A bridge over the River Kwai? No, over San Francisco Bay

There is Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC talk-show host, standing in front of Hoover Dam, and wondering why America can’t do such big projects anymore.  What is she talking about?   America can’t even take care of its infrastructure without resorting to slave labor from China. 

Take the case of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.   The eastern span, damaged during the 1989 earthquake, is at last being rebuilt by bonds issued by the state of California, a reported $7.2 billion project. 

According to a recent article in the New York Times, American labor will assemble the bridge and pave the road surfaces, but “the construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them” come out of Shanghai.  Expect to see on a  girder somewhere along the bridge “Made in China.”

“They’ve produced a pretty impressive bridge for us,” a California official was quoted as saying. 

 But unlike the  film version of the bridge over the River Kwai, a bridge made by the slave labor of American POWs, the Bay Bridge is made by slaves in China. 

The Times, for example,  interviewed a 55-year-old steel polisher, Pan Zhongwang,  who works 16-hour days, sometimes 7 days a week.  He lives in a company dorm and earns about $12 a day.  That comes to 75 cents an hour, up from 56 cents not long ago.   Is there any wonder why there are so few jobs in America?  

California crows it will save hundreds of millions of dollars on the bridge by turning to China.   The state decided to forego federal dollars,” the Times reported,  because “Buy America” policies would have led to much higher expenses. 

And then there is the matter of American capabilities. 

“I don’t think the U.S. fabricators could put a project like this together,” the Bay bridge’s project director was quoted as saying.  “Most U.S. companies don’t have these types of warehouses, equipment or the cash flow.  The Chinese load the ships and it’s their ships that deliver to our piers.”

The Bay Bridge project appears just another example of an America in decline.

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