The rarified world of government was recently shaken to its roots by Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey. He cancelled a railroad tunnel that was to be built under the Hudson River to connect New Jersey and New York City. Based on the screams from the left-wing media, you would have thought that life in America had come to an end.
Once Governor Christie made his announcement, the left erupted in its usual, tiresome manner – on the opinion pages of the New York Times – with articles penned by two of its house leftists, Bob Herbert and Dr. Paul Krugman. Mr. Herbert – never a stranger to pointless hyperbole – decried the downfall of America as a great nation. He questioned why a country that built the Erie Canal and the Hoover Dam could not build a rail tunnel like the one that had just broken ground. Funny thing though – not once in his column did he mention anything about cost. Dr. Krugman similarly bemoaned the decline of the country, but at least he mentioned the estimated price tag of the tunnel: $8.7 billion. Of course, he then proceeded to dismiss the impact of this cost on the residents of Governor Christie’s state.
As one would expect in a newspaper written by liberals for liberals, nowhere was there any description of the facts and circumstances that brought Mr. Christie to this decision. The cost of the tunnel, which had been in the works for almost 20 years, had recently risen from $5 billion to $8.7 billion. $3 billion of this was coming from the U.S. government (which certainly can’t afford the money). Another $3 billion was coming from the Port Authority of New York – which they tell us is not the
It’s not as if America works like it did in the mid-20th century. The Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, was built in 410 days. Even more amazing is it took all of four months between conception of the project and the beginning of construction. Now flash forward about seventy years when we have all sorts of improvement in technology. At one of my local parks, three 2-story buildings, a total of about 50,000 sq. ft, are now being built. That is 0.8% of the size of the Pentagon. These buildings were five years in planning and (so far) two years in construction. Egad, our country appears to be regressing.
What are the differences? Certainly not the capabilities of the American people. There are, in fact, three culprits: First, our political leaders have far too little concern for our tax dollars. They think that if the price of a project goes up, they can just throw more money at it. They don’t insist upon realistic cost estimates out of fear that if people knew the real price tag, the project would be rejected. Second, NIMBYs and environmentalists now add enormous time and cost to the development process, an increase magnified by the time value of money. Finally, the requirement that union labor be used on public projects escalates the cost exponentially. It limits competitive bidding and drives costs into the stratosphere.
Don’t blame the messenger. Blame the people who have caused every project, no matter how small, to be dragged out with study after study. Blame the rules that restrict competitive bidding and require that construction is done by overpriced union labor. Blame the politicians who have allowed this process to descend into this disaster all over our country. Governor Christie was just the first to say no more. For that, he should be declared a hero.