Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 20, 2006 / 24 Tamuz, 5766

The crumbling legacy of Tip O'Neill

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | All politics is local, Tip O'Neill famously said, and it surely doesn't get any more local than when a 6,000-pound slab from a project championed by the late House speaker falls on a 38-year-old newlywed from the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, crushing her to death as her husband drives her to the airport. O'Neill died in 1994, but the political culture he epitomized is alive and well and enshrined in the Big Dig, a slough of corruption, callousness, and cover-ups that had become a synonym for government mismanagement long before it killed Milena Del Valle on July 10.


It would be going too far to link O'Neill to the incompetent workmanship and negligent oversight that led to the collapse of a 3-ton ceiling panel in the Interstate 90 connector just as the Del Valles drove beneath it last week. But the culture that he embodied is still solidly in place. Only one month earlier the lords and ladies of Bay State politics had gathered to christen the longest section of the Big Dig as the Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. Tunnel and proclaim the immense — and immensely expensive — highway project his triumphant legacy.


"That project could never be complete until it bears the name of the person who made it all possible," gushed US Senator Ted Kennedy. "So let us celebrate his great legacy today . . . and remember that our job in public life is to improve the lives of others." Valle's life was not improved by this troubled project. It was ended by it.


Kennedy isn't the only one whose comments, in retrospect, were cringe-making. "Whenever you have a monumental project like this, you're going to have . . . inconveniences," lectured Boston Mayor Tom Menino just five weeks before the falling ceiling shattered the Del Valle family. "Anybody who didn't think about those inconveniences is not realistic."


The Rev. J. Donald Monan, the chancellor of Boston College, lauded the "human foresight" that went into the Big Dig, while US Representative Barney Frank told his audience (in the paraphrase of the State House News Service) that the public's poor image of the project "had been manufactured by the media." And then there was US Senator John Kerry, assuring one and all that "those who were sometimes critical of this project, those who worried about its cost, are going to look back and they're not going to see the cost. . . . The fact is, this tunnel will be a bargain."


The fact is, only someone marinated in the political culture that produced the Big Dig would say something so clueless. Granted, Kerry and his fellow preening pols didn't know on June 5 that part of the connector tunnel was soon to come crashing down on an innocent victim. But it wasn't exactly a secret that the project was in many ways a bloated catastrophe, vastly over-budget and marred by leaks, delays, and falling debris. For years news stories, outside audits, and internal memos had been documenting a shocking history of failures and errors. Just a few weeks earlier, in fact, six employees of Aggregate Industries, the Big Dig's largest vendor of concrete, had been arrested for allegedly falsifying records to disguise the poor quality of the concrete supplied.


Long before the dedication ceremony in June, the Big Dig had come to stink of cronyism, corner-cutting, and deceit. The odor grew stronger with each passing year, during Republican administrations no less than during Democratic ones. But that didn't stop Kerry, et al., from singing hosannas to O'Neill and pooh-poohing the critics' warnings. Only now that a woman is dead is Kerry suddenly talking about how he, like "every citizen in this state, wants accountability," and how there was "clearly a failure with respect to design and certain levels of oversight." So good of him to finally notice.


The Big Dig is indeed a monument to O'Neill. It captures perfectly the costly big-government sloppiness for which he was the poster child. Only in the public sector, where market discipline is nonexistent and financial losses are the taxpayer's problem, would such mismanagement be tolerated for so long. Only in the public sector, where political considerations far outweigh the bottom line, and where consumer satisfaction carries little weight, is such shoddiness and lack of oversight routine. In the private sector, incompetent performance generally means lost business, reduced earnings, or even bankruptcy. Only in the public sector — under Democrats and Republicans both — are negligence and failure commonly rewarded with ever-increasing budgets.


"Giving money and power to government," P.J. O'Rourke once observed, "is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." In both cases, the results can be lethal.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles