Then there are the perpetual cost overruns and execution failures for just about everything else the PA does, such as the new commuter rail terminal at the old World Trade Center site. It’s now years behind schedule and likely to cost a billion dollars above its original estimates. Or there are the six-figure pensions routinely paid to PA police officers, many of which result, according to the New York Post, from officers piling up overtime in the years just before they retire. There’s also a policy that allows officers who have been suspended for alleged misconduct or crimes to collect overtime while they are not even working. Another example of PA follies: Its staff—and even its retired staff—get lifetime E-Z Passes so that they don’t have to pay the $12 it now costs to go over the George Washington Bridge or through the Holland or Lincoln tunnels. Such is the sense of entitlement at the PA that when the agency moved recently to revoke these lifetime passes for retirees, it was hit with a barrage of lawsuits from the freeloaders.
New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie—the two superstar governors of their respective political parties—are jointly responsible for appointing the PA’s board and executives. Some newspaper, magazine, or television network ought to devote a whole series of reports to how the PA became the poster child for government that doesn’t work and what the two celebrated governors in charge are doing about it.
4. Lobbying over prostate cancer, medical imaging and other healthcare expenses:
In the last few months there’s been a renewed debate over whether men should get tested for prostate cancer. It began with the release of a federal task force study in December that recommended that men not get the now-routine PSA blood test that looks for warning signs of the disease, because it could result in patients undergoing arduous treatments for a cancer that advances so slowly they’re likely to die of something else long before it will take its toll.
There has been lots written since about the pros and cons of testing, but not enough about the flurry of lobbying the controversy has unleashed as interest groups, such as the push by the Washington-based American Urological Association (prostate cancer is a mainstay of urologists’ work) to make sure that the tests and the resulting treatment continue to be a mainstay of acceptable—and insurable—patient care.
Similarly, as questions continue to be raised about alleged over-testing and over-treatment for other cancers, trade groups like the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, or “MITA”—whose Washington work is quarterbacked by Powell Tate, the powerhouse “strategic communication and public affairs” firm—are working to preserve the status quo.
Fights over these kinds of multibillion-dollar issues that affect millions of people but are hidden from public view are bonanzas for lobbyists and great grist for reporters who dig into them.