More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, a new World Trade Center is finally rising, along with a memorial, museum, and a transit hub.
When the projects are slated to open they’ll supposedly symbolize America’s strength, determination, and refusal to cave in. But they really tell a different story about taxpayer rip-offs, public-sector incompetence, and union and corporate greed.
One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, will be the most expensive office building in American history by a long shot. Cost overruns have driven the price tag to $3.8 billion. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that’s running the show, is sticking commuters with part of the tab by hiking tolls across the Hudson River to $12.
The new complex will dump 3-million square feet of office space into a soft rental market meaning Condé Nast, the flush publisher of The New Yorker, Wired, and Vanity Fair, got beau coups subsidies to move in. And who-other-than the federal government signed on to fill up five floors at a cost of $351 million over 20 years?
Even The New York Times’ stimulus-pimping columnist Joe Nocera has called World Trade Center rebuilding an “example of just about everything wrong with modern government,” asking, “where’s the Tea Party when you need them?”
Just down the street from the Trade Center, a federally-financed transit hub is a billion dollars over budget, now coming in around $3.4 billion. Construction costs for the September 11th Memorial and Museum have climbed to $700 million, with taxpayers footing a portion of the bill.
New York’s politically connected construction industry has benefited the most from 9/11 largess, but the city’s real estate and banking cartels have gone whole hog at the taxpayer-funded trough, too.
The Bush administration gave New York $8 billion in tax-free Liberty Bonds, only to see a big portion of that gift go for projects that have nothing to do with September 11th. Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards benefited from subsidized bonds, as did a midtown Manhattan office project. Even Goldman Sachs, which has nearly a trillion dollars in assets, got almost two million dollars towards its new headquarters.
Since when did honoring the dead become an occasion for fleecing the living?
After September 11th, small townships in New Jersey and Long Island quickly built modest but moving memorials to pay tribute to the loved ones they lost in the attacks. In Lower Manhattan, something else completely is being built: an overdue, over-budget monument to the ease with which politicians, bureaucrats, and opportunists spend other people’s money.
Written by Jim Epstein and Nick Gillespie, narrated by Kennedy, and shot and edited by Epstein, with help from Anthony L. Fisher.
Pretty damning, especially when the U.S. was ranked #1 in 2008, prior to Barack Obama taking office. So much for the world’s infatuation with the President. While the World Economic Forum doesn’t call him out by name, the problems identified point directly at his failed policies. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this in an ad before too long.
From the Albuquerque Journal:
Dear America, Nobody Shouts ‘We’re No. 7′
For years it has been de rigueur for elected officials and candidates alike to bemoan the national debt, pegged last week at more than $16 trillion.
But the fiscal reality is that debt is more than a number people can’t get their heads around and politicians can’t come up with a plan to reduce. It’s a number that continues to push the United States down the list in national global competitiveness.
This year, we fell to seventh.
That’s a hard statistic to accept in a country that for decades has prided itself as a superpower.
Not when it comes to business and money. Seventh. It continues the nation’s downhill slide, from fourth in 2010-11 and fifth in 2011-12. In contrast, Switzerland ranked first for the fourth year in a row, followed by Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany.
The World Economic Forum rankings say America’s biggest weakness is a combination of the nation’s budget deficit, savings rate, inflation, government debt and credit rating, and is compounded by a lack of trust in government by the business community.
The rankings put the U.S. 54th out of 144 national economies in public trust of politicians and 76th in wastefulness of government spending and burden of government regulations. Considering the U.S. government’s inability to reduce its national debt, that’s generous.
What are the prospects this will get better?
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has provided little detail on how he would deliver on his promise to slash spending and balance the budget by 2020 if elected. In three and a half years President Barack Obama has declined to address exploding growth in entitlement programs for the elderly, poor and disabled yet has been unable to get his plan to increase taxes on upper-income earners through Congress.
