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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Where's Our Panama Canal?

Sitting in the CNN studio today, with an earpiece jammed in one ear and a microphone clipped to my jacket, the disembodied voice of some CNN guest urgently proposing that the government take advantage of historically low borrowing rates to invest in infrastructure howled in my ear. Without a monitor, the voice had no body belonging to it. It was the muse of liberalism. The idiot angel standing on the shoulder of Uncle Sam crying out, "Spend, spend, spend."

In 1 Time Warner Circle, all the elevators play the CNN feed in small monitors. On the floor, there is more of the same. There's no escaping CNN in the tower of the corporate parent of CNN. Like some cheap production of 1984, it's everywhere and nowhere, one long commercial break for the country's least popular news network, whose most famous figure is doing his talk show on Hulu, still in his trademark suspenders while his third-rate British replacement shrieks nightly about gun violence.

CNN is irrelevant, but in the ugly Time Warner Center, part shopping mall, part unfinished pile of construction equipment arranged to look like two skyscrapers, defacing the view outside Central Park, it's all that matters. In the CNN bubble, it's still vitally important and incredibly influential, even if its most influential moment in the last ten years consisted of two shameless doughy buffoons screaming at each other about gun control.

If America ever goes the way of CNN, then it too will be reduced to some badly designed urban skyscrapers full of important people talking importantly about issues while outside the world has moved on. The disembodied voice in the backlit wilderness cries out that we must invest more in infrastructure. "America built the Panama Canal. They said it couldn't be done and it revolutionized commerce."

But where exactly is our Panama Canal? For that matter, where after years of insane deficit spending is our anything? What infrastructure achievement has the shovel-ready administration managed to achieve? What has it done besides rename a few areas after politically correct figures and set up some monuments to the destructive energies of the left?

In December we learned that the National Park Service had spent $1.5 million to restore the graffiti on an Alcatraz water tower put there by leftist American Indian activists in the 70s. Their manifesto read, "We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for $24 in glass beads and red cloth." But 24 bucks in tourist junk would be a bargain compared to $1.5 million spent during a recession to preserve the sort of leftist idiocy that trolls today leave in comments sections.

That water tower is Obama's Panama Canal. It's as close as we're going to come to it. Either that or one of those light rail schemes that gets funded, but never goes anywhere. These are our expensive monuments to a left that occasionally talks like Stalin, but runs things like Castro, talking incessantly without anything to show for it except a bigger mountain of bureaucracy overhead. This is our CNN government full of commercial breaks and breaking news bulletins, but utterly unaware of its own irrelevance. It can still spend money, but it can't move out of third place.

There is no Panama Canal project in the works. No great plan to revolutionize commerce and transportation. Only a sad failed attempt to get Americans to switch to electric cars which mainly existed as a way of shoving more pork into the orifices of Obama's donors.

China can build things, for better or worse, because it has the manufacturing capacity to get things done. America no longer has manufacturing capacity, it has bureaucracy. China makes products. America makes government. We make government at home and we export it abroad.

If any country wants to know how to make a big expensive and unwieldy government ruled by the threat of someone screaming racism and someone else promising free birth control for perpetual grad students who one day hope to teach other perpetual grad students or perhaps file lawsuits on their behalf, then we can do that. If you want us to teach you how to make things, go look up some of our books from the first half of the last century. They may have something of relevance to offer on the subject. The America of 2013, whose government is in its own CNN tower, does not.

We can still build the occasional mid-range skyscraper, but there are no Panama Canals in our near future. For all the prattle about infrastructure investments, we don't spend our money building things, we spend it paying the pensions of a vast ever-increasing bureaucracy. Our Panama Canal is our vast civil service which has kept on growing even as our economy has kept on shrinking.

Some states are already falling into the great white collar trench of our new canal that cuts across the country from end to end. California and Rhode Island will probably drown in it before too long. And the others will follow them as refugees will flee to other states, and after putting down their bags, pick up their picket signs and begin to demand more education spending and more affordable housing for the professionally homeless. There will be a thousand new laws a day and then soon enough the last penny will be fought over by an educational administrator with a Master's Degree and a 200K salary and the Director of the Museum of Historically Relevant Graffiti by Transgender Eskimos.

Infrastructure spending is one of those neat industrial age ideas from a time when people had the peculiar idea that you built up an economy by making things. Back then the heathen savages also thought that debt was finite and that productivity was preferable to regulation. Naturally we know better. We, like the disembodied voice on the CNN earpiece, know that when borrowing terms are favorable, then we should borrow as much as possible because Indian leftist graffiti won't preserve itself. And if the borrowing terms should turn bad, then we had better hope that some eccentric Chinese billionaires really have a taste for Alcatraz water towers, the way that American millionaires bought up statues of Lenin after the Soviet Union fell.

