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My Open Response to the NSBA

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I received a "nice" email today from the National Steel Bridge Alliance
regarding the "successful" passage of the latest transportation bill,
which was loaded as never before in history with PORK: public dollars for
projects of dubious worth, meant entirely as "back-door" campaign funding
for incumbent legislators of both parties.

Herewith, my rather terse response to the "happy news" as spun by NSBA

> August 15, 2005

> Dear Bill Polhemus:

> Now that the President has signed SAFETEA-LU, the highway
reauthorization > bill, into law, I am excited to report to you that we
were successful in > adding three important provisions in the bill for
the steel bridge
> industry.

Just so you know, Mr. Abnee: I am as filled with "excitement" on the
subject of this legislation as you. However, my excitement can be better
described as "anger" at the Congress, whom I and many other conservative
voters had high hopes would begin to roll back the horrendous and
increasingly oppressive government burden on the productive in this

And Mr. Bush has my ire as well for breaking his own promise to veto the
d*mned thing if it went over the more-than-ponderous spending limit he had
announced. It went over by several billion and he signed it anyway. I
wonder how much of the pork-fat in there was promulgated by your own

> When our legislative efforts began three years ago, we had one primary
> goal. That was to bring more competition into the design phase of major
> bridge projects to counter a growing trend in the industry away from
> consideration of steel as the primary construction material.

And I will wager that what happened in fact, Mr. Abnee is that your
industry's "goals" were incorporated along with everyone else's. Big Santa
handed out the gifts, and myopic organizations like yours don't even think
twice about unwrapping and enjoying--even as all the other disparate
industry, civic and institutional recipients enjoy theirs as well.

In fact, Mr. Abnee, no one made a "choice" to go with steel, did they?
Instead, you and all your competitors got the goodies, and we're all left
with the bill.

Congratulations on another successful foray into pork by our private
citizens. Of course, I can't leave all the blame with you guys: After
all--and this is a little-known fact--your right to lobby is enshrined in
the First Amendment.

No, you have no restraint, but the people's elected representatives ought
to. Too bad that the continuance of their political sinecures is far more
important than the real business of the People.

> As Congress struggled to enact a bill, our agenda grew to include a Buy
> America issue and to add dedicated funding for high performing steel
> research.

Yes, the agenda ALWAYS grows, doesn't it, Mr. Abnee? Again,
congratulations. I'm sure that since I'm paying a good chunk of the bill
myself--along with my wife and grown children, and other members of my
community, that my congratulations means a lot to you.

> We were successful on all three. The bill now includes a requirement for
> value engineering analysis on major bridge project with an expanded
> definition of the analysis, clarification from Congress to the Federal
> Highway Administration on the interpretation of Buy America on bridge
> projects, and a dedicated, $20.4 million high performing steel research
> program.

My, my, my. All that, just for a certain percentage of highway bridges.
Just THINK, sir: If you multiply all your "gimmes" by the total number of
hands stretched out to receive government largesse, you come up with a
right ponderous number of dollars to dole out--all from the kitty filled
from the pockets of taxpayers! Again, I congratulate you. Do I hear a
"your welcome" from you as well?

In any event, as the final legislation ran to well over seventeen HUNDRED
pages, I will probably have a hard time finding these little gold nuggets
of which you speak from the final text of the bill. Can you provide page

> The value engineering analysis is intended as an important cost control
> measure...

How ironic, that "cost control" seems so important to you now. Do you
think that "cost control" ever really figured in any of this?

> ....on major bridge projects of more than $20 million. It also expands
> the definition to require analysis at the concept and design phase.

Great. Think I'll sign up to become a Value Engineering facilitator. With
all that money out there, EVERYONE can become a beltway bandit!

(Looks like that's about the only means I have of seeing any of that money
back in my pocket).

> The requirement also calls for outside review and the possibility of
> project redesign and life cycle cost analysis.

Excellent! The hits just keep on coming!

(BTW, who knew that our Congressmen were so learned as to be able to see
the need to specify this in the legislation? Or did you provide them with
some help, Mr. Abnee?)

