their hand out with feigned desperation — backed by multi-million lobbying houses, of course. Taxes on income, sales, investments, interest, gasoline, utilities, travel, phone calls, meals, clothes, imports and almost everything else allow politicians to reach right into your pocket to reward the various constituencies and special interest groups that finance their campaigns and provide so many paid volunteers to further their political ambitions. Political patronage bankrupts countries because the civil service unions and other monied interests eventually grow so politically powerful that the common people cannot regain control over their own elected servants.

One 18th-century English dictionary gives us an interesting and acid definition for an excise: “a hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by common judges of property, but by wretches hired by those to whom the excise is paid.” How ironic.

Albert “Max” Abramson


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