Where's our Panama Canal? Carter dumped it. And if we build one today, Obama will dump it too. The flag will be pulled down and children will be taught in schools that its construction was a crime against the indigenous Southern European settlers and Mother Earth. And if they're still using print textbooks by then, there will be a picture of some historically relevant graffiti on a water tower that the State Department paid millions to preserve for posterity.

Over the earpiece, the Ghost of Liberalism Past is urging us to spend more on infrastructure. But where is this infrastructure supposed to go? Most of the traditional power cities of liberalism are bleeding population. Some of them won't even manage to achieve replacement birth rate and that's in a social services system where having five children from five different fathers is a better career move than going to college.

Canals are built by people who want to go somewhere. America of 2013 is not looking to go anywhere. Its quarrelsome election was a referendum between the people who want to steal from others and the people who don't want to be stolen from. The thieves naturally won and they didn't do it just so that money could be used to build some canal somewhere. Or a space shuttle. Or a new transportation system. Or anything at all.

America is a service provider now. It doesn't build anything except office buildings and the steel for those buildings come from China. The cash infusion will keep the bureaucracy going a little longer. It will increase the number of teachers with Master's Degrees teaching students about historical graffiti and the number of social workers reaching out in 99 languages to inform new immigrants that they have the right to food stamps as soon as their feet touch the ground at JFK. It will boost the number of Federal agencies with their own SWAT teams and the amount of arts graduates given grants to recreate historical graffiti on Federal office buildings where regulations are made defining exactly which graffiti qualifies for historical preservation status. What it will not do is help anyone who isn't already the reason that building a great work is as utterly hopeless as teaching a teacher to teach.

The role of the CNN government, of all the think-tanks and media outlets, is to make this all seem reasonable and plausible. Why not take advantage of favorable borrowing terms to increase a 16 trillion national debt to a more sensible 22 trillion or 30 trillion? Why not build another Panama Canal consisting of Federal office buildings full of bureaucrats outlawing things and funding things,  dispatching SWAT teams to the homes of the former and piles of money to the homes of the latter?

Why not make America just like every decrepit urban center choking on debt while worrying about Global Warming? Why not make it like CNN, a formerly innovative news network, now in third place, but determined to put a good face on it by pretending nothing is wrong? The obvious answer is because it won't work, but how do you explain that to people who have already failed and who are trying to cover it up? How do you explain it to people who have destroyed the American economy but hope that if they yell loudly enough about all sorts of things, no one will realize it?

So what's the worst that could happen?  President Piers Morgan?

20 comments:

lemonlimemoon said...

The US handed away the Panama Canal, a very stupid and potentially dangerous act for our security.
And yes, it is their goal to make America decrepit and more level with the third world. They hate exceptionalism with great passion.

IgorR said...

There is obviously a long and complicated history of how the most wonderful country in the world wound up in this sorry state, but the biggest problem today is pretty simple: the country is populated by idiots. Some of them are savages, and others are a little more sophisticated, but trying to reason logically with them is like trying to teach calculus to a cat. They will either stare at you with big round uncomprehending eyes, fall asleep, or walk away.

Of course education by itself is not enough. Millions of degenerate Europeans, some better educated, are not any better because they are, well, degenerate. This country used to be populated by people of a higher moral character, and many of them, especially their leaders were highly educated. You really need both. The genius of the people who helped to get this country into the sorry state it is in was that they understood that you need to destroy the moral character and dumb down the population. The people who are trying to impose the common core curriculum on the country or the CSCOPE curriculum on Texas know it. They are teaching (in secret as much as possible) that Socialism is great, the Christians are cannibals, and Muslims are just great. They are also getting rid of algebra as much as possible.

It also helps to import as many Third Worlders as you can. Ted Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson knew it when they got the original immigration act passed. The Amnesty people know it today.

In any case, the country is so dumbed down now that nothing of substance can be accomplished. One million Ghanans even if they join their efforts together, jump around, and pray to whoever can't launch a single man into space, and as things stand today neither can 300 million Americans.

Gayle said...

The federal money train is going to crash, spectacularly. Math is math. The only variable is timeframe, dependent on the fed's willingness to debase our national currency, and their worldwide support doing so.

The role of the individual American states is to figure out how to survive this crash, and protect their citizens.

A few states have begun thinking about, and working on, the need to have a contingency statewide currency.

I would encourage all readers to inquire of their state legislators as to what their state might be doing in this regard.

Time is of the essence.

Dennis Latham said...

One of the few ideas I've ever sent anyone in government was back in the early 70s, just a few years back from Vietnam and aware of the border troubles. I wrote to Nixon's government and suggested since Panama didn't want us there to bring back the three C program and start a canal from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas along the border. It would provide long term jobs and solve the border crossing problem. The massive job could have been finished by now, and I still believe the benefits would have been incredible. Basically, they told me I was nuts. I figured they said that because what I suggested might actually work, especially if they diverted some of the massive amount they spent on foreign aid. This reminded me of your article. You always make sense, and the progressives would be shocked and attack you because your ideas threaten the welfare state. Whether my idea would have worked or not, at least, it was an idea, which is more than the government comes up with now.

vladtepes2 said...

