So, where’s that wall?
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 that the city had earmarked almost $5 million in 1980 to renovate it. By 1986, the project was $12 million over budget. The rink wasn’t level, and the brain trust 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 also $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.-Mexico border — and when I heard him declare, “That wall will go up so fast your head will spin.” — I figured we, the taxpayers, would have something tangible to look at within the first year of a Trump administration.
We do not. Chalk it up to the naive 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 project promise — that Mexico will pay for it? Fuhgeddaboudit. It will not. We will.
President Trump now says we really need to build the wall along just 700 to 900 miles of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Rugged mountain terrain and “violent and vicious” rivers don’t need to be fenced in, he says. So, just how much will said wall 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 eight different samples of wall panels. Four are made of concrete; four are made of steel and concrete; and all are between 18 and 30 feet high. The companies promised that their wall prototype will be immune to breaching, scaling, climbing and digging underneath and will be able to maintain an “impedance and denial system” to slow the flow of traffic.
In September, the president told a cheering crowd, “I’m going to go out and look at them personally, going to pick the right one.” But there’s no indication he 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 Mexico side. Really? Then why did we spend up to $500,000 each on solid concrete prototypes? Online videos clearly show that 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 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 that 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 the U.S. consumes more than 80 percent of the world’s opioid pills (even though we have less than 5 percent of the global 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.-Mexico border has plunged 40 percent 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 foolish — about as foolish as saying it could be built “so fast your head will spin,” or saying that we won’t have to pay for it.