Congress’ Phony Price Tags

Legislators have a lousy track record of keeping costs anywhere near their initial projections.

Congress says that the health care package it passed at the end of 2009 will cost roughly $900 billion over 10 years—and will somehow end up saving taxpayers money in the long run. If you think that sounds unlikely, you’re right.

With the federal government, massive cost overruns are the rule, not the exception. The $700 billion cost of the war in Iraq dwarfs the $50 billion to $60 billion that Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, predicted at the outset. In 1967 long-run forecasts estimated that Medicare would cost about $12 billion by 1990. In reality, it cost more than $98 billion that year. Today it costs $500 billion.

Nor is the problem limited to Washington. In 2002 the Journal of the American Planning Association published one of the most comprehensive studies of cost overruns, looking over the last 70 years at 258 government projects around the world with a combined value of $90 billion. The Danish economists Bent Flyvbjerg, Mette Skamris Holm, and Soren Buhl found that nine out of 10 public works projects had exceeded their initially estimated costs. The Sydney Opera House and the Concorde supersonic airplane were the most spectacular examples, with cost overruns of 1,400 percent and 1,100 percent, respectively. Budget busting occurred throughout the seven decades studied, with the totals spent routinely ranging from 50 to 100 percent more than the original estimate.

How did the United States do? According to the Danish researchers, American cost overruns reached an average of $55 billion per year. The table shows a small sample of these boondoggles. The Big Dig, the unofficial name of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, Massachusetts, is the most expensive highway project in the history of the country. By the time the project was completed in 2008, its price tag was a staggering $22 billion. The estimated cost in 1985 was $2.6 billion. The Dig also took seven more years to complete than originally anticipated, and it ran into severe construction quality problems along the way.

The military, too, has a long history of cost overruns. According to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, the Pentagon building itself “cost $75 million to build, more than double the originally planned $35 million.” Weapon system overruns are routine. Consider the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that has been plagued with at least $7.5 billion in cost overruns, mechanical problems, and other failures, including four crashes that took the lives of 23 Marines.

Strangely, lawmakers never seem to anticipate these extra costs even when the excesses take place under their noses. The Capitol Hill Visitor Center, an ambitious three-floor underground facility originally scheduled to open at the end of 2005, was delayed until 2008. The price tag leaped from an estimate of $265 million in 2000 to a final cost of $621 million.

Federal entitlement programs have grown far beyond the original promises of limits or budgets. Medicare hasn’t merely cost far more than originally expected. Data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show how the scoring office’s long-term projections of Medicare spending have steadily increased, even in recent years and over short periods of time. In 2005, for example, CBO projected that Medicare would cost $1.5 trillion in 2050. Two years later, in 2007, the same CBO projected that this cost would reach $2.8 trillion in 2050. And in 2009, it projected that the cost would be $3 trillion instead. In other words, the program’s projected cost doubled in four years. 

This upward revision of projected costs comes even in spite of CBO’s allowances for ‘excess cost growth.’ Furthermore, the actual expenditures exceed projections—in 2008, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded most recent projections by $63 billion; in 2009, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded projections by over $148 billion.

According to the Danish study, such inaccuracies aren’t just errors. They reflect widespread, deliberate lying on the part of public officials. “Project promoters routinely ignore, hide, or otherwise leave out important project costs and risks in order to make total costs appear low,” the authors conclude.

At a time of acute political anxiety over government spending and high federal deficits, the politicians behind the latest health care legislation are relying on the same modus operandi. President Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted that he wouldn’t sign a bill that cost more than $900 billion over 10 years, and the CBO has certified that the plan fits this constraint. Yet the true costs for the first 10 years of the Senate bill should be closer to $1.8 trillion. Democratic legislators got the CBO score they wanted by using an old gimmick: They crafted the legislation so that only 1 percent of the first 10 years’ expenses occur in the first four years, backloading costs so the price tag would look smaller than it really is. 

Lawmakers thus have essentially estimated the costs for a six-year period, from 2014 through 2019; if the new law basically starts the clock in 2014, the proper end point for estimating its 10-year cost should be 2023. (Also, CBO estimates do not take into account the fact that Congress is unlikely to follow through on the bill’s future Medicare spending cuts. “CBO estimates the effects of proposals as written and does not forecast future legislation,” Director Doug Elmendorf explained.)

