Almost two weeks ago now (I gotta process this stuff more quickly), Massachusetts Treasurer took some time to talk to David, Bob and me. He had just returned from India as the recipient of an Eisenhower Fellowship, which sends public servants to foreign countries to broaden their horizons. And in Cahill’s case, it would seem exactly so — he speaks as one who has absorbed a whole new perspective on our domestic situation from seeing the challenges experienced by those on the other side of the world.
Cahill clearly views India through the eyes of a Massachusetts native — instinctively drawing comparisons between our respective situations. India, Cahill says, is faced by a challenge of insufficient infrastructure for the growth that’s already occuring. India is trying to develop so-called “tier 2” and “tier 3” cities — smaller towns that can more readily absorb explosive growth than the already-huge metropolitan centers of Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore — and for that, they need roads, energy and data infrastructure. Much of India draws on great strengths, as well: Well-supported, extremely competitive technical universities; high-quality, low cost health care (where one can get it); democratic government; and of course, widespread use of English. Massachusetts already has a connection with India, Cahill says, noting the many Indians who come to attend our universities. But where they used to stay here to enjoy the American quality of life, now, it seems, they’re more likely to go back to India, where there’s plenty of opportunity — taking their prosperity-creating expertise with them.
Cahill expresses a wish that more politicians would visit India and China, even outside the “legitimized” travel of an Eisenhower Fellowship. “Globalization is here,” he says. “We have to lead it, not just chase and follow it.” He acknowledges the PR peril of being seen as going on a “trade junket”; he says that any trip would have to produce results, and concrete proposals. (I’d have to say that there’s less danger of a politician catching flak for going to India or China on a trade mission than, say … Portugal.)
In any well-run organization, you can usually expect the treasurer to be the most conservative (small c) on spending matters; Cahill is no different. Cahill opposes taking on the MBTA’s debt load onto the state’s budget, noting the MBTA’s extremely generous retirement deal with the Carman’s Union. (This allows an employee to potentially retire at 80% of salary in one’s 40’s — That’s a lotta golf.) “We’ve come down hard on municipalities that don’t negotiate hard,” he says. “We should just be consistent about doing pension benefits across the board” — ie. in line with what other state employees get.
The call for accountability goes for the Big Dig Culture on Beacon Hill, too: Over the last sixteen years, Republican governors “eviscerated oversight” of spending on the Big Dig. “I like fact that the Governor is trying to step in,” he says. Cahill is comfortable with an upfront investment in accountability: More oversight now is a minor fiscal hit, compared to its absence over the long-term. (QED — Ed.)