Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Missing the Point

"Big Dig" collapse a blow to urban dream

With 7.5 miles of underground highway and a 183-foot (56 meter) wide cable-stayed bridge, the Big Dig replaced an ailing elevated expressway to fix chronic congestion and reunite downtown Boston with its historic waterfront neighborhoods. But cost overruns, leaks, delays, falling debris, criminal probes and charges of corruption plague the nearly completed 15-year project, giving ammunition to opponents of similar plans in other cities considering tearing down aging elevated highways built in a construction boom in the 1950s and 1960s. [...] "When things leak and certainly when things fall down that aren't suppose to, clearly that undermines people's confidence in government's ability to deliver," said David Luberoff, a Harvard researcher and co-author of "Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment."
It wasn't "the government" that did such a lousy job on the Big Dig. It was Bechtel, a private contractor. The problems aren't a failure of government, they're a failure of the rightwing notion that privatizing public works is a good thing. When the priority is profit, then quality and safety are lower priorities than they should be because, y'know, they cost money and therefore reduce profits. "Government" isn't to blame for the debacle of the Big Dig. The fault lies with the people who have been shrinking the government until they can drown it in the bathtub.
Ordinarily, I'd agree.

However, in the case of the Big Dig, corruption and indifference inside the Weld government (and the Legislature) had a lot to do with Bechtel being allowed to get by substandard, overpriced work:

As noted elsewhere in this series, Peter Berlandi, a chief fundraiser for then Massachusetts Governor William Weld in the 1990's, was also on the Bechtel payroll working on the Big Dig project.

I'm not sure even Scott Harshbarger escapes criticism, even though by all accounts he was one of the few in government acting like an adult.
And which party is William Weld a member of?

Why, the one that wants to drown governent in the bathtub, then profit from its death throes. The one that wants to associates Democrats with Big Government, and Big Government with Evil, even as they work to make the evilness of Big Government a self-fulfilling prophecy.
No argument.

But crooked contractors have been a staple ever since JP Morgan "bought 5,000 defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to the Federal army for $22 each, many blowing the thumbs off soldiers attempting to use them."

And the presidency and Congress were controlled by the same party as William Weld then, too.
Yeah, but Abraham Lincoln was the GOP exception that proves the rule. He wasn't going around making speeches about trying to drown government in a bathtub while trying to profit personally from it. He was too busy trying to keep the nation together, even as he could hear Confederate cannon booming across the Potomac for much of the time he was in office.
There's a quote that is ascribed to Lincoln that he never said, but it accurately portrays the situation he found himself in to the effect that corporate power would destroy the country. To prosecute the war, he had to turn the country over to the robber barons, guys like JP Morgan. Those same robber barons destroyed the presidency of Grant who was one of the best US presidents. And ever since then, the GOP has been in the thrall of corporate power.
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