Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us


Alan S. Boyd, Nation’s First Transportation Chief, Dies at 98



Alan S. Boyd, the first United States secretary of transportation, who was named by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 to integrate the nation’s sprawling networks of planes, trains, ships and highways into a new superagency, died on Sunday in Seattle. He was 98.

He died at Aegis at Ravenna, a retirement home, his son Mark Boyd said.

Despite resistance from bureaucrats and maritime unions, and having to work with underfunded mass transit systems, Mr. Boyd won relatively high marks for a two-year effort to merge dozens of transportation-related federal agencies into a cabinet-level department with 95,000 employees and a more than $5 billion budget. The main holdout was the Maritime Administration, which was not brought into the fold until 1981.

A half-century after Mr. Boyd laid the foundations, the Department of Transportation’s $76.5 billion budget and 54,700 employees regulate aviation, railroads, mass transit, shipping, highways, pipelines, the St. Lawrence Seaway and other transport entities. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard were transferred in 2003 to a new Department of Homeland Security.

It was perhaps inevitable that Mr. Boyd would find a life in transportation. A great-grandfather invented America’s first horse-drawn streetcar on rails, his father was a highway engineer, and his stepfather was a lawyer for a railroad company. At 17, Alan visited the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City and was dazzled by a General Motors exhibit: a futuristic diorama of superhighways crisscrossing the country.

In Washington for nearly a decade, Mr. Boyd was a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and its chairman under President John F. Kennedy. In the Johnson administration, he was the under secretary of commerce for transportation, and then the secretary of transportation from Jan. 16, 1967, to the start of the Nixon administration on Jan. 20, 1969.

After his time at the transportation department, he took on a number of private and public roles. He was president of the Illinois Central Railroad; President Jimmy Carter’s chief negotiator for a 1977 air-travel pact with Britain, called Bermuda II, governing fares, air routes and other trans-Atlantic arrangements; president of Amtrak; and finally president of the North American arm of Airbus Industrie, the French jetliner manufacturer.

While Mr. Boyd’s succession of titles and associations with presidents made an impressive record, his success was hardly a smooth upward trajectory; rather, it was a series of disjointed, sometimes chance events, as he recalled in an autobiography, “A Great Honor: My Life Shaping 20th Century Transportation” (2016). (His eyesight failing at 93, Mr. Boyd dictated the book into a recorder, and completed it with the assistance of his son.)

Mr. Boyd flunked out of college, but eventually returned and went on to become a lawyer and to receive four honorary doctorates. He was hit by lightning after enlisting in the military and was saved by CPR, but hid the incident from medics to qualify for the Army Air Forces. He became a World War II C-47 pilot, ferrying paratroops into Normandy on D-Day and supplies to besieged Americans at the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he was rejected for an entry-level job with the Civil Aeronautics Board, but a decade later became the board’s chairman.

It was happenstance that brought Mr. Boyd to the attention of Johnson, in 1961, when Johnson was vice president, leading to a lasting bond and Mr. Boyd’s rise to prominence in Washington. Johnson’s private plane had crashed en route to pick him up at his Texas ranch, and both pilots had been killed. It was Mr. Boyd’s turn in a rotation at the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated the airline industry, to lead the accident investigation. Johnson did not forget him or his thorough work.

In 1965, as president, Johnson named Mr. Boyd under secretary of commerce for transportation. Mr. Boyd soon resolved to end what he regarded as wasteful federal subsidies to American merchant ships. Invited to the Oval Office to discuss his plan with Johnson and his chief domestic aide, Joseph A. Califano Jr., Mr. Boyd, according to his memoir, got into a heated dispute with the president:

“‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, Alan,’ Johnson said. ‘The merchant marine is our fourth arm of defense. If we got into another war without it, we would be totally helpless.’

“‘Mr. President,’ I said, ‘you are crazy as hell.’

“Joe seemed shocked that I would address the president in such a tone. But I had gotten to know the president, and knew he would take my comments in stride. I pointed out that American shipping companies owned hundreds of ships registered under flags of convenience. Those ships had served the United States during World War II and Korea, and they would be available in case of future need.

“ ‘All right, you bastard,’ the president shot back. ‘I know you’re right. And I also know you’re going to get us both killed politically. I’ll support you for a year. See what you can do.’”