It’s hardly surprising that politicians lie so routinely. Voters let them get away with it. When programs go over budget, fail to deliver on their creators’ promises, or simply do not work at all, taxpayers rarely punish those responsible. So lawmakers keep making unreliable promises of low costs, and we keep on accepting those promises at face value. Indeed, voters generally reward legislators who bring more federal funds to their states or districts.

The key to minimizing cost overruns is to return most of the public services to the private sector. Projects such as airports, playgrounds, and entertainment facilities are properly the role of the private sector, not the government. 

As far as controlling rising costs within health care goes, a better alternative to the semi-nationalization that the president has in mind would be to increase individual responsibility for medical decisions. When people aren’t exposed to the true cost of their care—even if they pay for it in foregone wages and higher taxes—they consume more. Like lying politicians, we all respond to incentives. 

Contributing Editor Veronique de Rugy (vderugy@gmu.edu) is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Suki||

    Good Morning reason!

  • bleephole||

    That pic needs some alt text.

    How about "That deficit is so hard and long"

    -- or --

    "I'm the one doing the dickin' here"

  • Mike T||

    Last I heard, the federal government spends about $70B a year in IT costs. They could probably cut that number by 20% at least if Congress were to empower federal managers to contract directly with IT workers and engineers rather than have to put out a bid and pay all of the overhead costs of hiring someone from a contracting firm. Software development contracts of little significance (say, around a few million dollars a year) could easily be handled by a federal manager directly managing a bunch of 1099s instead of having the bloat of a large contracting firm manage it. Heck, IT services could **easily** be managed like that in most cases.

  • Almanian||

    This is right up there with "dog bites man" and "the check's in the mail".

    I'm shocked - shocked - that our elected (and unelected) gummint officials can't don't won't accurately forecast the costs of gov't programs.

  • ||

    Actually IMO the word "can't" is most appropriate here. I worked in Federal Govt at the supervisor level for 24 years with a specialty in budgeting and accounting and I can tell you from experience that they haven't got a clue. Their ability to project costs, even at lower levels, is virtually non-existant. The way they budget is to take whatever they spent last year, add a factor for inflation, and then guesstimate the impact of addition of new programs or deletion of old ones. It's ball-park budgeting to say the least.

  • Mike T||

    California actually had a great process for rebuilding after the last quake devastated LA. Contractors were held by the nuts to the schedules and prices they quoted the state.

    If they came in ahead of schedule at the accepted standard of quality, they got a bonus award fee for getting the infrastructure back up and running faster. If they came in behind schedule, they were not only not paid, but fined for every day they were late.

  • Brett L||

    Yeah. Texas did that with the I-45 closure through Houston in the 90s. They figured it cost, IIRC, $3M/day to have the thing closed. So they made that the bonus/penalty. Contractor finished something like 30 days ahead of schedule.

  • ||

    At the Federal level, the problem is that govt contracting officials are at a huge disadvantage when negotiating contracts with corporations. Corporations come with legions of really sharp, highly paid lawyers...govt shows up with a few bureaucrats of middling intellectual capacity; undremanned and outgunned. It's like having a pit bull fight with a chicken.

  • ||

    I have been contracting with units of government for 30 years, and your assertions are not correct in my experience. First of all, the government has a take it or leave it attitude; government's negotiating levers get very long when it is the only source for certain kinds of work. Second, nearly every one of my contracts has a "termination for convenience" clause. In effect, that means that despite the contract, you can be fired on very short notice for any reason or no reason at all. Very hard to make any kind of conventional business committment (leases, employment agreements, loans, etc.) when you are on that kind of short leash. Third, the layers of bureacracy are manifold, and at every level there are scores of persons for whom the safe answer is "no." It can take months to find someone who may or is willing to say "yes" to any kind of change, no matter how clear the need. A lot of my government collegues are very bright, but they are wedded to their regulations, even when adhering to them makes no sense. I don't find the number of dim bulbs to be notably higher in government than in the private sector; they just tend to rise higher and stay longer

  • RCTL||

    I guess this story is a subtle way of saying HCR is still alive and preparing us for the next Pulitzer Prize winning story. I can already see the next headline: HCR is a really really bad idea because it's a really really bad idea.

