Sunday, August 01, 2004

Big Dick Cheney: Tax and Spender

“The Point” closed out its week in Boston with one last non-story: the “Big Dig.”

Attempting to associate John Kerry with government boondoggles, Mark Hyman gives a brief overview of the lengthy and pricey highway project in Boston that has transformed the city center but has done so after much more time and money were spent than originally estimated.

The underground highway, a technical achievement some have likened to the construction of the Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal, did go way over budget (not unlike a good number of government projects). Hyman notes that John Kerry was lieutenant governor to Michael Dukakis during part of the time the project was going on, and implies that this suggests fiscal irresponsibility on the part of Kerry and other Democrats.

Hyman also mentions that President Reagan vetoed the funds intended for the project, citing it as an example of wasteful spending, and then ponders how much more incensed the former president would be when seeing how much more money was spent on it than was originally planned.

There are just a couple of problems with this analysis. First, the funds Reagan vetoed were not, as Hyman would have you believe, strictly for the “Big Dig.” These funds were part of a much larger highway spending bill that he in fact vetoed in 1987.

Secondly, while Hyman notes that this funding was vetoed and overridden, he leaves out the fact that Reagan’s veto could not have been overridden without significant support from Republicans in Congress. In fact, the list of the Senators who voted to override the veto included such conservative luminaries as Wilson from California and D’Amato from New York. The vote to override was overwhelming in the House, and included such well-known lefties as Trent Lott and the single House member from the state of Wyoming: one Richard Cheney. According to Hyman’s logic-by-juxtaposition, the current vice president is part of the fiscally irresponsible tax and spend crowd.

This brings us to the more salient point. As over-budget as this one particular highway project was, it paled in comparison to the astronomical debts being built up by the federal government under Hyman’s exemplar of fiscal frugality, Ronald Reagan. Such deficits haven’t been seen since . . . well, until today at least. The current Bush administration has managed to fritter away an historic surplus accumulated during the Clinton administration, replacing it with record budget deficits.

As far as government projects run amok, one need look no further than Iraq, where costs blew past all Bush administration estimates long ago, with millions of dollars being funneled directly into the pockets of private contractors such as Halliburton, a company inextricably linked to that same Wyoming Representative who voted to override the Gipper’s veto in 1987: Dick Cheney.

And that’s the Counterpoint.


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