The Mass. Legislature is (or isn’t) doing its job

The test is in how well we are governed

Much as I enjoy Jeff Jacoby’s columns, he misses the mark in his piece about the Massachusetts Legislature’s long sessions (“Short live the Legislature!,” Ideas, Aug. 12). By his logic, less governing is better governing. But none of his claims about the bucolic states with part-time legislatures are bolstered by data. No better comparison can be found than that between Massachusetts and Texas.

Looking at health care, we find that the Massachusetts uninsured population is 6 percent, just a sliver behind the 5 percent rate for Hawaii, the lowest in the country. Texas, by contrast, has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, at 15 percent. Shocking, it’s true, but lower taxes often give you lower services!


How about education? Using a variety of measures, with the National Assessment for Educational Progress at the center, Massachusetts is generally considered to have the best educational outcomes in America. Texas is ranked well below the national average.

Environment? According to Wallethub, Massachusetts is the third most environmentally green state; Texas is ranked 43rd.

Crime and imprisonment? Massachusetts is tied for the lowest incarceration rate per 100,000 citizens, and has the sixth-lowest crime rate. Crime rates in Texas are 60 percent higher, and it has the ninth-highest rate of incarceration.

Please help me understand what criteria one could possibly use to conclude that Massachusetts is one of the “worst-
governed” states? If this is bad governance, then give us more of it.

David Merfeld


Legislatures are measured by their legislation

Re Jeff Jacoby’s “Short Live the Legislature!”: The metric by which the Massachusetts Legislature ought to be measured is not how many days they show up, or even how much they are paid, unless it’s clearly excessive. The metric ought to be whether they craft legislation that effectively addresses the needs of their constituency — us. By that metric I would say the Legislature is woefully inadequate. Our infrastructure is literally falling down around us, our transportation systems do not meet everyday needs, the ferries run sometimes, our public schools are underfunded, and we are content to look the other way as our environment is for sale to the fossil fuel industry. California is burning, Miami is flooding, the Arctic is melting, the tropical forests are disappearing, and the best that the Legislature of the most blue, possibly most environmentally friendly state in the country can do is debate, then reject banning plastic straws. Carbon fee and dividend legislation has languished for 10 years on the speaker’s desk without even a vote. Teachers buy their students pencils with their own money, and the Alewife garage roof is dropping on cars. There is no leadership, and no effective redress to these obvious needs. Something is wrong in Denmark — no wait — that’s where they are doing something.


Hugh Wright