Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey kicked off her Blond Ambition tour recently with a scintillating little scandal. Paris Hilton may have a diamond the size of the Ritz, but if Kerry’s Hubby, Sean, has his way, he’ll be buying his Material Girl the State House, golden dome and all, for a cool thirteen million! Now, that’s love, people. Problem is, on the road to more riches, Mr. Healey may have abused the state's corporate welfare system. Not only that, but, with the aid of Mentor Mittney, a tax office report critical of, among others, Mr. Healey’s multibillion dollar Affiliated Managers Group Inc.’s over-exuberant applications for tax credits may have been squelched. When news of the watered-down report broke, Mrs. Healey reacted like a practiced politician: defensive, she denied and prevaricated. Some are saying it’s all over for Healey, just as it’s beginning, but as with Governor Romney, personal ambition will trump any sense of shame in the end.

It is—and isn’t—about the money. The million dollar tax credits, which, according to Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, were handed out to companies “as favors” amount to a corporate pittance, a sort of nicety, the equivalent of an annual fruit basket sent to friends of Mitt & Co., courtesy the taxpayer. But when you consider the intended use of the tax credit, namely to encourage development of blighted neighborhoods, the pettiness and greed the wealthy among us are capable of begins to seem boundless. A Representative from Healey’s AMG insists, of course, that their tax credit was awarded in “full compliance of the law,” but as Henry Ward Beecher once preached: “all ambitions are lawful except those that climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.” Loopholes can’t justify such abuses. Legal or not, the assumptions undergirding this application of the law are obscene.

Meanwhile, Mittney’s taking a little time off his national tour to reform the way we pay for healthcare in Massachusetts, itself an enormously ambitious project. There’s no question something needs to be done to ensure that quality healthcare is available at reasonable rates to rich and poor alike. But Romney’s assumptions about those he says abuse the current system rankle. In his opinion, “about 200,000 of the state's roughly 500,000 uninsured make enough money to afford private insurance,” and are thus apparently, at least potentially, bilking the State. But what does the governor really know about scraping by on minimum wage? Even twice the minimum is not a living wage in Boston, a city where, as John McDonough of Health Care for All has observed, “you've got families… paying over their income for rent." And that’s the problem with this administration. Mittney and his Material Girl either never knew or have forgotten what it’s like to be barely making ends meet. But in their shameless, desperate pursuit of personal glory they would both do well to recall some words of wisdom on the subject: “ambition,” Oscar Wilde once wrote, “is the last refuge of failure.”

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