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Op-Ed ; Coakley's Free-Market Fears

Jul 18, 2007


The truth? Sorry, Massachusetts, you can't handle the truth.

So says Attorney General Martha Coakley. She thinks you're just not ready.

The truth about how much your car insurance really costs?

"We have concerns about whether the market in Massachusetts is prepared for rates to be set by competitive pricing at this time," Coakley said, invoking the Royal "We."

Queen Martha is particularly concerned about urban drivers. Given the massive subsidies they currently receive from their suburban counterparts, Coakley isn't sure they can handle the shock.

Thanks to price controls in place today - the same system that once served the Soviet economy so well - high-risk drivers don't pay their own insurance premiums. Instead, the best drivers in Massachusetts pay hundreds of dollars they don't owe, so that the worst drivers can get thousands in price breaks they don't deserve.

The Patrick administration is considering a modest shift toward the free market by allowing "managed competition" among auto insurance companies. If "managed competition" sounds as oxymoronic to you as Gov. Deval Patrick's "paid volunteers" program, join the club.

But even a half-measure of economic honesty may be too much for Queen Martha to swallow. "We must make sure consumers will not be harmed," she says.

Must we?

Hey, your majesty - every good driver is being "harmed" already. We're getting shafted by the lack of competition, and by a system that punishes good drivers and rewards bad drivers.

If you want to protect me from harm, how about protecting Massachusetts drivers from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and their "glued and screwed" Big Dig engineering? (We'll let you figure out who got what.)

A year after Milena Del Valle's death, and five years after it became clear that the Big Dig is the biggest underground disaster since the San Francisco Earthquake, Martha Coakley has yet to file a single criminal charge. Not ready, she says.

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its Big Dig report, nailing former Turnpike chief Matt Amorello and the private contractors involved. State taxpayers are still paying millions for ongoing repairs on the "finished" tunnel. A system designed to handle less than 40,000 gallons of water each month is leaking 1.9 million gallons per month - and the attorney general has done nothing.

Doing nothing may soon become Martha Coakley's political trademark. When new Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen threw the press out of what was scheduled to be a public discussion of the Big Dig leak problem, Coakley didn't lift a finger.

Cohen claimed that the "tunnel leak repair update" item on the agenda must have been a "mistake." But at the same moment Cohen was shooing reporters out of the conference room, Big Dig project manager Michael Lewis reportedly sat before the board waiting to show them a PowerPoint presentation on the leak problem.

Some "mistake."

Maybe Queen Martha is right. Maybe we simple-minded citizens of Massachusetts don't want the burdens of the free market. Perhaps we can't handle the ugly truth of the Big Dig disaster.

Maybe we should leave the whole mess in the trustworthy hands of our fine public servants.

If we can't handle the truth, maybe we should rely on Martha Coakley to handle it for us.

But isn't that how we got in this mess in the first place?

Michael Graham hosts a talk show on WTKK 96.9 FM.

(c) 2007 Boston Herald. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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