  • bleek obummer||

    No - headline in 2014 will be:

    "Government health insurance since statist takeover in 2011 cost taxpayers $3 trillion more than private insurance would have."

    As noted in the story, nothing government does is even close to budget and the budget for so-called "health-care reform" is at least $1 trillion. They can't estimate and they can't contol costs.

  • RCTL||

    I prefer mine- headline in 2014 will be:

    "Government health insurance since HCR implemented in 2011 saves the consumer with more competition than private only insurance would have permitted ."

    As noted in the story, the insurance lobby's power diminished when they encountered direct competition.

  • Tripleb||

    90 percent of leprechauns surveyed prefer this headline...

  • bleek obummer||

    Highly unlikely that government will be able to save money and control costs. But maybe we can use the unicorn horn with some hopey/changey dust and have everything we want.

  • RCTL||

    Triplep & bleek, why do I get the impression that none of you have an original thought?
    ---leprechauns, unicorn horns & hopey/changey dust.--- Oh ya, It's because none of you have an original thought.

  • bleek obummer||

    RCTL,

    I can't speak for Tripleb but my original thoughts don't include increasing the role/scope/intrusion of government into the lives of the people of this country. On the other side, that seems to be your only solution - put government in control of more and more.

    Hopey/changey dust indeed!

  • RCTL||

    The point is you can speak for Tripleb or any other libertarian because your ideas are fradey/samey©.

  • bleek obummer||

    "The point is you can speak for Tripleb or any other libertarian because your ideas are fradey/samey©."

    Yes, RCTL. Libertarians tend to have have similar ideas just as liberals, conservatives, communists, "progressives", fascists, statists, etc. as a group have similar ideas to others in their same political group. There are differences in the libertarian group - there are extreme anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, minarchists, others but maybe 80% of the beliefs are the same. Libertarians believe in smaller government, more individual liberty and more economic freedom just as liberals, conservatives (neo), communists, "progressives", fascists, and statists believe in bigger government, less individual liberty and less economic freedom. That's just how we are.

    "fradey/samey©" - how cute

    Progressives/statists - hopey/changey©
    Libertarians - liberty/freedom

    I see you're now big on using the © copyright symbol. You really think someone else would use what you have written as their own and that government should take a moment from wasting money on other things to waste money tracking your comments?

    As far as "original thoughts" are concerned, when I see one of yours, I'll add a comment "RCTL original thought©" after it. I could go back in the blog but that would be pointless. And before you jump on me, I don't claim to have all "original thoughts". I read books and periodicals and gather ideas from them. You should try it - makes you all warm inside.

  • RCTL||

    Bleek, "I read books and periodicals and gather ideas from them. You should try it". Since you are not published that would mean you fall into the so does everybody else category. Btw, the Ziegler book is interesting.

  • bleek obummer||

    RCTL,

    "Since you are not published"

    I can't have opinions and beliefs because I haven't written an article, book or essay? Wow - tough room. Where have you been published? And I don't mean you comment here or on Daily Kos.

    What book are you referring to smarty pants?

  • RCTL||

    "What book are you referring to smarty pants?" A book that a fellow smarty pants recommended:
    bleek obummer||2.10.10 @ 7:42AM|#
    If by Switzerland you're implying neutrality, you should a book on their less than neutral assistance of the Nazis during World War 2. Start with "The Swiss, the Gold and the Dead" by Jean Ziegler. Make you choke on that chocolate.

  • bleek obummer||

    RCTL

    Sorry - I seldom recommend non-libertarian books so I forgot I recommended that one. It does make you think.

  • RCTL||

    Bleek, software or observation? Don't call me out. :-(

  • bleek obummer||

    "Don't call me out."

    On what?

  • rctl||

    bleek obummer|2.20.10 @ 7:23AM|#
    RCTL,
    Without the ads, Reason couldn't afford to publish... I didn't post under RCTL. How do you know it's me?...and I wanted to post under RCTL, would have!

  • bleek obummer||

    "Interesting but" I must have subconsciously channeled "libertarian bitch patrol" to you. Maybe next time, use something more generic as your nom de plume and write less like yourself.