But it’s not just the White House missing deadlines—it’s Congress, too. This year, as outlined in our appropriations timeline, we’ve seen a lot of missed budget deadlines. Let’s break those down:
2012: MISSED BUDGET DEADLINES
Missed Deadline #1: White House Fails To Submit Budget On Time. “The White House told Congress on Monday that its budget will be late this year, meaning President Obama onceagain will miss the deadline set in law. Congressional officials said the president now will send up his budget on Feb. 13, which is a week later than the usual date. The law requires the budget be sent by the first Monday in February.” (Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, 1/23/12)
• The President Is Required To Submit His Budget Outline By The First Monday Of February. (Congressional Research Service, 1/28/04, p.2)
Missed Deadline #2: Senate Budget Committee Fails To Submit A Budget Resolution. According to the Library of Congress website, the Senate Budget Committee failed to vote on a budget resolution. (Library of Congress Website, Accessed 9/9/12)
Missed Deadline #3: Congress Fails To Pass A Budget. (Library of Congress Website, Accessed 9/9/12)
• The House And Senate Are Required To Pass A Budget Resolution By April 15. (Congressional Research Service, 1/28/04, p.6)
Missed Deadline #4: House Appropriations Committee Failed To Report All Of The FY 2013 AppropriationsBills. The House Appropriations Committee only passed eight of the 12 appropriations bills by June 10, 2012. (Library of Congress Website,Accessed 9/9/12)
• The House Appropriations Bill Is Supposed To Report The Final Appropriations Bill By June 10. (Congressional Research Service, 1/28/04, p.6; U.S. Senate, Committee on the Budget, Website, Accessed 9/9/12))
Missed Deadline #5: U.S. House Failed To Finish Work On The FY 2013 Appropriations Bills. As of June 30, the House had passed only five of the 12 appropriations bills. (Library of Congress Website, Accessed 9/9/12)
Missed Deadline #6: The OMB Failed To Report Its Mid-Session Review On Time. “The Obama administration has missed another annual budget deadline, failing to send Congress a mid-session budget review before July 16. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) confirmed Monday that the deadline for the review, due every year on that date, was not met this year.” (Erik Wasson, The Hill, 7/16/12)
• The White House Is Supposed To Submit The Mid-Session Review By July 15. (Committee on the Budget, Website, Accessed 9/9/12))
Missed Deadline #7: White House Misses Sequestration Transparency Act Deadline. “The White House announced that it will not meet Friday’s deadline to make public what plans it will put into place to deal with the massive defense cuts coming at the end of the year. The announcement comes shortly after President Obama signed into law the Sequestration Transparency Act that requires him to submit a report to Congress detailing the impact of his ‘sequester’ on defense and non-defenseprograms – cuts that were triggered after the so-called Super Committee to come up with a debt deal last year.” (Fox News, 9/7/12)
ANOTHER FAILURE: Congress Not Likely To Pass One Appropriations Bill Before New Fiscal Year. However, Congress will probably pass a CR, so this is technically not a missed deadline.
“Lawmakers get back to doing nothing”
In Politico, Scott Wong writes, “With the convention pomp and pageantry over, another production now begins on Capitol Hill — this one featuring meaningless show votes and theatrical hearings. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will hold an oversight hearing this week titled: The Obama Administration’s Abuse of Power. House GOP leaders will try to pass a bill to roll back automatic defense cuts — a bid to undo a law many of them supported in the first place. … To add more fuel to the “do-nothing Congress” label, at least one chamber — the Democratic-led Senate — could adjourn as early as Sept. 21 for another seven-week recess, coming on the heels of the five-week August recess.”
Another Short-Term Fix for Congress
Roll Call reports, “With lawmakers eager to get back on the campaign trail, Congress will seek to make quick work of a six-month stopgap spending bill, which could be the vehicle for an extension of federal farm programs set to expire at the end of the month. The House is on track to clear the continuing resolution this week, with the Senate expected to follow suit next week, according to House and Senate aides from both parties. The House could unveil the measure as soon as Monday and vote on it by Thursday. … The fiscal year expires Sept. 30, and House and Senate leaders have pledged to pass the CR to keep the government funded through March. This measure would allow Congressional leaders to avoid a politically self-destructive fight over funding the federal government before the November elections.”
Gregg: Printing More Money Will Be Counterproductive to Long-Term Growth
Judd Gregg editorializes in The Hill, “This is not a nation that lacks in liquidity. It is a nation that lacks in leadership and certainty. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has made it reasonably clear that he is ready and likely to pursue a new round of quantitative easing. This is the current nomenclature for printing money. It is a decision that seems to be based on the chairman’s belief that the Fed can help with the unemployment problem in America, and our anemic economic performance, by expanding once again the money floating round the economy. … The reason QE3 will be counterproductive to a long-term improvement in our nation’s economic growth is simple. It is not a lack of liquidity that is restraining our nation’s job engine. It is a lack of certainty about fiscal policy. Specifically, people who have cash to invest are guarding it because they do not know where the federal government is going on spending, deficits, tax policy and regulations. They are fairly sure that if it does act, it will choose badly.”
Romer: Democrats Need A Plan For Debt Reduction
In an OpEd for the New York Times, Christina Romer, former Chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, called on Democrats to put their own plan on the table for dealing with our $16 trillion debt and annual trillion dollar deficits. Romer writes, “Aside from the empty chair that Clint Eastwood debated, the main prop at the Republican convention was a debt clock, highlighting the federal deficit and the growing national debt. The importance of dealing with the deficit will clearly be a major Republican theme this fall. So far, Democrats have mostly been playing defense on this issue by criticizing the Romney-Ryan approach. It’s time for them to go on offense by putting their own plan front and center. … Government health care spending is a major cause of our terrifying long-run budget outlook. Any effective deficit plan has to slow that spending growth. … Honest talk about the deficit is risky. Voters are more enthusiastic about the abstract notion of deficit reduction than about the painful details of accomplishing it. But deficit reduction is coming, and this election will most likely determine how it’s done.”
