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COLUMN

A Dud in the State House

Vivek Rao

Massachusetts residents have the dubious “privilege” of being served by not one but two elected executives who exhibit a striking lack of prudent fiscal decision making and a irreverent lack of understanding toward critical government programs. In fact, one of the few noticeable differences between President George W. Bush and Governor Mitt Romney is that the former has attained the highest seat of power in the land while the latter still aspires to do so. Romney is nothing more than a power-hungry politician who cares more about using Massachusetts as a stepping stone to national prominence than about genuinely improving the Commonwealth, and two recent developments have cemented the governor’s status as a mere nitwit who happens to work under the golden dome on Beacon Hill.

The first revolves around Romney’s proposed $12 million John and Abigail Adams Scholarships, which would provide full tuition to state colleges for students scoring in the top quartile on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the test that the state’s high schoolers are expected to pass before graduating. Romney’s plan ignores a fundamental characteristic of the MCAS, which has been administered since 1998. Like most standardized tests, the MCAS tends to result in higher scores among students who come from wealthier backgrounds. Putting two and two together (a skill which cannot necessarily be expected of Romney) would seemingly suggest that the proposed scholarships would primarily serve the interests of the state’s richest students and school districts. This has been confirmed in The Boston Globe, with analysis showing that more than half of the students in the wealthy suburb of Weston would qualify for the scholarships, while only about three percent of students from the significantly poorer community of Lawrence would receive the benefit.

Such a proposal is especially ludicrous given Romney’s previous policies toward public education. In order to compensate for the massive tax cuts he put in place near the start of his tenure, Romney significantly slashed the state education budget, leaving a number of communities across the state strapped for cash and unable to adequately support their schools. Now, Romney appears intent on directing a significant portion of the already too limited education funds toward districts that can best absorb the budget cuts. Such a plan would only punish underperforming school systems rather than improving them, further widening the gap between rich communities and their poorer counterparts. Luckily, a number of state lawmakers have already said that they highly doubt Romney’s plan will be approved, but the episode exemplifies the governor’s utter lack of concern with true progress, as well as his apparent obsession with fattening the pockets of the rich while neglecting the needs of everybody else.

Another telling development has been Romney’s bizarre opposition of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which will take place in Boston this summer. A Republican with intense political aspirations, Romney no doubt desires to scratch the backs of nationally prominent members of his party who might soon be able to scratch his if he decides to actively pursue a new position, with the Senate and even the White House looming on his radar. As governor, Romney’s responsibility is to put aside his biases in order to foster and facilitate a major revenue-generating event like the DNC, but unfortunately he is beneath that. He long refused to help fund the convention, and a number of state agencies under his jurisdiction have created obstacles to convention planning. Perhaps his boldest maneuver was to publicly suggest that the Democrats move the event from the FleetCenter to South Boston, using security concerns as a thin veil for his underhanded political agenda. Even though Romney finally met with Boston Mayor Tom Menino to reaffirm his support the DNC, the governor has already revealed himself to be petty and amateurish, standing in the way of an important economic event for the city in order to further his selfish aims.

So we have a leader fixated on maintaining and expanding his political power, even at the expense of common sense. Sounds a bit like the man in the White House, doesn’t it? Too bad Romney is guaranteed two more years.