  • RCTL||

    Define what you mean. Are you using software or not?

  • bleek obummer||

    No software - just spongy gray matter. I do write software and think logically. I spot patterns and connections.

    Sorry if I called you out again. How about I use the nom de plume "classic liberal in the modern era" to comment on your comments that are not posted as RCTL.

    Let me start that tracking spreadsheet...

  • RCTL||

    What is the meaning of your nom de plume?

  • RCTL||

    "classic liberal in the modern era" I think you may want to look at the acronym before you decide.

  • eek obummer||

    Now who has a dirty mind here? I would not even of thought of it that way.

    How about "modern classic liberal"?

    A "classic liberal" is what libertarians were called before progressives walked off with the "liberal" designation and went all big government with it.

  • bleek obummer||

    Someone stole my "bl".

  • RCTL||

    I meant the Bleek part and I know Obummer is for Obama.

  • RCTL||

    "I would not even of thought of it that way" Yes, but the posters would have.

  • bleek obummer||

    Bleek outlook for reducing spending, bleek outlook for reducing the deficit, bleek outlook for limited government, bleek outlook for the economy with cap and trade, etc, etc.

  • bleek obummer||

    But since I can never spell write, it is bleek instead of bleak. Makes it easier since I'd mispell it anyway.

  • bleek obummer||

    Plus it is unique - who else would spell bleak that way.

  • bleek obummer||

    "I would not even of thought of it that way" Yes, but the posters would have.

    RCTL, you're all heart.

  • RCTL||

    You should have said it was for philologist Wilhelm Bleek.

  • bleek obummer||

    Bleek - a cunning linguist.

  • RCTL||

    "But since I can never spell write." RIGHT! I don't think you're related.

  • RCTL||

    Ok, you can't spell right but you know the right way to write a pun.

  • bleek obummer||

    I lifted "a cunning linguist" from Deep Purple. Knocking At Your Back Door I believe. Too old for you.

    "But since I can never spell write." -
    I left that one for you - I know you get excited by things like that. You must be an English major. 'fess up

  • RCTL||

    I am never going to tell anything about myself but I do like to write. I will never correct any non-factual statements either.

  • bleek obummer||

    Fair enough - you keep writing and I'll keep reading.

  • Rich||

    It's easy to get a better estimate of the "necessary" effort.

    Take the ostensible completion time, double it, and change the units of time to the next higher.

    E.g., a nominal two-month project will in reality take four years.

  • ||

    They lie. Not mistakes in estimating, congress and your state and local governments throw out bsald faced lies on what a particular program or project will cost and the media (mostly) parrots the habitual liar.

    My rule of thumb is to double the estimated cost of projects and septuple the estimated cost of programs. I find this far more accurate than the political social engineers' fabrications.

  • ||

    The rule should be, double the projected cost and your 1/2 way to the actual cost. Odds after all that expense it actually does what was intended and doesn't inturn create more problems ZERO!

  • ||

    They crafted the legislation so that only 1 percent of the first 10 years’ expenses occur in the first four years, backloading costs so the price tag would look smaller than it really is.

    I love it when the Federal Government looks to the NFL salary cap as a model for budgeting.

  • ||

    Well, we all know Congress is bought and paid for by the highest bidder. No surprise at all.

    Jess
    www.privacy-tools.de.tc

  • A is Awesome||

    Thank you, for another big 'NO DUH!' article.

  • (not) Veronique de Rugy||

    Mais oui. Also, Obama will appoint liberals and the Sun will rise tomorrow morning! Reason pays me well for these scoops!

  • ||

    Do you prefer to argue against non-libertarians with first principles alone, or the power of morals and repugnance alone? Or do you prefer having references to academic studies to bolster your argument?

  • ||

    references to academic studies - As of late academics are not the best role model for truth, see global warming.

  • Mike||

    Just out of curiosity, is there any comparison to how often private sector projects are over-budget and by what percentage? I don't expect it to be by as much, but bad estimates are common and expected in the IT industry at least.

    Of course, in the private sector, when you screw up you actually have to pay for it.

  • ||

    This isn't a Congress issue per se. Private companies are not any better at projected costs on big projects.

  • Tripleb||

    Yes they are.

