In Elizabeth Warren's new ad she trots out Tom Friedman's favorite thing in the whole wide world: Chinese spending on infrastructure. Warren claims that we just don't spend enough on infrastructure anymore and somehow that makes us inferior to them. The gushing over China by the likes of Warren and America's just-do-something authoritarian of record, Friedman, is upsetting because it generally ignores the means of how they do things. People who love China tend to complain about the sausage making in our democratic system but they rarely criticize the bulldozing in the Chinese system.
Oh, and they ignore basic facts that give context to China's recent growth.
China and the United States are at two completely different points in their development as nations so of course they are spending more on infrastructure right now. They are able to spend so much money right now because they don't have roads, highways, rails, etc.
Ira Stoll explains how this is way of thinking is bunk when you look at the math:
The first problem is mathematical. U.S. gross domestic product is about $15 trillion a year. Increasing infrastructure “investment” to the 9% Chinese level that Warren cites would mean an additional $1 trillion a year in government spending. That’s an immense spending increase. To put it in context, the entire federal government spent about $3.6 trillion in 2011, on revenues of about $2.3 trillion.
The other thing we have to remember when talking about China: it's not a free country. Their government can build and spend whatever it wants because there are no checks and balances. There is no free press to stand up and say, "Hey, that tunnel you built has all kinds of leaks in it." There are no labor unions that can rabble rouse for a "fair wage" and better working conditions. Property rights and individual freedom are irrelevant when they stand in the way of The State.
The usage of the "why can't we be like China" imagery is baffling, troubling even, when you remember that Warren is running for an elected office in a free country. When politicians and people in power talk about "being more like China" what they are really saying is, "Why can't we give more power to the government to spend and build things while running roughshod over the people?"
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