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Author: Bob Neer
There are few greater pleasures for the blogerati than naval gazing. In that spirit, hearty applause to one of the Commonwealth’s most astute journalists Gabrielle Gurley who demonstrated in today’s Daily Download from Commonwealth Magazine that she has her finger on the living pulse of contemporary Massachusetts political discourse: “Pioneer, the Pacheco law, and the revenge of the Blue Mass Group nerds.”
In a piece discussing a fantastic report from the radically libertarian David H. Koch-financed (but ostensibly non-partisan) Pioneer Institute that projected savings from privatizations that never happened and then asserted that the state had lost money by not undertaking them (Charles Dickens summarized this kind of analysis in Bleak House as follows: “[W]hen he was persuaded out of the sacrifice of these five pounds by being convinced that it would do no good, he carried that sum to his credit and drew upon it. ‘Let me see!’ he would say. ‘I saved five pounds out of the brickmaker’s affair, so if I have a good rattle to London and back in a post-chaise and put that down at four pounds, I shall have saved one. And it’s a very good thing to save one, let me tell you: a penny saved is a penny got!’”), Gurley wrote:
And so, some Blue Mass Groupies pounced on Sullivan’s findings. In a post entitled, The Pioneer Institute does acrobatic logical twists re the Pacheco Law, David Kassel, communications director of the Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates poked a few large holes in the Pioneer report, including raising questions about the dubious premise of the MBTA missing out on nearly half a billion dollars in savings.
Kassel, who has taught public budgeting, statistics, and program evaluation at local colleges and universities, had this to say about the 1997 contracts: “Contracting out for public services can prove to be much more expensive in actuality than it appeared in the plans or bids…the Pioneer’s entire calculation of a $450 million in foregone savings in rejecting the MBTA vendor contracts is suspect.”
Sullivan responded to the BMG post, noting that the actual costs that the MBTA incurred immediately afterwards “did not beat the cost of the two contractors or come remotely close to doing so.”
Yet the Pioneer report also fails to note that DeNucci’s concern was that the MBTA could not adequately document cost savings- which is why the contracts were deep-sixed in the first place.
Everyone involved in this discussion should be commended: Greg Sullivan, first and most importantly for achieving the magnificent status of grandfather and mentioning this triumph in a BMG comment! also, for authoring the report and earning his salary, BMGer David Kassel, for being the voice of reason and reality, paid in the coin of virtue: customary compensation on BMG, Gabrielle Gurley, for her reporting, and all of us jolly bloggers who, as I said, find nothing so appealing as talking about ourselves. Long may it continue.