Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
President Donald Trump has been promising his supporters that he was going to build a wall on our southern border since at least he announced his candidacy for president in 2015. It was arguably one of his most cheered proposals at his raucous rallies during the campaign. He previously stated that he wanted a concrete wall, beautiful, tall and strong, like the Great Wall of China, and he stated bluntly that Mexico was going to pay for it.
Not surprisingly, he has wavered on BOTH of these conditions. He is now insisting that we — the American taxpayers — pay for the wall, but promises that the costs will somehow be indirectly borne by Mexico. He has also scaled back his plans, stating that he would settle for a steel slat barrier instead of a concrete wall, due in part to the expense, and part to the feasibility of a 1,000 mile long concrete wall.
The proposed cost of this barrier is $5.7 billion — a lot of money to be sure. As we all know, Trump has refused to sign a continuing resolution or budget proposal unless it includes his $5.7 billion wall fund. And, of course, Democrats have refused to fund the wall, and therefore they are at an impasse. Immovable Object meets Unstoppable Force.
As a result of the budget impasse, the government has been on partial shutdown since December 22, 2018. It is now January 19, 2019 — approximately 29 days since 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed — or worse, ordered to continue working without pay. This is the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
Earlier today, January 19, Trump offered a compromise to the Democrats in Congress, which, among other concessions, allowed for protection of “Dreamers” (immigrants that were brought into America as children, and previously protected by DACA) in exchange for his wall, a position that is contrary to his previous stance. Democrats remain steadfast, and the government remains shut down. Mainstream media suggests that the Democrats are “winning,” since Trump is actually wavering on his previous position. But again, there is no resolution, and the government is still shut down, which makes it kind of weird that we’re already naming winners.
Here’s the rub. I have always been against the idea of a wall at our border. Ideologically, I am an “open borders” guy, and think the Age of Nations should end, making us into a global community that shares resources and responsibilities, but I won’t get into defending that standpoint here. Because I have also opposed the wall on practical grounds — namely, it is expensive, it is racist and/or xenophobic, and it is essentially pointless — ie, it wont stop “illegal immigration.” Most illegal immigrants in the U.S. entered legally, but stayed after their visas expired. Most of the immigrants who “snuck into” America did so by other means, such as water or air, not by crossing the southern border. And those very few others who did cross the border would probably not have been dissuaded by the presence of Trump’s stupid barrier, which could be circumvented by such advanced technology as a ladder or a shovel. So, again, the wall is a stupid, pointless, expensive and racist reaction to a problem that isn’t really a problem in the first place. Just to make it crystal clear — I do not want a wall, and I fundamentally oppose it on ideological and practical grounds.
All that being said — why don’t we just give it to him? I know, I know, why would we give in to this bloviating bully’s stupid demands. Well, let’s talk about that. First, its not just Trump’s demands. While a majority of Americans seem opposed to the wall, a very significant percentage — at least 35% — are in favor of it. We may question their motives, or choose to ignore or exclude them from the conversation because they are Trump supporters and therefore must be racist, ignorant, white supremacists, but can we honestly claim allegiance to democratic values while ignoring the opinions and desires of more than a third of Americans? We may disagree with these people and just about everything they stand for, but most of them are, in fact, American citizens, working for a living, paying taxes, raising families and supporting their communities, just like us non-wall-wanters. In other words, we cant just throw this entire demographic aside like yesterday’s garbage and say they don’t matter.
Second, the wall that Trump is proposing will cover roughly 1,000 miles of the 2,000 mile border. Natural barriers and treacherous terrain make it unnecessary or not feasible to build a wall over the remaining area. And you know what? About 700 miles of that 1,000 mile area already has some sort of barrier, built by our government under previous administrations. This isn’t some new and radical idea. Presidents and politicians have been talking about, and building, border walls and fences and barriers for decades. And it was never that big a deal before. We never shuttered our government for a month over the pre-existing 700-mile barrier. In fact, some of the very Democrats opposing Trump’s wall have previously voted in favor of a wall. I know Trump is a special kind of hatemonger, and Democrats must resist anything he does (at least in public), but is there some other reason we are so adamant about it this time?
Thirdly, what actual harm is it going to do? No one is dying. No bombs are being dropped on Mexicans. No Americans are likely to be physically harmed by its construction. In fact, so long as the materials come from American companies, and the labor is provided by American citizens, the money will actually help a few Americans. Of course, this has to be a condition of the negotiations — that no foreign outsourcing of materials and labor be used in the construction of the wall. But if that is agreed upon, at least some people will receive a moderate benefit from Trump’s wall. And remember, this barrier is not going to prevent anyone from coming or going across the border. So it really is pretty harmless. It sure beats spending billions of dollars on endless wars of aggression around the world, which Democrats never seem to have a problem funding, having just recently supported Trump’s $800 billion military budget.
And lastly, we might actually get some pretty good concessions from the Republicans and Trump if we agree to the stupid wall. Trump has already made an offer, with some fairly important benefits attached, and we could probably get more. But most immediate, we would get those 800,000 federal employees back to work and paid, providing essential services to Americans, and that is something that should be a priority for all parties involved. 35% of Americans want a wall, and 58% of Americans want the government shutdown to end — shouldn’t SOME Americans get what they want once in a while?
And I know, we don’t want to give Trump a win on this particular campaign promise. But there are other promises he has made that are far more dangerous and destabilizing — war with Iran, withdrawal from NATO, withdrawal from the United Nations, expanding our nuclear arsenal. This steel barrier on the southern border is a waste of money, and symbolizes bigotry and hate, but it doesn’t actually cause any measurable human suffering. If we spend the money domestically, it may even benefit a handful of Americans. Of course I would rather see that money go to something we actually need, like healthcare, infrastructure or education — but when do we get what we want anyway? At least some people want the wall, and at least some people will benefit from its construction, not least of which are the federal employees and contractors that haven’t been paid in a month. And that’s more than we can say for most of our government’s wasteful expenditures. So, hate me if you want, but while I remain opposed ideologically to the wall, if it comes with concessions and ends the government shutdown, I say let Trump have this one. At the very least, it might occupy his time for a while and prevent any further disasters for a short time. Let me know why I’m wrong.