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Monday, July 24, 2006 | China’s booming economy means our new fence between the U.S. and Mexico is going to cost us taxpayers a bunch. But there’s a nifty solution. It’s a solution that solves another pesky problem.

It’s no secret that the booming Chinese economy is sucking up much of the world’s steel, concrete and copper. Cement prices are up 7 percent over a year ago and steel costs 12 percent more. And that’s on top of prices thought to be sky-high last year.

Copper’s at record highs, and a new kind of theft has emerged; stripping pipes and wiring out of construction projects at night. A penny’s copper value is now above one cent per coin. Melt ’em down.

This is the stuff that our new fence between San Diego and Tijuana will be made of. But there’s a respectable supply of it, in New York, serving no function today, so we should see if it can be scrapped and shipped west to help build our fence. Transportation costs will eat up some of our savings, of course, but depending on the fence design, this source could supply enough copper, steel and concrete to run a good thirty to forty miles inland from the Pacific shore.

The Statue of Liberty contains 179,200 pounds of copper, 250,000 pounds of steel and 27,000 tons of concrete. Pulverize the concrete and cook the metals. There’s the raw stuff to begin our fence.

This also eliminates false advertising. The plaque on this statue, which was given to us by the French, after all, says something we simply no longer want said:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

How absurdly corny. And exactly what we don’t want to say any more. Well, I’m glad this country felt that way back when my grandmother immigrated, illegally, from Ireland. And when my wife’s grandmother also slipped in from Sweden. Both were indentured servants with seven years of free labor given their masters to pay for passage.

How archaic.

Robert Frost, that sentimental poet said “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” but he’s way out of touch with today.

History’s full of fences and walls. The Great Wall of China being the prime example, to protect that country. Of course, when the Mongols decided to overrun China, the Great Wall was barely a speed bump.

Then we had that Maginot Line, built by France to ensure the Germans could never attack. Hah! And when the Allies countered, those shrewd Germans made a stand at the Maginot Line to stop them. Concrete and steel bunkers, interconnected, armed and impossible to run over. For about two, maybe three hours.

Ah, but we had the famous Berlin Wall, which lasted awhile. Its construction was reviled and its destruction a celebration.

Interesting. It kind of makes the world’s fence builders look less than bright. Especially when they talk about putting it on the southern border, since the Sept. 11 hijackers came in over the northern. Well, maybe killers are welcome while those wanting jobs need to be stopped in their tracks.

Gary Sutton is a retired CEO. He is the author of “Corporate Canaries…Avoid Business Disasters with a Coal Miner’s Secrets.” Send a letter to the editor here.

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