The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump loves the ceremonial parts of his job, and his trip to California to inspect prototypes for a border wall was pure theater. He got to project toughness, point to something tangible, make big promises and take credit — without actually accomplishing anything. He’s not a president; he’s a performance artist.

Of all his campaign pledges, none was more appealing to those at his rallies than the border wall, and none was more harebrained. The idea of creating an impermeable vacuum seal on our southern perimeter was appealing to opponents of immigration (legal or not) and drug smuggling. Forcing Mexico to pick up the tab made it irresistible.

Never mind that the idea had as much chance of materializing as a rainforest in the Sonoran Desert. Even Trump has hedged: “We don’t need 2,000 (miles). We need 1,000, because we have natural barriers.” But promising a 1,000-mile wall with hundreds of miles of holes might not have stoked raucous cheers from his crowds.

The cost would be enormous. An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security put the price at $21.6 billion. A study by the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee calculated it at $70 billion, not counting maintenance. That’s more than $200 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — and zero dollars for every man, woman and child in Mexico.

Those who would be most directly affected show the least enthusiasm. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, whose district includes 800 miles of the Mexican border, says “a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.” The Texas Border Coalition, made up of mayors and other officials from the area, calls it a “false promise.” For his Tuesday gala, Trump went to San Diego, whose City Council passed a resolution opposing the wall — which the Republican mayor declined to veto.

Trump claimed his wall would be “99 percent” effective, which is enough to make a lizard laugh. There is no reason to think endless slabs of concrete would stop illegal immigration or drug smuggling.

The Congressional Research Service looked at the experience of the “primary fence” built in San Diego and concluded that it, “by itself, did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border in San Diego.” The main result, the CRS found, was that “the flow of illegal immigration … shifted to the more remote areas of the Arizona desert.”

As for drugs, the Coast Guard says 95 percent of them arrive in container ships or other boats. Traffickers have discovered that the existing fence doesn’t block underground tunnels, of which the Border Patrol has found hundreds.

Migrants have also found ways that don’t involve dodging rattlesnakes. Two-thirds of the undocumented foreigners living here didn’t sneak across the border; they came on temporary visas and forgot to leave. “So unless the wall is 35,000 feet high, it’s not going to do much to stop those overstaying these visas,” Robert Warren, a fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, told The New York Times.

It would, however, wreak havoc. Some landowners would be cut off from access to some of their own acreage, as well as water sources, and see their properties decline in value. They would also have to gaze upon the wall, in its full Soviet-bloc ugliness, every day.

Then there are the environmental harms. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that 93 wildlife species would be adversely affected. “This may well lead to the extinction of the jaguar, ocelot, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and other species in the United States,” it says.

All this assumes Trump’s vision will come to pass. Hoover Institution economist John Cochrane notes that much of the barrier would have to be erected in California. That’s the same state where the governor and Legislature have been pushing for a decade to build a high-speed train — “yet not one mile of the line yet exists.” By contrast, Cochrane notes, “it took the Union Pacific four years to build the transcontinental railroad from Sacramento to Utah, over the Donner Pass, by hand.”

But it doesn’t matter for Trump. His wall promise rests on the same basis as a Ponzi scheme. It doesn’t have to work in the end. It just has to work long enough to fleece the gullible.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes at Capitol on January 6, 2021

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Members of the Oath Keepers — along with QAnon and the Proud Boys — were among the far-right extremists who, according to the FBI, were involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The role that the Oath Keepers played in the Capitol insurrection is the focus of a report by PolitiFact's Samantha Putterman, who examines their activities before and during the attack.

Keep reading... Show less

Steve Bannon

When it comes to events surrounding the January 6 insurrection, there are some whose involvement remains unclear. Did Rep. Lauren Boebert lead future insurgents on a tour of the Capitol in order to help them identify the shortest route to the people they wanted to hang? Not certain. There are others who will pretend that their calls to storming the Capitol and spilling a swimming pool of patriotic blood were purely metaphorical. Right, Rep. Mo Brooks?

And then there's Steve Bannon.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}