Welcome to a new category of post, the Hall of Shame. This category is for the most outrageous of political economy issues. For our inaugural post, I offer this quote from former San Fransisco Mayor Willie Brown, a California political institution in his own right. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 28 (As reported in the WSJ’s Notable and Quotable,) Mr. Brown’s candor was both refreshing and shocking at the same time:
News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.
Unbelievable. Refreshing candor–admitting that public budgeting for big programs is a fraud intentionally from the start–but also discouraging. We are apparently now in a moral world where ex-politicians can safely admit that their public projections on spending are known lies; they are only intended to get us to buy the lie so we approve what they do. And they know if they ever told the truth we would rise up and stop them. Exalt the lie, debase the truth. Willie Brown’s actions put him in our Hall of Shame.
PS, thanks to those who caught my typos (hopefully got ’em all). & hope they don’t put me in the hall of shame!