Mr. Boyd used the year. He made his case to shipowners, the Seafarers International Union and to Congress, but got nowhere. The subsidies were too entrenched. He told the president he had failed.

“I knew you would, Alan,” Johnson had said, according to Mr. Boyd’s memoir. “But you gave it a good try.”

In 1966, Johnson revived a long-discussed idea of streamlining the nation’s fragmented transportation systems. There were 35 agencies with related responsibilities. Americans spent 20 percent of their income on transportation. Mr. Boyd led a group that studied the problems, wrote a bill to create the Department of Transportation and shepherded it through Congress.

Johnson signed the bill into law on Oct. 15, 1966, and the department began operation on April 1, 1967. Mr. Boyd, confirmed by the Senate without opposition as the first transportation secretary, picked both Democrats and Republicans as aides, insisting that transportation was nonpartisan. He plunged into airport modernization, air traffic control improvements, enforcement of auto safety standards and driver education.

But congressional appropriations dictated that 80 percent of his budget be earmarked for highways, including for Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification program, while airlines, railroads and mass transit got short shrift. “We’ve got a bucketful of money for highways and only a medicine dropperful for the rest,” Mr. Boyd told Forbes magazine in 1968. He said his hands were tied.

He also found that unifying many agencies was a thicket. “No matter what you wanted to do or what change you suggested, the response was classically, ‘That’s not the way we do it here,’” he wrote in his memoir.

Shipowners and maritime unions never forgot Mr. Boyd’s opposition to their subsidies, and it took 15 years to incorporate the Maritime Administration into the department.

When it was introduced in 1981, the supersonic transport plane seemed to represent the future of passenger air travel, but studies called it costly, inefficient and noisy. British and French versions were built, but Congress ended funding for the plane.

When Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, Mr. Boyd, looking for a new job, considered a run for the Senate, but moved to Chicago and became president and chief executive of the Illinois Central Railroad from 1969 to 1972. He was accused of a conflict of interest because the railroad had just received a $25 million grant from the federal Transportation Department. But an inquiry found that he had had no role in making the grant.

As president of Amtrak, the government-supported National Railroad Passenger Corporation, from 1978 to 1982, Mr. Boyd fought cutbacks in funding and service. But subsidies dwindled. When he left, he said his chief regret was failing to establish permanent funding for Amtrak. With Airbus, from 1982 to 1992, his biggest sale was to Braniff Airlines in 1989, a $3.5 billion deal for 100 planes.

Alan Stephenson Boyd was born in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 20, 1922, to Clarence and Elizabeth (Stephenson) Boyd. His maternal great-grandfather, John Stephenson, had patented the first streetcar on rails in America, a horse-drawn coach that began operations in Manhattan in 1832.

Clarence Boyd, an engineer for the Florida Highway Department, died when Alan was 2. Ms. Boyd, Alan and his sister, Jean, lived with aunts and uncles until their mother married Walter Dopson, a lawyer for Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

Alan graduated from Macclenny-Glen High School (now Baker County High School) in northeast Florida in 1939. He enrolled at the University of Florida but flunked out at the end of his second year. He joined the Army Air Forces after the United States had entered World War II.

In 1943, he married Flavil Townsend, a high school teacher. They had one son, Mark. Mr. Boyd’s wife died in 2007. Besides his son, he is survived by two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Mr. Boyd earned a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1948. He joined a Miami law firm whose senior partner was George A. Smathers, a two-term Democratic congressman who won a United States Senate seat in 1950. Mr. Boyd worked on the Smathers campaign.

A decade later, after he had become general counsel for the Florida State Turnpike Authority and chairman of the Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission, Mr. Boyd received a call from Senator Smathers in Washington. There was a vacancy on the Civil Aeronautics Board. Was he interested? He soon began his years in Washington.

Mr. Boyd, who retired in 1993, returned to Washington in 2017 for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Transportation. He told a crowd of 500 dignitaries that soon after taking office in 1967, he had received a call from Henry Ford II, chief executive of Ford Motor at the time, who told him that American motorists didn’t want and would never use safety belts in their cars.


Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.



The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.


Continue Reading


Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.



The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.


Continue Reading


Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.



As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.


Continue Reading