Thursday, July 17, 2008

Treasurer Cahill's Political Philosphy vs. Patrick's

[Note: I updated this blog at the end to reflect a story published in today's Globe. It's an important update, which changes some of my opinions on this matter, so please look for the update in bold.]

Would anyone care to garner a guess at what Treasurer Cahill's doing? Obviously, he's playing at becoming Governor, but he's not exactly going about it in the best possible way. First off (and I hate to be blunt), by constantly sounding like a whiner and a complainer, the few people who are paying attention aren't exactly going to be inspired - and he'd definitely need the foundations of a movement to defeat Patrick, or pretty much anyone. Secondly, if he plans to run against Governor Patrick, Tim Murray in the distant future, or even a Republican in a General, opening himself up to these kinds of attacks is not a good way to get elected.

The recent dust up between Treasurer Tim Cahill (D-Quincy) and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Milton) over the handling of the Bay State's finances has drawn strong words on both sides. "I think it's a reckless move by the administration and by the legislature," Cahill said on NECN Tuesday of the governor's plan to guarantee the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's near $2.4 billion debt. Asked if he was consulted on the plan Cahill responded, "No, no we've had very minimal conversations with the administration."

Treasurer Tim Cahill (D-Quincy) Cahill's remarks prompted a quick and fierce response from Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray (D-Worcester) who said Cahill shouldn't criticize the governor when he doesn't have a plan of his own. "He's been informed about this since April," Murray told the Boston Globe Wednesday. "He had plenty of time to come forward with ideas, and we have not heard from him...What is reckless in this situation is to do nothing . . . because the turnpike could end up facing a $200 million payment that would fall on the backs of the toll payers."

Cahill's constant complaining about the Patrick administration - and near complete lack of offerring anything refreshing of his own - is the perfect storm in how to run a losing campaign, especially against an incumbent. A Cahill bid, based on what we've seen so far, doesn't look to be a strong one.

Patrick could be in a much better position, politically, if he had avoided some of his political blunders - media driven or not. However, there shouldn't be any doubt that people will take Patrick's ideas and optimism over Cahill's negativety eight days a week. Nor does Cahill have the accomplishments (or chomps) to defeat a sitting Governor of his own party, or his Luetenant. Come next election, or whenever Cahill wants to run, he'd be far better armed with fresh ideas and tangible policy success rather than attacking Governor Patrick's every proposal or decision.

Let's go over Cahill's major statements so far. He's for fixing bridges, but not for paying for them. He's for large-scale resort casinos, but against Deval Patrick's plan. He thinks we need more casinos, to get more revenue, so we can have more money to pay for gambling-related rehabilitation. (David paraphrases: "Right now, we don't have revenue that exists to solve the gambling addict problem. There may be more of them here if we add casinos, but... this is an opportunity to generate revenue to deal with the addiction problems.")

Cahill's basic MO - he's not willing to pay for things, or rock the boat, but he loves to criticize. In Mass society, we could do with less of the latter and more Mass poneying up. We need to rock that boat, heavy. Cahill's Pittsburg Pirates approach to running government - cut costs, keep things bare boned and be happy to break even - represents the failing status quo. We lose things one at a time, never giving a chance for momentum to build. What we need is the Sox approach - spend a little money to make a little money, which will not only foster a more solvent government in the end, but will deliver a product people can be proud of.

Isn't that what we all want, a government we can be proud of? A Government that helps make our lives better, doing the things we can't do alone? We the People should foster policies that improve our lives and make economic sense for everyone, not be afraid of big change or try to shift the costs to the least influential. We need to fix bridges, improve public transportation, make college and health care affordable. We need to streamline government to run smoother, be more transparent and give power to the people. We need to be willing to pay for those things, and make the tough calls to make businesses cough up. We've seen glimpses of that out of Patrick's administration, nothing so far from Cahill.

One of Patrick's greatest strengths is he's willing to look at new ways of creating revenue or saving money in unexpected places. He's willing to take risks and come up with big ideas. Some of his proposals are better than others, but he's fostering strong debate and a more democratic process. Many of his good ideas have passed, more will follow. None of them would have if not for the fact that he's been willing to be imaginative. Meanwhile, as is typical in a people-powered democracy, his bad ideas haven't gone anywhere. So if battling the Governor on casinos is the price to pay for cutting loopholes and adding hundreds of millions to the state budget, I'll take it.

Where are Cahill's ideas - what policies have they helped push? Cahill's few proposals have been bad ones. So, score this round to Lt. Governor Murray and the Patrick Administration. Murray, in this case, was a great vehicle to fight back against Cahill's continued criticisms - delivering the perfect message to Cahill: at least we're coming up with something, what do you have to offer? At the end of the Patrick Years - be they another 2, 4 or 6 - Tim Murray may end up being the biggest winner. His political skills abound. He's extremely likeable, gets the importance of the nuts and bolts in government, but also that we need to look at the big picture too. People still love him from his Worcester days and he's done nothing to hurt his image since. If the future battle of the party is ever between Tim Murray and Tim Cahill, my money (2 cents) is on Murray.

Update: Well, apparently he has a few ideas after all. Suffice it to say, he wants to limit schools that are built to particular models that towns could choose from, if they wanted partial state reinbursement, but they'd be more bare-bones in terms of community features. If communites wanted a pool, for example, it would have to be a seperate buildling with no state funding. That's not a good idea, but on the whole there's some good pieces. One thing, though: why not tie choosing state plans to more aid, as opposed to mandating designs? Etc. Or, better yet, offer the designs to reduce costs for towns, coupled with the fact that state reinbursements would have a hard cap, which would also eliminate massive reinbursements to the wealthiest towns. We shouldn't discourage a little freedom of thought, or our towns from building the best schools they can afford. Furthermore, for some towns, Cahill's plan would make things more expensive: my town combined the high school and senior center projects into one building to save costs, building a true community building. It's actually worked out surprisingly well, so far, with a beautiful school and community center. If the senior center wasn't included in the high school designs, the High School wouldn't have passed - as it only did so by a few dozen votes, the Senior Center definitely pushing the project over the edge. So, clearly, this proposal isn't fully thought out - but by bringing it to the table, Cahill's certainly fostering ideas that could soon be saving towns and the state tens of millions a year. So, kudos (but I still think he's crazy if he's planning to run against the Governor.)

Off Topic Note

The more Mass blogs, the better, but Politicker may want to read up on the most rudimentary of Mass common knowledge.

Putting aside whether Patrick's plan is reckless or not, the fiery exchange between Murray and Cahill (the Globe's Casey Ross called Murray's remarks "unusually heated") has not gone unnoticed by political analysts who believe both pols are eyeing the governor's mansion.
In the Commonwealth, there is no Governor's Mansion. Next time substitute mansion for the Corner Office.


Anonymous said...

You sure have our "Treasurer-wannabe-Guv" Cahill's number...his act is getting increasingly transparent. Stay tuned.

HL Peary

Ryan Adams said...

I wouldn't mind the competition and the rivalry, if it were leading to better policy. That's why Cahill was annoying me to such an extent - because he wasn't offering anything unique of his own.

His school costs cutting plan, though, is a solid one - at least the concept of it (though there's a lot that would need to change to make it smart policy). I'm glad he's finally bringing some ideas to the table, because he'd need them against Patrick.

That said, I really hope he just learns to get along with the rest of Beacon Hill and starts contributing, otherwise his ideas are going no where. He's not going to unseat Patrick, if that's what he's thinking, though I won't be so pretentious as to say he shouldn't run. If he wants to ever be Governor, though, he'd be smart to try to get a good school cost cutting proposal through, as well as many things to follow.

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