  • Mike||

    I think it's reasonable to say that the problem is to some degree inherent in the scope of the project.

    I mean, take medicare - you're estimating the cost of providing healthcare to million and millions of people for the next fifty years... how do you even go about doing that? There are so many market forces changing the cost of healthcare market, what treatments are available, how long people live, what diseases they're going to have, etc. And that's not even taking into account the ripple effects the program itself is going to have on how much private insurance old people have or how much they think they need to save to pay for medical bills.

    Fifty years ago, retirees weren't taking pills by the handful to treat their myriad symptoms so they can live in relative comfort until they're ninety. They were mostly living in pain and drinking alcohol to sooth it, living with their families, and generally making themselves a handful until they finally died in their seventies. At least, so my grandmother tells me, anyway. How do you plan for that kind of societal paradigm shift? Even ignoring corrupting influences, it just seems nearly impossible to estimate from the top down, no matter how many harvard and MIT grads you throw at the problem.

  • A is Awesome||

    It's more reasonable to do a maximum probable cost analysis, and use that as your estimated cost. That way, we know our potential deficit, and if the cost of the program goes under that, then it's a win-win.

  • Mike||

    Oh, I agree that they sell things using the lowest estimated cost - but in these cases, that's still way under the actual cost of the project. If your estimate says "somewhere between 2 billion and 100 billion" you're saying you don't really have a clue.

    Personally I'd use this as an argument against central planning - as in, it's HARD, and therefore unlikely to be done well.

  • Chad||

    Why is the private sector any better? To a corporate world, the five-year-plan may as well planning for the End of Time, and anything beyond next year is speculative.

  • Mike||

    Because it's more fractured, and more able to change when something fails.

    How long have we ben trying to get some kind of reform to medicare. Absent any government intervention, no company can continue to survive on a projected deficit of billions of dollars. So someone with a plan that worked would step in to the void.

  • Mike||

    Because it's more fractured, and more able to change when something fails.

    How long have we ben trying to get some kind of reform to medicare. Absent any government intervention, no company can continue to survive on a projected deficit of billions of dollars. So someone with a plan that worked would step in to the void.

  • ||

    This isn't a Congress issue per se. Private companies are not any better at projected costs on big projects.

    Private companies that badly miscalculate go out of business. Programs that overrun either fail and stop, or those that backed them lose lots of money. Over the long run, that decreases, though surely does not eliminate, the overruns.

    The advantage of the free market is not that private actors don't make mistakes at all; it's that mistakes are punished, which both gets rid of them, stops them, and sometimes (but not always) stops them in advance.

  • ||

    Unless, of course, said companies get a bailout instead of being allowed to die.

  • ||

    Unless they are a defense contractors.

    It wasn't Congress that was charging the taxpayers $1000 for a hammer. But Congress didn't have a problem until it was a scandal, as usual.

    Sadly, with regards to your last paragraph, I have to agree with Pablo. We'll see if this is an Obama thing, or if the next President continues.

  • ||

    On a related note, I must second Glenn Greenwald's criticism; Reason needs to adopt a consistent policy on the CBO. The magazine can't praise them one moment and condemn them the next.

    Glenn Greenwald is a valuable ally on the left; libertarianism has few friends, and friends are as precious as gold.

  • ||

    On a related note, I must second Glenn Greenwald's criticism; Reason needs to adopt a consistent policy on the CBO. The magazine can't praise them one moment and condemn them the next.

    I'm sorry, your criticism makes no sense.

    The magazine is consistent. Reason consistently praises the CBO for being honest under the biased constraints put on by law, and as being the best estimates we have. That the best available research and evidence indicates that things are always worse than estimates doesn't change that.

    Reason consistently treats CBO estimates as a lower bound on spending that will occur. That is entirely reasonable. That means that the magazine is completely consistent at praising the CBO estimates for puncturing the even-more-optimistic estimates of politicians, yet forecasting that things will be even worse than the CBO predicts.

  • ||

    "The CBO estimate is a lower bound" is the 100% consistent policy that the magazine already practices.

    The CBO is the least biased of government forecasting agencies, and certainly less biased than estimate produced by politicians. So it's entirely consistent to take CBO estimates over other estimates, but still warn that things will be yet worse.

