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Where's Our Panama Canal?

Written by Daniel Greenfield

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StormSitting 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?

 Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century. He blogs at Sultan Knish.

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