A CRC Analogy

Posted: June 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

It is sometimes helpful to put government issues in terms of people in order to understand them. For instance, this video really cut through a lot of empty rhetoric coming from Congress and the White House regarding the debt limit. So I was imagining what the Columbia River Crossing/ Light Rail boondoggle might look like on a personal level:

Imagine a situation where a family during difficult economic times had to replace their water heater within a few years, and knew it was going to be costly. Imagine the process of choosing which option in water heaters was a balance between function and cost effectiveness. Now imagine that the contractor they hire to install it decides to up-sell them, saying that they need a really expensive one that heats way more gallons than the family needs, that it ought to feed into a new jacuzzi as well. As he is coming up with the bid for all of this, the family also learns that actually, the contractor and the family’s HOA have already decided that this plan is the ‘locally preferred alternative’, and they have already voted to approve it, using the family’s funds. When the family protests, imagine the bank coming in and telling them not to worry, that they can provide a low-interest loan to pay for the whole thing, and that they can spread the cost over the next 30 or even 50 years. Now imagine that actually, they don’t have a choice about that either, the bank and the contractor and the HOA have signed all the necessary loan paperwork already on the family’s behalf. Now imagine that on top of all this, the family is required to hire a guy to maintain the new jacuzzi and water heater at union/prevailing wages, and he will also be charging them a fee every time they want to take a shower or use the jacuzzi. Also, they find out that in order to accommodate the new water heater, they have to remodel the garage such that the door is too low for their car to enter and park, so they have to park outside.

Imagine the family asking the HOA to be allowed to vote on this ‘locally preferred alternative’ and being mocked and laughed at by a circle of people that includes the contractor, the bankers, and the HOA. Then imagine the family appealing to their Congresswoman, only to find out that the contractor is one of her top campaign donors . So now the bank, the housing authority, the contractor and the congresswoman all shrug their shoulders and tell the family that they have been outvoted and the jacuzzi project is a ‘done deal’. They say further that if the family wanted to have input on the project, they should have gone to the two or three meetings that this circle was having a few years ago.

The family then asks how they are going to pay for things like their kids’ education, and the contractor responds, “Well, my kids are going to be educated instead. My son is training to be a contractor, and my daughter is training to be a Congresswoman.”

Does this situation seem at all strange to anyone?

  1. Ron says:

    You are an excellent writer… very thought provoking – and doesn’t it provoke the thought that it’s time we alter our system in such a way that it can better serve the people? Isn’t it time we realize that the end of this is NOT going to be good, and that we better unite and agree to untangle this mess, restore sanity, logic, common sense, reasoned thought, back into the process? Wouldn’t most of these issues would be naturally resolved if we just go back to honoring the wisdom of the free market? I’m no expert – but as far as what we as taxpayers actually pay for, can’t we inject an element of allocation into the equation? Seems like then what is important to “the people” would get funded, and that special interests would more often be forced to find “alternative” means to what is important to them.

    LOVE that video – hilarious!

  2. Ron, your suggestions make perfect sense to me. It is clear in the case of the CRC that the ‘will of the people’ and the ‘free market’ are completely separate from the decision-making process.

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