Friday, July 01, 2011

Should We Outsource the Columbia River Crossing Project to China?

I can hear what you’re thinking already. Lew are going out of your mind? Have you gone completely off your rocker?

No, I haven’t nor do I actually think we should outsource anything more to China than we already do. But, I do ask the question for a reason.

China as we know is rapidly becoming the world’s preeminent manufacturer, manufacturing sections for the Bay Bridge in California and contracting infrastructure projects in some other larger American cities. We in America are bellyaching about our jobs going overseas to countries like China, but they continue to operate at a much lower expense we cannot match. We cannot even come close to matching their low costs.

Few infrastructure projects point out that fact more than does the Bay Bridge project I mentioned and our own Columbia River Crossing.

The Bay Bridge Eastern Span being replaced is some 1400 feet in length and is costing around $7.2 Billion to construct.

The CRC, including a new bridge, light rail and freeway improvements on both sides of the river is about 3 to 4 miles in length and last I heard, conservatively estimated to cost us $4.6 Billion, with cost overruns very likely.

So how is it that China recently built and just opened 26.4 mile Qingdao Haiwan Bridge between the port of Qingdao and the industrial suburb of Huangdao at a cost of $1.5 to $2 Billion?

The length of this bridge in China is slightly wider than the English Channel! A marathon could be run on it by just crossing it. You can’t even see the other end if you stood at either end of it.

It is said they built it in 4 years with 10,000 workers and was completed for less than $2 Billion!

Granted, Chinese workers are paid far, far less than American workers, especially union workers, but they are working and undermining manufacturing all over the world.

The American worker led the Industrial Revolution and built this country from sparse prairies to major cities. We established a living standard higher than the world has ever seen and the envy of many.

But it appears to be slipping away from us as we pack on bureaucratic and environmental regulations that all too often have more to do with “feel good” than actually protecting anything.

We have union bosses that convince workers they deserve more and more, miring them in a vicious circle of ever rising prices and taxes to pay for increased wages and benefits.

China currently has a 4.1% unemployment rate while in America we have a 9.1% unemployment rate.

China touts the world’s largest labor union, although controlled by their Communist Government and is currently seeing mounting labor unrest as their workers are beginning to demand more as did America’s labor unions years ago.

Still, the built the world’s longest sea bridge in just 4 years.

How many years does the CRC estimate it will take for our bridge replacement?

I don’t advocate paying our workers as little as the Chinese workers receive, as low as $200 a month, working six or seven days a week currently, but slightly increasing.

But America, we better come up with a plan to be competitive again, to stop borrowing money from China and to stop outsourcing our manufacturing to them.

If we don’t soon, we may end up being poorly paid Chinese workers ourselves in the future.

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