Soon it won't be the United States that has to worry about border control, it will be the individual states that have to patrol, defend and fence their borders. The US will be defunct, like the Soviet Union. Then the individual states will have to start over, and hopefully some of them will get it right this time, if they aren't first invaded and conquered by China.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Dennis, interesting proposal. Would certainly be spectacular.

Anonymous said...


The Rio Grande Canal sounds like a great solution. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

The environmentalists would go bat-fracking crazy over it, though.

Sibyl

IgorR said...

It would be interesting to see some cost/benefit analysis of the Rio Grande Canal.

All other considerations aside, there is an interesting philosophical questions: should the government ever do things like canals or space travel or anything outside of its basic functions? Space travel is tough, because it has a military aspect, but outside of that? Why do we want to trust the stupid government to spend tens of billions on anything?

Now finding a way to clear the path, legally and otherwise, for a private entity to build a canal like that if it can raise enough money, that's something else. Of course with the rates being as low as they are, even that is a tough call, but still would be a lot better than the government doing it.

Empress Trudy said...

Assuming of course that all those programs aren't done by Chinese construction companies hiring illegal Mexicans in the US.

Anonymous said...

You lost in me in the dust on this one, Daniel.

Infrastructure: lots and lots of money, giant scissors, ribbon cuttings, media, politicians plans that go absolutely nowhere. Press release, press release, press releas and where I am inner harbor outer harbor, Bass Pro, Adelphia tax incentives for expensive trains to nowhere.

Inner Harbor--as one little kid here said, "You can't call it a beach if there's no sand and you can't go swimming in it."

Panama Canal: Malaria

CNN: Boring. Give me Pravda style TV news as long as it's entertaining.

Word association time for me once again:) I can't relate to these topics without word associations.

Again, I love your articles always but you left me in the dust and soared wayyy over my head.

Keliata

AG said...

Daniel, What the heck were you doing at CNN??? I'm not sure I am comfortable with my favorite writer hanging out with the Cult of Obama.

And if you were there to be on TV, why didn't you tell us. You have to know none of your fans would just happen to be watching CNN for any reason, and just happen to see you on it.

Anonymous said...

It's all about process devoid of substance!

Anonymous said...

AG:



shhhhh. he's under deep cover

Elisandra said...

"Its quarrelsome election was a referendum between the people who want to steal from others and the people who don't want to be stolen from."

This is exactly it. I'm one who has absolutely no interest in taking other people's money away from them, and I don't want anyone taking the tiny bit I have away from me.

Anonymous said...

My only comment is we are all to blame for the truly sorry state this country is in unless we have been out there on a daily basis fighting against those who have been working on a daily basis to create a CNN government, a welfare dependent nation of fools and a future of slavery to a tyrannical state.

Elaine

Anonymous said...

Sultan 2 points:

1. There are some bright spots in the economy, companies like Otis and even GE have brought manufacturing back to the USA.

2. Utah has the highest economic growth rate of any state in the country. That's probably because of their low taxes and light regulation. Since coming to office Gov. Gary Herbert has thrown out 15 percent of the state's business regulations.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

AG, I was taping something for the conservative Canadian Sun TV using the CNN studio

IgorR said...

What's wrong with going on CNN? What's the point of only preaching to the converted?

MojoDaddy said...

Your animus and disgust over a $1.5M expenditure to restore historic graffiti is understandable, but pointing the finger at the Federal system for the decline in manufacturing is even more preposterous.

Businesses create jobs, period. Over the last 50+ years it was business, not the government, that sent manufacturing jobs to the Third World. It wasn't the oppressive expense born from clean air regulations, union pensions or safer working conditions that pushed GM, Master Lock, GE and countless others to foreign soil. Put simply, paying the the Third World a slave wage to make the cheap "stuff" WE demand is just more profitable than keeping jobs at home. http://tinyurl.com/avhujc4

And, that's not profit to keep the lights on. In 1980, a CEO made 42x what an average blue collar worker did; today, that same CEO makes 380 times the average workers pay. http://tinyurl.com/b998vup

What's really amazing is how you managed to belch out 1,600 angry words -- parenthetically, absent any linked attributions or footnotes -- but couldn't find 50 or 100 words about the pernicious financial waste born from the one manufacturing sector the Feds do support and control -- the military/industrial complex. Where is your outrage on that issue?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Businesses did outsource due to wages, but they also outsourced due to the regulatory climate. The best proof of that is how businesses move from over-regulated states to freer states within the United States.

Environmental overreach is actually closing plants even as we speak. And SWAT teams breaking into Gibson Guitars is the kind of thing that businesses like to avoid.

Environmentalists have worked with their leftist allies to kill American manufacturing jobs. In the process all they have done is outsourced the pollution on a much higher scale to China revealing their own uselessness and hypocrisy.

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