Sunday, August 22, 2010

What goes around comes around

A few weeks ago I mentioned reading Stephen Ambrose's book about the building of the first North American continental railway back in the 1860s.  One of the things Ambrose describes quite nicely is the extensive use of Chinese labor by the Central Pacific.  The American engineers provided the technology and the engineering expertise; the Chinese provided the muscle.

Flash forward 150 years and an essay by Robert Borosage in a July issue of Progressive Populist on the funding crises in public education, with class sizes rocketing, hours of instruction being cut, and teachers being furloughed:
"This surely is how great nations decline.  Like Rome and Britain before us, Washington now chooses to police the world, even as it cuts back the education of the nation's most vulnerable children. We fight two wars on the other side of the world, spend more defending South Korea from North Korea than the South Koreans do, increase military spending already nearly as great as the rest of the world combined while saying we can't afford vital investments at home.

In April, an iconic article in the New York Times recorded the cost of this folly. The Times reported from Beijing that the Chinese were preparing to bid to build the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The director of high-speed rail in China, Zheng Jian, noted that 'We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the US.'

High-speed rail requires financing, very sophisticated technology and advanced engineering - and China is ready to provide the cash, the technology and the high end engineers and skilled technicians. They would hire Americans to assemble the parts and lay the track."
Hire Americans to lay the track.  We can be so proud of ourselves and our insistence on not paying taxes for anything that doesn't involve killing people in other countries- from putting men on the moon to being viewed as a good source of 苦力 labor* in under 50 years.  

[*drudge, coolie, manual laborer]


  1. Laughing til I cry. Or maybe crying til I laugh.

  2. Oh my word. Decline. We are it.

  3. Really brings it home, doesn't it?

  4. Kind of changes that whole crap Made in China thing.

  5. Can't say that I recall a lot of what I read about the building of the early railroads, other than that a lot of railroad barons got stinking rich for building them.

    One way or the other, we are always the ones that pay for all that.


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