  • ||

    Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding; if there is, I apologize.

  • Ratko||

    If the war in Iraq is any indicator of what could be expected with Obamacare, and I see no reason why it wouldn't be, we could expect a 12.6 trillion dollar price tag before the first decade had passed.

    If I had known that was all it would cost I'd not been so heartless murdering all those millions of innocent Americans by denying them their constitutional right to free healthcare.

  • ||

    Article Subject: Cost overruns on government projects.

    Number Of Times Article Uses The Word "contractor": 0

    Number Of Times Article Uses The Word "no-bid": 0

    Number Of Times Article Uses The Word "fraud": 0

    Sources And Beneficiaries Of Fraud and No-Bid Contracting: private sector

    Prescription Of Article For Solution To Cost Overruns: increased privatization

    Sense That Makes To Adults: very little

    Sense That Makes To Libertarians: perfect

  • ||

    Private sector liability for government fraud: none

    Private sector liability for private sector fraud: 100%

    Ability to believe that the government is just an innocent victim of government contracts: standard

    Sense that makes to typical

  • My 2 cents||

    Sense That Makes To kindergarteners: none

  • ||

    wow, orel, you are so smart!

    when the buyer of a product or service is completely price insensitive (because its not their money in the first place), it is entirely the fault of the seller that price overruns happen!

    so if i take your money and blow it all in vegas, im glad to know you will hold the casinos and strip clubs responsible for their malfeasance! and i will call it my stimulus package!

  • ||

    orel cannot quite comprehend this arcane bit of knowledge:
    if you dont care how much it costs, you arent gonna get a good deal.

    just because you got an estimate from the contractor doesnt mean you just hand them a blank check and call it a day. you do have to take some responsibility for making sure your contractor is taking care of it. not all of the responsibility, but some of it. if i get an estimate on a big home improvement project, then just hand a blank check over to the contractor, then i am a dumbfuck who is gonna get screwed.

    and orel, ill bet you wouldnt do that with your house either. so that makes you a state apologist hypocritical dumbfuck.

  • ||

    Number Of Blank Checks Handed Out By Government: 0

    Party Responsible In Government Contracting For Originating And Meeting Projected Costs: contractor

    Party Libertarians Blame: the customer

    Branch Of Law For Dealing With Fraudulent Government Contractors: Cui Tam

    Dollars Recovered From Fraudulent Contractors Under Cui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuits 2009: Over $5 billion

    Documentation: http://www.taf.org/

    Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Be A Whistleblower Against Contractor Fraud: near zero

    Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Support And Encourage Contractor Fraud: high

    Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Type A Bunch Of Retarded Nonsense On Reason.com: very high

  • RCTL||

    Orel Hazard, you make me ☺.

  • ||

    ☺ right back at ya, RCTL.

    For some reason, they won't get back to me at the Cato Institute about that open Research Director position.

    (Note to actual Research Director at Cato: that was just a joke and I'm sure your job is safe.)

  • Ahole||

    Joke or no joke, you sure are a rather arrogant person to be putting up a disclaimer directed towards the Cato director.

    "Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Be A Whistleblower Against Contractor Fraud: near zero

    Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Support And Encourage Contractor Fraud: high

    Likelihood Of Free-Market Libertarian To Type A Bunch Of Retarded Nonsense On Reason.com: very high"

    So you don't think these would apply at all to a pro-government democrat? I suppose none are corrupt and all are trustworthy right? You're a funny person!

    Say what you will, but when a majority of the population with entitlement issues vote on spending projects with cost overruns that dwarf your reference of an attempt at accountability, well, need I say more?

  • ||

    Orel, what you and your state apologists never want to acknowledge is that the common denominator in all your woeful examples is government. You take away government and who would defence contractors bilk for the $1000 hammer? Not me. I'm not buying. What jobs would contractors get without a bid? They wouldn't be building my house that way.
    Statists want a perfect world where the boogerman is locked away and citizens can remain safely in a bubble.
    Libertarians prefer a free world where, yes, there are winners and losers, but at least we get to make choices along the way.
    And BTW, choosing between a Giant D0uche and a T#rd Sandwich is not a choice, so the concept that we get the government we deserve or ask for insults me. I asked for none of it.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Oh gee, here we go again.

