It has been nearly a year since Donald J. Trump assumed the office of the presidency of the United States. So, where’s that wall he promised voters?
Back in 1986, an audacious young Trump boldly told the City of New York to step aside from a long-stalled plan to renovate a skating rink in the heart of Central Park. Wollman Rink had been neglected for so long the city earmarked almost $5 million to renovate it. Five years later the project was $12 million over budget and still not done. The rink wasn’t level and the braintrust in charge couldn’t figure out how to make and keep ice. Trump grandly stepped in, used his own money, and finished the project not only in record time but $750,000 under budget. The city reimbursed him.
So, when I heard candidate Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promise about building a wall along the U.S./Mexican border – and his declaration that, “It will go up so fast your head will spin” — I figured within the first year of a Trump administration we, the taxpayers, would have something tangible to look at.
We do not. Chalk it up to the naïve candidate having no idea about the intricacies of governing and the incredible amount of red taped delay that’s involved in government projects. And, the most preposterous part of the wall project promise – the idea that Mexico would pay for it? Fuhgeddaboudit. They will not. We will.
President Trump now says we really need to build the wall along just 700 to 900 of the 2,000 mile border with Mexico. Rugged mountain terrain and “violent and vicious” rivers don’t need to be fenced in, he says. So, just how much said wall will cost in the end? There seems to be no definitive answer. The president has asked Congress to approve a down payment of $1.6 billion. But that could be just the beginning.
So far, $20 million has been spent for a prototype program. Six companies were awarded contracts to build 8 different samples of wall panels. Four are of concrete, four are made of other materials and all are between 18 and 30 feet high. The companies promise their wall prototype will be immune to breaching, scaling, climbing, digging underneath and will be able to maintain an “impedance and denial of traffic.”
In September, the president told a cheering crowd, “I’m going to go out and look at them personally, (I’m) going to pick the right one,” he said about the final design choice. But there’s no indication Mr. Trump has gone to the construction area outside San Diego to inspect the panels even though the deadline for completion was the end of October.
The president has also made it clear he thinks the finished wall must be see-though so border patrol agents can observe what’s happening on the Mexican side. Really? Then why did we spend up to $500,000 each on solid concrete prototypes? On-line videos clearly show several of the prototypes are definitely not transparent. Sure leaves the impression that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
Of course, the goals for the wall are laudable: to keep out more people, from all sorts of foreign countries, from crossing into our country illegally and to help stem the flood of drugs coming into the U.S. from Mexico. But, let’s pause here for a reality check.
Common sense and the theory of supply and demand tells us if there were fewer drug addicts in America the supply stream would begin to dry up. When you consider that we lose almost 1,000 people a week to drug overdoses and that the U.S. consumes more than 80% of the world’s opioid pills (even though we have less than 5% of the globe’s population) doesn’t spending more money on drug treatment, anti-drug education and crime prevention make sense?
And, the L.A. Times reported earlier this year that the number of immigrants caught trying to cross the U.S./ Mexican border has plunged 40% under the tough-talking Trump administration. Some might conclude this makes the need to spend a couple billion dollars on a border barrier questionable.
Look, I’m not against the wall in principle. Measures to fight illegal immigration and drug flow and drug spurred crimes are long overdue. But the pie-in-the-sky belief that a tall wall will automatically solve both those problems is a foolish notion. About as foolish as saying it could be built “so fast your head will spin” or that we, the taxpayers, won’t have to pay for it.