Stalled Bill Angering Farmers
The New York Times reports, “When Congress returns to business this week, it will be met not by the Code Pink antiwar protesters or the Tea Party supporters who often gathered near the Capitol last year. Instead, farmers will be out in force, rallying for a bill that lawmakers failed to pass before they recessed five weeks ago. That unfinished bit of business threatens to cut off aid to farmers across the nation. But lawmakers, fresh off their parties’ conventions, appear to favor action on other bills that emphasize their political agendas over actual lawmaking. … Over the summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill that the House declined to take up. House leaders also refused to consider their own Agriculture Committee’s sweeping farm measure, instead pushing through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. Senate leaders declined to take action on that measure because they said it was too limited, a view shared by many farmers.”
Congress Focusing on “the bare minimum”
Andrew Taylor writes for the Associated Press, “When lawmakers return to Washington on Monday, they face big issues, including taxes, spending cuts and the prospect of a debilitating ‘fiscal cliff’ in January. Yet Congress is expected to do what it often does best: punt problems to the future. With Election Day less than two months away, their focus seems to be on the bare minimum – preventing a government shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30. Democrats controlling the Senate and their House GOP rivals also will also try to set up votes intended to score political points or paint the other side with an unflattering brush two months before the election. ”
President Obama Calls for “Leaner and More Efficient” Government
Bloomberg reports, “President Barack Obama said he is ‘more than happy to work with the Republicans’ to make the federal government ‘leaner and more efficient,’ adding that he would accept $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue. … ’We have an obligation to make sure government works,’ Obama said. ‘And there’s still waste, there’re still programs that don’t work.’ … While Obama said he would be willing ‘to make some adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid that would strengthen the programs,’ he criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposal, which he said would ‘voucherize’ Medicare and drive up seniors’ health care costs.”
Treasury to Sell Chunk of A.I.G. Shares
The New York Times reports, “The Treasury Department said on Sunday that it was planning its biggest sale of shares in the American International Group to date, making the federal government a minority shareholder in the bailed-out insurer for the first time since it took control of the company four years ago. With the sale of at least $18 billion worth of shares in A.I.G., a number that could grow to $20.7 billion if investors prove enthusiastic, the Treasury Department could reduce its holdings to as little as 15 percent from 53 percent. Taking the government’s stake in A.I.G. below 50 percent is the realization of a long-held goal by both the Obama administration and the company, helping to cut ties to one of the most controversial bailouts of the 2008 financial crisis. The Treasury Department expects to earn a profit on its investment in A.I.G., though it is unclear how large. … Regarded as one of the world’s most powerful insurers by the fall of 2008, A.I.G. nearly crumbled under the weight of risky bets on mortgages as the debt markets soured. The Bush administration intervened with an unusual $182 billion lifeline to help stabilize the global financial sector.”
Another Senate Hearing on GSA Scandal
The Washington Post reports, ”Five months after it was rocked by a Las Vegas spending scandal, the General Services Administration continues to land on Congress’ radar screen, even with a public relations effort to turn around its tarnished image. The agency’s new leader, Dan Tangherlini, will face questions next Wednesday at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The grilling is unlikely to be as rough as recent hearings in the Republican-controlled House, and Tangherlini is working hard to show that he is turning the agency aroundThe agency’s new leader, Dan Tangherlini, will face questions next Wednesday at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. … Tangherlini, GSA’s acting administrator since April, will testify on his efforts to rein in travel and conference spending since the agency’s inspector general revealed details of a four-day extravaganza in Las Vegas for 300 employees.”
Berkley: “It Did Not Occur to Me”
Berkley: “Did Contact the Ethics Committee”
Berkley: “I Didn’t Say That”
So, Congresswoman, Which One Is It?
(Las Vegas, NV) – Whoops. Seven-term Congresswoman Shelley Berkley can’t seem to keep her story straight. This past Saturday, Shelley Berkley completely denied ever telling Steve Sebelius during an on-camera interview that her office “did contact the House Ethics Committee” about a potential conflict of interest.
The denial came during an interview with Anjeanette Damon after Damon asked Shelley Berkley to clarify two conflicting statements, one made to Jon Ralston on June 25th where she said a conflict of interest “did not occur to her” and another to Steve Sebelius on September 1st suggesting it did, or at least to someone in her office.
“This is an election that will determine a seat in the United States Senate. Nevadans deserve to know if Shelley Berkley is lying to them over and over and over again. Shelley Berkley has worked overtime to rewrite history but she did in fact say that her office made contact with the House Ethics Committee. In fact, she said it on-camera. One way or the other, Shelley Berkley is misrepresenting the truth again, just as she has done repeatedly throughout this campaign,” said Chandler Smith, Heller for Senate spokeswoman.