    It’s hardly surprising that politicians lie so routinely. Voters let them get away with it.

    No. Voters have no real way of stopping them.

    When programs go over budget, fail to deliver on their creators’ promises, or simply do not work at all, taxpayers rarely punish those responsible.

    Because, they have no real way of stopping them. They don't even have any real power to decide who they get to vote for, the parties do that.

    As Veronique says, people respond to incentives. But the problem isn't the voters, it's the rotten democratic system they've got to work with. Stop slamming the voters!

    Democracy sucks all manner of wild creatures. Sadly no one has come up with a better idea yet, so we're still stuck with it.


    The key to minimizing cost overruns is to return most of the public services to the private sector. Projects such as airports, playgrounds, and entertainment facilities are properly the role of the private sector, not the government.

    Which is a great theory until you realize that things like airports will never function on free market terms. Because, just for example, there will never be 713 competing airports in metropolitan NYC. Nor will there ever be multiple competing privately owned systems of streets and roads in NYC. For obvious reasons. So get off the "make roads privately owned" shtick, because it doesn't hold up to rational analysis.

    On anything that functions outside market parameters, what We The People end up getting is a crap shoot no matter how you slice. Privately owned monopolies just aren't inherently more efficient that publicly owned monopolies.

    Meanwhile, it's very true but hardly news-worthy, that governments and politicians lie about costs. And they do it because, people respond to incentives.

    Look at the results we're getting, and you can back-solve for the incentives that our system is providing.

    All of which goes toward the hope of getting people's focus tuned in the right direction. But part of the problem here is that the press has incentives not to do this.

    Sensationalism and rants will sells. Insisting that we focus on actually solving the problems, doesn't sell so well.

  • ||

    The Tea Party needs you now to organize. We want our Constitution to be "Protected" and not destroyed:

    http://www.nationalprecinctalliance.org/main/getting_started

  • ||

    I won't speak for other libertarians, but I never liked the Tea Party from the start; I sincerely hope it goes down in flames. If you are lucky, it might end in a fistfight between the rads and the trads.

  • ||

    The Tea Party should become some obscure irrelevant group like, say, the Libertarian Party.

  • ||

    Just a silly example from the Canadian military, which is no doubt analogous.

    My brother-in-law was in sales for Weldwood, a large wood products supplier in Canada. He was trying to sell plywood for tank targets at the Land Force Central Area Training Centre Meaford.

    “Mil-spec” for tank targets (which is nothing more than a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood) was 3/4 inch, good both sides. He suggested that 1/2 or 3/8 inch good one side or even seconds would suffice. No way were they buying any of his $20 seconds – they wanted $100 firsts to blow to smithereens.

    He got the contract, but he’s been scratching his head ever since.

  • ||

    Everyone KNOWS this is true...even those on the Left. New govt programs grossly underestimate the projected costs, and grossly exaggerate the anticipate benefits. We end up with hideously expensive programs that don't do much good for anybody (except the govt bureaucrats that run them). The difference is that those on the Left don't care...they view ANY govt program as inherently preferable to ANY private alternative...regardless of cost/efficiency considerations.

  • ||

    "Everyone KNOWS this is true...even those on the Left. "

    Yes, but 'the Rich' will pay for everything any way, so it doesn't really matter.

  • Dale Blankenship||

    Congress has betrayed us. I live in North Dakota and I know that my Congressman Earl Pomeroy has lost my vote. He used to be this middle of the road type but has become this Nancy Pelsoi Washington DC robot. I'm dissapointed. I attended a town hall and listened to the Republican candidates. I really like what I heard from Kevin Cramer. Stop this health care monster and start over. Get reform ideas from everyone. I think Cramer can be a fresh voice for my state.

  • answer4everything||

    Two of the major reasons for cost overruns in government projects are bureaucratic/political tendencies to make the perfect the enemy of the sufficient, and using said projects to reward favored constintuencies. An example of the first is the anecdote by one of the above posters about the Canadian military buying plywood for target practice. An example of the second would be bidding requirements that call for "prevailing wage" and/or union employees only. One stifles competition in favor of unions, the other just hands the job to the unions.

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets...in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it's literally a labyrinth, that's no joke.

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