By Jeff Fish
The political season is heating up, and, as always, money is playing a huge role: Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren are trying to limit that role, while Mitt Romney is trying to run away from just how wealthy he is. And speaking of money, more people are apparently making it in Massachusetts, as unemployment continues to slowly drop.
In other news, redistricting in the Bay State is motivating at least one candidate to get to know his new constituents, and some people are complaining about keeping violent criminals behind bars.
High-Five: Unemployment slowly falling in Mass. Massachusetts is faring better than most states in these tough economic times; the state's unemployment rate is at 6.8 percent, well below the national average of 8.5 percent. Massachusetts added almost 41,000 new jobs in 2011 thanks to a boost in technology and research firms.
While any decrease in joblessness is a good thing, it still needs to get better. People may be going back to work, but the labor force has been shrinking, so it's hard to really gauge growth. Additionally, there is still a clear need for construction jobs, both for the workers and for our state's aging infrastructure. Things might be looking up, but we're not out of the woods yet.
Dope Slap: Mitt Romney should have released his taxes. It's a sad state of affairs in the Republican primary right now. Although Romney is a weak candidate who will have a tough time measuring up to scrutiny in the general election, he is the least of four evils. The fact that Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina is unsettling, given his history of being such a corrupt, divisive figure in Washington politics. But he is a good debater -- good enough the people of South Carolina were willing to overlook his blaring personal fallacies.
The main issue for Romney in the latest primary was his reluctance to release his tax returns, which makes absolutely no sense to me. If you're running for president, your finances should be available for all to see. Romney's behavior in this matter is another example of how he tries to distance himself from his eliteness, but it's not his wealth that bothers people -- it's his out-of-touch, robotic, inauthentic personality (and his response about releasing his taxes in the last debate didn't help). In light of all this fallout, Romney now says he plans to release the information on Tuesday. About time.
High-Five: Stephen Lynch getting to know his new districts. The redistricting of Massachusetts, which will be in effect for the 2012 elections, is a good thing, in my opinion. The state's population is much less Democratic than the numbers in our legislature indicate, and I'm glad the changes will give Republicans a chance to take some seats and have more power in this lopsided state.
Barney Frank decided to retire because of the changes, feeling that he couldn't win in his now-more-Republican district, but Rep. Stephen Lynch is taking the opportunity to get to know his new constituents. Yeah, he's doing it because he's a politician, and that's what politicians do, but it's good that the redistricting is forcing officials like Lynch to adapt and perhaps work a little harder for his votes. (Of course, it helps that Lynch is currently unopposed and considerably less liberal than Frank.)
Dope Slap: Critics oppose harsher sentencing bill. The so-called "three strikes" measure has been under debate ever since Woburn police officer John McGuire was killed in 2010. A new bill in the state legislature would bar parole for prisoners convicted of more than two violent crimes, but some are criticizing the measure, saying the bill would contribute to already overcrowded prisons, hand out disproportionate punishments, and cost taxpayers millions.
While overcrowding is a significant problem in Massachusetts, letting violent criminals go on parole is even more dangerous for public safety. If someone is convicted of more than two violent crimes, they are likely to do it again. Yes, we need to figure out the overcrowding problem, but letting dangerous people back on the streets is not the way to go about it.
High-Five: Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown are trying to limit the influence of Super PACs. The details aren't quite ironed out yet, but it looks like these two candidates are making an honest effort to limit the power of the incessant third-party Super PACs that bombard the airwaves with negative ads. Brown proposed that any time a third-party ad benefiting a candidate airs, that candidate will have to donate half the cost of the ad buy to charity. Warren seems on board with the idea but has concerns over how to monitor money spent on Internet ads and distinguish scam ads meant to make campaigns spend their money.
In the 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court allowed corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to Super PACs, thus heightening the problem of money in politics. Any measure trying to curb the issue and raise awareness about the divisive nature of these PACs is a High-Five in my book.
'High-Fives and Dope Slaps' is TNGG Boston's weekly Tuesday politics column, written by Jeff Fish.
Photo by 401K (Flickr)
About Jeff -- I'm a senior at Suffolk University, majoring in journalism and political science. I'm the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, and I did a six-month co-op at The Boston Globe. I love politics, reading, movies, TV, and anything pop culture. My mind is a font of useless knowledge.
The author is solely responsible for the content.