Friday, January 27, 2017
Border Barrier Bungle
You have start with an understanding that it does not matter that the Mexican Wall is not really expected to work. It is and always has been Donald Trump’s statement to his displaced white constituency that he heard their frustration at their believingMexican immigrants were taking away their jobs and exploding crime everywhere they settled. It did not matter that neither statement was true. To capture those votes, Trump had to agree with the belief.
When those words about building a physical wall first stumbled out of his mouth back in June of 2015, probably without any serious forethought, he was probably as amazed as anyone that his standing in the primary polls doubled overnight. That he had to back up his casual reference to become his official platform, he made sure that he had “tangible” plans in mind: the wall would cost $8 billion (since revised to $25 billion) and Mexico was going to pay for it, “believe me.” His growing constituency lapped it up. Donald knew it was time to double down. A hip shot found inadvertent traction.
It comes as no surprise that Donald Trump now wants to avoid the obvious scrutiny of a budget-conscious and skeptical Congress for such a massive undertaking. So in his executive order he enunciated his basis to start the process without new Congressional action by citing several existing constitutional and statutory bases for his act: “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 ‘et seq’.) (INA), the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-367) (Secure Fence Act), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-208 Div. C) (IIRIRA)…” Trump suggested that construction on the wall could begin in only a matter of months. Was this preexisting legislation sufficient to circumvent a budget battle with Congress?
His actual move to begin building the wall was his presenting his constituency with proof that he was going to live up to his campaign promises, and they love it. Even if he cannot deliver on more abstract pledges, particularly in healthcare and job recovery, the wall is a clear and tangible thing he can always point to. To him, it is now a political necessity.
With a meeting with Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, on the schedule for January 31st, Trump tweeted that the Mexican President should cancel unless Mexico was prepared to pay for the wall. Peña Nieto promptly cancelled the trip, adding that Mexico would take all necessary steps to protect this citizens living in the United States. Ugly escalated into hideously ugly. Some were even talking about a break in diplomatic relations between the two nations. At stake was the relationship with a friendly border nation with no recorded hostility for almost a century. And two-way trade that benefits both nations. According to CNN [December 15th], “Mexico ranks as America's third biggest trading partner, worth $586 billion.”
“[NAFTA] has allowed trade between the neighbors to mushroom. Every day, goods valued at $1.4 billion cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and millions of jobs are linked to trade on both sides. Mexico is the world’s second-largest customer for American-made products, and 80 percent of Mexican exports — automobiles, flat-screen TVs, avocados — are sold to the United States.” Washington Post, January 26th.
Maybe Trump could convince the Mexican drug cartels to foot the bill, since they will be the ones to reap the greatest benefit from an excuse to raise the price of their toxic narcotics that are so in demand north of the border. Instead, the Trump administration suggested that the solution woulds be a 20% tariff on imported Mexican goods. But aren’t U.S. consumers the ones who will bear the resulting higher prices? Not Mexicans. They would, however, face lower demand as costs soar for those imports. The January 26th announcement of that proposed tariff, from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, stunned Mexicans, many of whom had dismissed Trump’s vitriolic threats as meaningless campaign rhetoric.
“It was not clear exactly how the Trump administration would impose the new tax on Mexican exports. But Spicer said it would be part of a broader plan to tax imports from countries, including Mexico, with which the United States has a trade deficit.” The Post. Will Congress enact this Trump-requested tariff and begin a trade war, which seems to be directed as much towards China as it is towards Mexico, a trade war that the United States probably cannot win? A trade war with disastrous negative effects on our own economy? Argh! If Congress doesn’t pass the tariff, at least The Donald would have someone to blame. He’s good at that. Meanwhile, Spicer subsequently suggested that the 20% tariff was just “one idea.” One hip-shot down… or not?
Guess I should get back to the actual building of that wall. You’d think, if the wall had a truly serious and effective purpose, the president would ask the Republican with the most direct knowledge of and relationship to that southern border – Texas GOP Congressman Will Hurd whose district includes more miles of U.S.-Mexico border than any other – what his opinion was of that wall. Well, Will was not heard.
“‘Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border,’ … Hurd… said in a statement late Wednesday [1/25]… ‘Each section of the border faces unique geographical, cultural, and technological challenges that would be best addressed with a flexible, sector-by-sector approach that empowers the agents on the ground with the resources they need.’… Hurd, one of 38 Texans in Congress, represents territory stretching from San Antonio to El Paso, including 800 miles of border. His 23rd District is majority-Hispanic and politically competitive: Hurd won a second term over Democrat Pete Gallego by fewer than 4,000 votes in November.” Washington Post, January 25th. Quite a few additional Republican Congress-people have made similar observations, alluding to far-more-sophisticated and effective border monitoring systems. But then, Trump wouldn’t have that tangible proof that he was delivering on his promises.
Republican Hurd, who presumably knows the terrain of his own district well, “said it is ‘impossible’ to build a physical wall in the rough terrain of his district… ‘Big Bend National Park and many areas in my district are perfect examples of where a wall is unnecessary and would negatively impact the environment, private property rights and economy,’ Hurd said, advocating for an ‘intelligence-led approach’ to border security… No member of Texas’s congressional delegation had offered full-throated support of a complete border wall as of Dec. 20, according to a survey by the Texas Tribune.” The Post. Virtually all of the farmers and ranchers who live on that border also agree that a physical wall would be an ineffective and colossal waste of federal taxpayer money.
But The Donald isn’t really building that wall to work or to protect those who live on that border or represent the relevant constituency of bordering congressional districts. He is doing it for those rust belt voters, thousands of miles away, who supported him and abandoned their Democratic Party roots. It’s a symbol that everyone with any specialized knowledge realizes is one of the least effective immigration control proposals ever made. But too many of those Trumpists believe it will work, will sleep better knowing there is a “wall down there,” that reality and truth simply do not matter. The entire Trump legacy, its announced global platform, is to live in a post-truth world of “alternative facts.” We tell you what the “facts” should be, and everyone needs to act accordingly… or else.
What Trump’s opponents still do not get is that his followers need to believe in his lies – because in their minds he is proposing the end-game they expect to see. He’s “smart” and now doing what they want done, what he convinced them would work. They believe. Democrats continue to dwell on issues and values that smack of liberal elitism and ignore the fading economic prospects of the disenfranchised masses they used to represent. Dem’s have got nothing on point, not even a bad lie. There are two countries within our own borders with very differing views on reality and what is coming. If we don’t find that middle ground soon… we are toast.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if there is one very likely casualty to all of this, it is indeed a growing disenchantment with American democracy that is rather rapidly eroding the entire nation.