How we do return America to greatness? We build better mousetraps. Republicans have historically been less likely to fund infrastructure projects for reasons that entirely escape me. But good, old-fashioned Conservative values and beliefs get things off the ground. Let’s hope this administration is serious about executing on the recent $1.5 billion infrastructure plans. Our disintegrating critical infrastructure demands it.

Contrast our lagging growth of late with the gleaming highways in the Persian Gulf’s richest economies—you get the feeling they’re paved with gold. And they are—black gold. Anyone who’s traveled recently to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, or the new “Asian Tigers” – Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines – has stood in the shadows of a thousand cranes. Every year of late, more skyscrapers (buildings over 60 stories) are built across the globe than the previous year. Last year, 128 such buildings were completed, an almost 500 percent increase over the year 2000. But 90 percent of those buildings were built in Asia and the Middle East. Only 6 percent – 7 buildings! – are within North American boundaries.

Witnessing the flourishing of far-off China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) helps you understand in your marrow that these foreign booms in construction and development must be what it was like for us – for men like my father – when we put up the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Grand Coulee Dam. Think about those times: revolutionary social movements quite literally moved mountains.

Sure, there’s the rare place like New York City that never truly sleeps – always new buildings going up, always old ones coming down. But there are still places in New York, and in many other once-great American cities like Detroit and Gary, Indiana, where you get a terrible feeling of loss lurking over the derelict skyline, the boarded-up stores and abandoned homes. It feels almost as though our time has passed – a terrifying and sad thought – and we’re gagging on the dust left by those people and places overseas that have overtaken us. We cannot allow that pessimism to creep any further into our country. When we’re knocked down, we Americans don’t stay down—we rise. From the ground, up—we rise.

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