Gubernatorial hopeful Bob Massie of Somerville.

Credit: AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

First, He Learned To Walk Again. Now, Bob Massie Is Running For Governor

May 18, 2017

According to a poll released in early April, Gov. Charlie Baker is (once again) America's favorite governor, with a 75 percent approval rating, five points higher than his 70 percent rating from September of last year.

With only 17 percent of the state's residents unhappy with Baker's job performance, who dares to challenge the most popular governor in the nation?

Bob Massie does.

Massie, a Democrat and an environmentalist, is throwing his hat into the ring in the 2018 gubernatorial race. He joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to discuss his campaign, his take on statewide issues, and growing up with pre-existing medical conditions that shaped the way he looks at healthcare.

CHARTER SCHOOLS:

"I believe that charter schools suck too much money out of the public school system. They started as a means of experimentation and innovation, [and] they now are starting to have a negative effect on some of the communities where they're being brought in, and so it's a question of balance, but I opposed Question 2 because I thought we were going too far."

MILLIONAIRE'S TAX

"Massachusetts' tax system is fundamentally unfair, in the sense that it's regressive. By having a flat tax, you avoid generation income, which is critically needed. As you know, we've also been lowering that flat-tax rate, which means that we've had less and less. This is not something that can be solved anymore by trimming here or there — I think the governor has done as much as is possible.

"We have to have a discussion about revenue; the answer is yes, of course, I support fair-share (the millionaire's surtax). I think it's very straightforward and very fair, in the sense that you're saying to someone who makes a million dollars in income (not wealth, that's very important and I expect people to be a little confused about that) if you get an income of a million dollars a year, $20,000 a week, you can pay a bit more, only on the amount over a million.

"Inequality in Massachusetts is making it easier for wealthy people to buy things that aren't provided publicly. So, they don't really think there's a need for those public services, whereas we know in lower-income communities — I've lived in Somerville for 32 years — they depend on public education, public parks, even public community health. Yes, I do favor it, and I think we need to have a much bigger conversation about what kind of revenue we think we're going to need over the next ten years."

ON BAKER'S ENERGY PLAN:

"Our roads are collapsing, we still haven't provided internet for the Western part of the state ... our educational system is falling apart, and more than anything, we are not making the transition to clean, cheap, renewable energy, which is taking off all over the world, and we have a governor that wants to commit to fossil fuel. I think that's the wrong way to go, and I think it's because he spends very little time actually thinking about where we, the people in Massachusetts, should be in ten years."

TAXES ON SODA/SUGARY DRINKS:

"I do [support it]. The benefits of that tax in other countries is driving down the consumption of sugary drinks and slowing the advancement of obesity and diabetes, those are very healthy outcomes."

TAX ON AIRBNB RENTALS:

"I support it. I think Airbnb is an extraordinary innovation, my wife and I spent some time on her sabbatical in various Airbnbs in Europe, and there were great benefits from that. But I don't see any reason why (and it would just be a small incremental charge that would just get swallowed in the transaction) we shouldn't be paying some tax for the privilege of being in a beautiful place paid for by many public monies."

MARIJUANA BALLOT QUESTION:

"Voted yes, supporting legal recreational marijuana."

RAISING TAX ON MARIJUANA:

"I am more concerned that we try to make sure that marijuana businesses and sales are in the hands of local communities and local businesses, as opposed to having some Walmart of dope come in and set up a huge corporate structure that then takes all the money and benefit out of Massachusetts. If you're talking about revenues and the impact of marijuana, economically, there's the tax issue — but there's also the deeper question, which is, who is going to get to make these sales?

"What often happens is, a wonderful new opportunity comes along, and a big company comes in and occupies most of the sales, and therefore the long-term economic benefits of the revenues and even of the wages go out of state. I think that's a mistake."

GRADUATED INCOME TAX

"A full graduated income tax would look at everyone's income and say, what is this incremental approach, much like the federal income tax, which makes a difference between people who have a lot more money and people who have a lot less.

"One of the core questions here is that our economy, right now, is kind of upside-down. We are extracting money from local communities and sending it up to Wall Street where they fool around with it in a kind of a casino-behavior — you've heard it called 'financialization of the economy' — so it's getting harder and harder, people work harder and harder, they're working less and less, and yet, at the top, you have big corporations sucking money out, too much cash they don't even know what to do with it. They buy back their own stock, they pay huge salaries, they do all kinds of gimmicks, the last thing they seem to be able to do, even when they get an increase in productivity, is to put it back into workers and benefits. That's a deep problem for America."

HEALTHCARE:

"I was born with this very serious bleeding disorder that makes your joints swell. I lost the ability to walk when I was about five, I had to be in leg braces and a wheelchair. Gradually, I got the ability to walk back, because we moved to France for a few years, and I was actually covered, as a foreign resident, for the expense of medications. I was able to get enough of them to bridge back. Through those same medications and through judgments made by the American pharmaceuticals about not going the extra mile to protect the blood supply, I got HIV.

"That was a very dangerous, scary time; I remember there was people with hemophilia, it was gay and lesbian people. They were dying quickly, and William F. Buckley proposed that everyone with HIV should be tattooed, there was serious talk about putting everyone with HIV under quarantine on an island ... this was a period when some of America reacted with fear, but many others, especially medical personnel, threw themselves into dealing with this. I discovered, eventually, that I had a genetic resistance. Suddenly my life, it was going to be shorter, it got longer again, then I got Hep C, I spent six years at home reading a biography of every president of the United States (in case you want to discuss one of our more obscure presidents) and then I got a transplant, and that cured the hepatitis, cured the cirrhosis, and even cured the hemophilia.

"Oddly enough, at this point in my life, I have more energy [and] I am healthier than I have ever been in my life. When you go through something like that, not only does it make you aware of how precious life is and how important it is to spend it doing things that are really important, but I never forget the kind of people who are still in the kind of situation that I was in for many years, who need good medical care [and] who need the support of their communities just to get through daily life. It is not their fault that they are sick, which is one of the most repugnant things that has come out of this congress."

To hear Bob Massie's full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio player above. 


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