> The Buy America clarification is in response to the practice of the FHWA
> and state transportation departments breaking bridge projects into
> contracts for component parts and applying the Buy America test to the
> individual contracts rather than the overall project. Congress made clear
> in its direction to FHWA that the intent of Congress in the original Buy
> America law, is that the 25% test applies to the overall project, not the
> component contracts.

Actually, the intent of Congress was to curry favor with trade and labor
lobbyists, isn't that the truth, Mr. Abnee? In other words: "Buy America"
is still a myopic bit of know-nothing fluffery that actually adds NOTHING
to the value of any project--but provides PLENTY of copy for re-election
advertising for incumbent congressmen and -women!

(Oh, and it doesn't hurt YOUR group in the short run to have a bit of
trade-protectionism, the effects of which can be paid for by the
taxpayers, right, sir?)

> This is extremely significant for the bridge industry. As many recall,
> this issue arose on the Wilson Bridge project over the Potomac River and
> has currently become an issue in connection with the San Francisco-
> Oakland Bay Bridge project.

What you REALLY mean to say is, these became POLITICAL issues by the
greedy on behalf of their own interests, masquerading as "patriotism." Say
what you mean, sir.

> Lastly, the highway bill now includes a dedicated research program funded
> at $4.1 million for each of the five years of the bill, which will focus
> research efforts on high performing steel bridges.

And of course your own industry couldn't have POSSIBLY afforded that
research yourselves, eh, sir? What you're saying here is that you have
LEGALLY absconded with money to aid your trade group. It's ALL PAID FOR BY


> The intent of this program is to expand and concentrate research efforts
> on extending the life of steel and reducing the maintenance costs through
> longer lasting coatings and developing affordable, corrosion resistant
> steels.

The intent of this program is to get the taxpayers to pay for valuable
information for your trade group that you're not willing to pay for

> The NSBA success with this legislation is a direct result of the active
> involvement of our members who invested time and energy by coming to
> Washington, DC and meeting with Senators and Congressmen to advocate for
> our industry.

Ah, we've "invested time and money," and gotten a taxpayer-funded return
on investment! Bravo, Mr. Abnee! Bravo!

> We were able to expand our agenda because of how effective our efforts in
> Washington have been and how receptive members of Congress have been to
> our constructive approach for working with the steel bridge industry.

You were able to expand your agenda because NOTHING is more important to
individual congressmen than getting reelected, NOTHING. This is the ONLY
"bi-partisan" effort that is inevitable. The good of the nation as a whole
can go suck eggs: We need to bring home the pork and we need campaign
contributions to do it! Now that we've shut up the stupid "little people"
by passing Campaign Finance "Reform" we can look forward to getting only
OUR message out.

> In this legislation we have been able to achieve three goals. First, we
> are increasing design competition in order to break the pattern of
> designers only using one construction material.

What you've done, is to make the taxpayer-funded pie "bigger" so that YOUR
industry can "get its share." I doubt seriously that ACI and PTI and PCI
et al are crying in their beers this morning, for instance.

> Secondly, we are attacking a growing loophole in the interpretation of
> Buy America that would have a devastating impact on our industry.

Mr. Abnee: I'm feeling a "devastating impact" on my wallet thanks to you
and hundreds of industry trade groups, labor lobbyists and others. I'm
glad for your industry.

I am grieved for myself and the rest of my fellow taxpayers, however.

> And thirdly, we will be able to drive new efforts to make steel more
> competitive through a research program to reduce maintenance costs.

All paid for by the Taxpayers! (To whom you might declare "Who's Your

> These are exciting developments that when taken together with the huge
> new pipeline of road and bridge projects that are funded by the bill,
> should bring great opportunities for our industry.

There was a time when "opportunity" was something you made yourself, and
not through the efforts of a bunch of inside-the-beltway lobbyists.

There was a time when Republicans SAID they were for smaller government,
less government intrusion into our lives (and finances) and more
responsible government.

"Business as usual" seems to suit you people, though.

> Sincerely,

I highly doubt it, Mr. Abnee.

> Conn Abnee

Very interesting first name you have there.

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