Ah, the early 2000s – the good old days here in Massachusetts.

The Red Sox reversed the curse. Reasonable Republicans not only still existed, we had one as governor. And you could buy a single-family home for less than $350k.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Nowadays, the median home price is well over $600,000, if you can find one for sale that’s not falling apart. The Red Sox sucer. Republicans without webbing between their toes are hard to find. Times have changed, and not for the better.

Or so it would seem to the non-delusional among us, a group not especially well-represented in the latest MassINC poll for Commonwealth Beacon. (By the way, congrats to the folks there on their spiffy new rebrand and the hire of distinguished State House News Service alumnus Gin Dumcius.)

Of the 1,002 Massachusetts residents surveyed, 68 percent said the quality of life here is good, not a bad showing but a real comedown from those salad days of blessed memory, when a 2003 survey pegged the happy-to-be-here crowd at 80 percent.

And get this: “Despite that drop, more Massachusetts residents today think the quality of life is better here than elsewhere in the US than was the case when the question was asked 20 years ago. Nearly half of those polled in the new survey – 49 percent –  said the quality of life is better in Massachusetts than elsewhere, with only 14 percent saying it’s worse here. In 2003, only 35 percent rated Massachusetts quality of life above that of the rest of the country, with 17 percent saying it was worse.”


Better than Minnesota, rated fifth best state to live in by US News & World Report (we’re 11th) on the wings of a #1 rating in infrastructure (we’re 42nd)?

Better than Washington state (2nd best overall), where they enjoy the nation’s fourth-best record of fiscal stability (we’re 43rd)?

Better than Utah (number one), with a significantly better economy and infrastructure and far superior affordability?

Okay, you can’t get a drink after 1:00am in Utah, while you can do so here until 2:00am. BFD.

But, but, we’re aces when it comes to health care, gay rights, and education – right? Wrong.

High-quality health care is only a plus if you can afford it, and the local trend of costs growing faster than income “is unsustainable,” according to state regulators. Gay marriage is legal everywhere. And while our public schools still top the charts overall, the rot of faltering literacy rates and sub-standard minority-student achievement puts that at risk.

We have fine restaurants (if you can afford them) and arts organizations. So do many other states. The days of Massachusetts providing cultural opportunities unavailable elsewhere are long gone. (Correction: Harvard University offers unequalled displays of anti-semitism; they’ve been at it for years and know how to do it right!)

Listen, your faithful columnist is a card-carrying Masshole. We love it here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else (except January through April, but who’s counting).

But we’re better than anywhere else? Earth to the self-deluded – check oxygen and seek a reality check.

Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.