On Saturday, September 8, on “To the Point” with Anjeanette Damon, Shelley Berkley completely denied her statement to Steve Sebelius:
- Anjeanette Damon: “This is to figure out a discrepancy in your comments over the last couple of weeks. You told my colleague Jon Ralston that when you advocated to save the kidney transplant center at UMC that you weren’t thinking about politics or whether financially it benefited your family. Last week you told my colleague Steve Sebelius that your office actually sought input from the House Ethics Committee.”
- Shelley Berkley: “NO I DIDN’T SAY THAT. I don’t know whether I have to clarify this but I think, first of all, and let me set a parameter here, I have been asked specifically by the Ethics Committee not to say anything about what is transpiring…”
- But then she talked about it anyway without explaining her prior comment to Steve Sebelius: “When the investigation is over there is no doubt in my mind that everyone will know that my only concern was for the welfare of patients. Specifically, in the case of UMC, keeping that kidney transplant program open so that the 200 people that were waiting for a kidney transplant in Southern Nevada would be able to have that kidney transplant right in the state. And there is no doubt in my mind that there is going to be, the evidence will be overwhelming, that that was my main concern. What I said to Jon is that when I received the call from the administrator at UMC I had no other thought in my mind than joining with my two other colleagues from Nevada Dean Heller and Jon Porter at the time to make sure we save that program. There was no politics, no consideration and believe me, my life would be much easier right now if I had done the political thing and said, ‘oh no I can’t possibly do it.’”
On Saturday, September 1, Shelley Berkley told Steve Sebelius that someone from her office contacted the House Ethics Committee about a potential conflict of interest:
- Steve Sebelius: “Before you advocated on that…did you contact the House Ethics office and ask them is it appropriate, is it ok if I do this…?”
- Shelley Berkley: “Let me say this, it’s my understanding that MY OFFICE DID CONTACT THE ETHICS COMMITTEE but I didn’t personally do that. And all of the other issues that are involved with the ethics complaint and the ethics investigation, we’ve been asked to keep them confidential…”
- Steve Sebelius: “Did you hear back from them?”
- Shelley Berkley: “I don’t know. I don’t know and I can’t give you an answer…”
But yet Shelley Berkley told Jon Ralston on “Face to Face” in June that a conflict of interest “did not occur” to her:
- Jon Ralston: “You wrote two letters to regulators…you don’t think it could be seen by some people…that you were pursuing a narrow financial interest?”
- Shelley Berkley: “NO. Number one there are millions of kidney patients throughout the United States…would I have really stood back and do nothing when I knew that there was a possibility that the only kidney transplant program in the entire state of Nevada was going to be closed?”
- Jon Ralston: “Have you thought about it enough…?”
- Shelley Berkley: “I wasn’t thinking about the politics of it and I wasn’t worried about the politics.”
- Jon Ralston: “This isn’t politics. This is the financial benefit side of it.”
- Shelley Berkley: “IT DID NOT OCCUR TO ME. My only concern was to provide good health care in the state of Nevada for the people that live here. That’s it.”
In the film classic The Wizard of Oz, the munchkins of the kingdom were enthralled by the mysterious origins of the wizard and allowed him to rule over them. And, of course, he commanded the hapless Dorothy and her crew to do all sorts of impossible deeds. The wizard knew the magic of media, and used staged interview sessions, with bells and whistles galore, to enhance his air of authority and to disguise his actual lack of competence.
When it comes to today’s economy, we are living in a similarly bizarre world. The credentialed elites of Washington DC, led by President Obama, treat us like munchkins and command impossible deeds. We will do regulation on steroids, and, you, Dorothy, are to get everything done. We will break up the health care system and rearrange it in our wizardly wisdom. We will spend and borrow massively to implement our grand vision of society. You will persevere in the impossible circumstances we have created and if by some miracle you achieve the goals we have imposed on you, well, we can give you…nothing.
People wonder if there is any way out of the economic trap we are living through, with its high unemployment, low growth and spiraling sense of malaise. Ever the optimist, I think there is. Our situation today looks a lot like the immediate post-World War II environment, where an exhausted public faced an uncertain future after more than a decade of extreme government interventionism, first the New Deal and then the wartime command economy. There was a tremendous hunger for normalcy- to do things, make things, get a decent job, spend one’s money without government interference, to pursue happiness in accord with the great Declaration that launched this American experiment. Once the voters, haltingly under Truman and decisively under Eisenhower, insisted that the dead hand of government overreach be removed, the resulting prosperity took everyone by surprise.
Opportunity is knocking again. Look at the choice being offered in this election. Think about it. Hard. And vote!