I’m in the wrong line of work.
I would love to be in a business where people pay me a lot of money for big, expensive jobs, but I don’t even do the jobs myself—I just get another company to take care of everything. That company, in turn, hires a lot of small companies to do the actual work. Ideally, the arrangement would be like a medieval cartel, with yours truly at the top of the food chain.
There’s one more part of my dream business—the best part, actually: No matter how badly I screw up a job, I never have to give my customers their money back.
That, in a nutshell, is the sweet deal that construction giant Bechtel has in Iraq. As part of the reconstruction effort in that desert kingdom where the flower of democracy is blooming—with the fragrance currently wafting all the way to Lebanon—Bechtel is getting a whole lot of our tax money to build varied and sundry structures.
Let me rephrase that: Bechtel is being paid a lot of money to try to build structures. Actually finishing the job apparently isn’t required in the contracts.
For instance, one of Bechtel’s many lucrative jobs was the still unbuilt Basra Children’s Hospital. Back when the 50-bed hospital was first approved (as part of one of many multibillion-dollar reconstruction packages), Bush had his wife and Condi milk it for all the PR it was worth.
But now, the project is on hold and may never be completed because Bechtel botched the job and went over budget. The company burned through the contract cap of $50 million—a million bucks per bed—but didn’t even get close to finishing the hospital.
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