At a price tag of almost $30 billion, it would be similarly costly.
Regardless of where it’s going, $30 billion is a staggering figure. But Republicans want to use the money to almost double the size of an already robust Border Patrol, to 40,000 agents from 21,000. They want to add 700 miles of fencing. And for good measure, they plan to throw in some infrared ground sensors and thermal imaging cameras, along with a fleet of drones.
Given that these are not exactly boom times, recent investment in other projects of major national consequence has been seriously inadequate. Infrastructure spending, for example, is now at its lowest point in 20 years. Excruciatingly expensive trains can barely make their way at anemic paces along the northeast corridor without breaking down, and we’ve all but abandoned talk of expanding to real high-speed trains. In the past month alone two bridges collapsed — in Washington State and Minnesota — and countless others desperately need repairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave this country’s bridges a C+ rating for 2013.
So what else could we do with the $30 billion? By way of comparison, here’s how much a few other long-suffering projects in this country have cost:
$3.2 Billion: Washington’s State’s Columbia River Project, which would replace another of the state’s aging major bridges
$4.5 Billion: The first phase of New York City’s long-derailed Second Avenue Subway line
$6.4 Billion: The replacement span of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Bay Bridge
$20 Billion: What the American Society of Civil Engineers says it will cost per year over the next decade to repair our nation’s bridges
When Republicans start agitating to pay for safer bridges and better roads — that will be the real news. But on matters like these, they have been comparatively, if predictably, silent. They are focusing more on keeping others out than worrying about the Americans who are already here. But the real problem is their plan itself: border enforcement isn’t solving the problem. If our leaders really think an influx of agents and drones is finally going to keep out people who will risk their lives to come here, I’ve got a bridge to sell them.