September 21, 2006

America's Great Wall: A Modest Proposal

The Insider has apparently underestimated the will and the wisdom (if not the wit) of the US House of Representatives. We thought they were incapable of confronting the crisis of 12 million undocumented workers. OK, we were wrong. Now that the House has voted to build a 700 mile wall along the Mexican border, we're on board. We're part of the team. And we have some suggestions for transforming this brilliant piece of legislation into a public sector bonanza.

Designing the Wall
In determining a design for the wall, we do not have to reinvent the proverbial wheel. After all, the Chinese built a splendid wall, beginning the work 200 years before the birth of Christ and completing it in the 1600s. As Richard Nixon observed when he visited that famous landmark: "It sure is a Great Wall." The Chinese wall is nearly 4,000 miles long; the Great American wall will be a puny 700 miles. How difficult could that be?

Now, cynics will point out that the Chinese wall did not really accomplish its goal - keeping out the nomadic tribes that periodically destroyed the great Chinese cities. The final invaders, the Manchus, convinced a guardian of the gate to open a door and they simply walked through. (No danger of that happening here. Our private sector guards will be impervious to bribes.) Legend has it that it took three days for the Manchu army to complete their passage through the gate. Once they took over China, the wall immediately became obsolete.
Important note: The Great Wall may have failed in its defense-of-China role, but today it is a great tourist attraction. If we play our cards right, we might have a Disney-esque Wonder of the World that will turn the barren borderlands of Texas and Arizona into a leading tourist destination!

As for the design itself, now that the Big Dig project has been completed in Boston (except for a few, ahem, modest repairs, where the tunnel roofs are collapsing), we have a pool of engineers willing to lend their expertise. If you can build a tunnel, heck, you can build a wall.

Constructing the Wall
After designing an impenetrable, weather-proof, permanent and aesthetically pleasing barrier, the next problem will be building it. Constructing a wall across the desert does raise some interesting challenges. The desert does not offer comfortable working conditions, the type favored by American labor. There may well be health issues, dealing with all that sand and wind (as in Iraq). The Chinese, of course, could conscript a virtually unlimited population to work on the wall. We don't have that option.

The labor problem, like the wall itself, is not insurmountable. We'll do what we did after the World Trade Center collapsed and after Katrina devastated the southern coastline. We'll build the wall...with undocumented laborers! We can pay them below market wages. We'll scimp on the benefits - they just send their earnings across the border to support their families anyway. And when they whine about working conditions and work-related injuries, we'll deny their claims.

Best of all, as soon as these illegal workers complete the job, we'll just escort them through the door to the other side of the wall. Sayonara, baby!

Paying for the Wall
The current budget for the project is about $7 billion. The original budget for the Big Dig was about $3 billion, but the final accounting came to $15 billion (and still counting). The Big Dig is the most expensive public works project in American history. Well, records are made to be broken. We can project the Great American Wall's ultimate cost to be something in the vicinity of $30 billion. It's a bargain!

Now if we can just figure out how to prevent those darn smugglers from using boats to drop people off along the thousands of miles of unguarded coastline. Hmm.


| 3 Comments

3 Comments

Good ideas here, Jon! I was just thinking the other day how we have had a real dearth of impressive walls since the Berlin Wall came down. Leave it to those smart folks in Congress to fill that void!

And anyway, if things don't go according to plan, think of it this way: we will be providing some future president with an inspirational "tear down this wall" moment. Win/win all around.

Just when you think you have heard it all; a 700 mile wall!
Always find the time to read your emails. Originally from Boston and enjoy your references.


OMG...Terrific post!

You're not being sarcastic, though, are you?

:-)

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on September 21, 2006 1:56 PM.

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