Skip to comments.Shovel-Ready White Elephants (Face it, this country cannot build things the way it used to)
Posted on 10/20/2010 6:34:07 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
It took 410 days to build the Empire State Building, four years to erect the Golden Gate Bridge. The Pentagon took a year and a half, the Alaska Highway just nine months. These days it takes longer to build an overpass.
For instance, planning for Bostons Big Dig officially began in the early 1980s with a budget of $2.6 billion, but ground wasnt broken until 1991 and the last ramp wasnt opened until 2006. The final estimated cost: $22 billion. According to the Boston Globe, it wont be paid off until 2038.
Meanwhile, the race to rebuild the World Trade Center as some kind of remorse theme park approaches its second decade.
And across the harbor from Ground Zero, in New Jersey, Republican governor Chris Christie has earned scorn for thinking that a proposed underwater rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey might be too pricey. Under discussion for decades, it was originally projected to cost $5 billion. Estimates are now $9 billion and rising.
Christie still might reverse course if he can cut a better deal for his state. But the underlying fact remains the same: This country cant build stuff the way it used to. Its taken President Obama nearly two years and billions of dollars in misspent stimulus money to discover that there really is no such thing as shovel-ready jobs when it comes to public works. In fairness, Uncle Sams sloth and bloat is not all bad news. Americans used to tolerate a much higher level of workplace mortality for such projects.
And to be sure, not all environmental regulations are overkill. One reason we couldnt build a Hoover Dam today is that such projects do incredible violence to the natural environment. (Im always amused by the stylish environmentalism of many Southern Californians who dont realize that Mother Nature intended for SoCal to be a desert where snakes outnumber hybrid cars.) The simple reality is that Uncle Sams arteries are hardened. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bushs allegedly tardy response was seen as proof that conservatism itself was inadequate to the demands of responsible government. But it wasnt conservatism that kept some volunteer firefighters out of commission because they were in Atlanta for sexual-harassment training and video tutorials about how great FEMA is. Nor does conservatism demand blind obedience to the Davis-Bacon Act, the union-friendly rule originally intended to keep blacks out of the public workforce that is now used to pump up wages on every project. NIMBYism is surely a bipartisan phenomenon. It is not conservative opposition that has delayed the construction of windmills that would diminish the view from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Nor was it primarily the Right that boosted entitlements until they crowded out public works.
And lets not forget Yucca Mountain in Nevada a project under way for decades that has already cost untold billions and is being shuttered in no small part because environmentalists say that it wont be safe enough 10,000 years from now.
Much of the liberal intelligentsia is awash with nostalgia for the days when government got big things done. Economist Paul Krugman, who subscribes to the Keynesian fantasy that spending just a bit more money than is ever fiscally or politically possible is the answer to all of our woes, is beside himself that Christie wont pay whatever it costs to make Krugmans commute easier. His fellow New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, dedicates dozens of columns a year to his envy of China, and more recently he praised Singapore for its willingness to spend huge sums on a string of Manhattan projects and Hoover Dams.
Failure to indulge these building sprees is routinely blamed on the Rights anti-government ideological dogmatism. The irony is that theres not that much ideological opposition to worthwhile public-works projects. Theres some, but most objections are much more consistent with the old-fashioned, country-club-style fiscal conservatism everyone claims to miss. The white elephants are just too expensive to build, and they often seem to be aimed at disguising wealth distribution, either to favored unions or to favored donors.
Taxpayers recognize this, which is why earmarks are a much bigger symbolic issue than they are an economic one. Obama says theres no such thing as shovel-ready projects. But he has it wrong. There are projects perfectly ready for the shovels. Its the bureaucrats, activists, and politicians who arent ready to hand them out.
Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Trade Centers should have been rebuilt within a year. We have become paralyzed with legalism, environmental wackoism, and our communist enemies infiltration.
RE: The Trade Centers should have been rebuilt within a year
ALMOST TEN YEARS AND COUNTING MY FRIEND. Al Qaeda are sneering even as we speak.
AND there it is folks, in black and white.
This simple truth is responsible for the vast majority of our national ills. Period.
This is the weird thing - the government was able to get this big stuff done *precisely* because of the things modern liberals hate, including technological innovation, lack of concern for the environment, lack of political correctness, etc. In fact, the left of center China-admirers have to engage in doublethink to both praise the Chinese model and ignore the tremendous environmental destruction and lack of concern for worker rights or safety that the Chinese use in building.
Compare the Mackinaw bridge to the almost finished Hoover dam bypass bridge.
The mackinaw bridge was built in 3 years with no work done during the winter. Its 5 miles long over deep water. Cost adjusted to todays dollars it cost around $200 million to build.
The Hoover bypass has taken 8 years to build a span short 0f 2000 feet at a cost of around $250 million.
Chris Christie just cancelled the parallel Hudson River Tunnel to NYC project.
Estimated Cost : $14 BILLION !! (A significant portion to be shouldered by the tax payers of New Jersey ).
How much would this project have cost 60 years ago?
I think it’s all about financial possibilities in our society.
You can make thousands doing civil engineering or millions doing financial engineering.
FRiend, you saved me a lot of typing; you said it all!
How do you pay the government BACK?..
The government is not a person that can be paid back/off..
The gov't is a Vampire that sucks resources from real people.. a parasite..
Everything the gov't does is parasitical.. it cannot be "PAID OFF"..
Even teachers, firemen and police officers are parasites..
UNLESS they are employees of public sector companys..
Unions are also parasitical entities..
The government is a parasite that has parasites itself..
It can a beneficial or a malicious parasite.. BUT IT IS A PARASITE...
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