The Great Wall of Stupidity

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Since taking the oath of office just 10 days ago, Donald Trump has been a very busy man. As his predecessor said, he has a phone and a pen and he has been working them to death signing one executive order after another – 17 as of January 29 according to Fox News.

Some of them have been great. Among those his directives to freeze federal regulations and hiring, and his order to federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of Obamacare that would impose a financial burden on states or individuals – effectively killing the penaltax for not buying insurance.

Others, like his order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a treaty that Congress decided not to vote on) haven’t actually done anything.

And then there are his enormously stupid orders. Several federal judges have already killed his order to ban entry into the US by citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries, because it contradicts US law.

But his dumbest, and therefore most popular, order still stands … BUILD THAT WALL!

Appealing to mass xenophobia and ignorance, Trump spent the presidential campaign stirring up crowds by swearing he would shut-down the US/Mexico border to keep out Mexican rapists and drug dealers. Not only would he build a wall to defend the border but he would make those dirty dealing Mexicans pay for it!

The crowds went wild!

The crowds were full of fools.

The US has been building a wall along the border since 2006 and so far it extends nearly 700 miles at a cost of more than $3.4 billion. That is an average cost of $4.85 million per mile of wall. (BTW, Hillary Clinton, who derided Trump’s plan as racist during her presidential campaign, voted for the wall in 2006 when she was a Senator.)

But the border is almost 2,000 miles long and Trump wants a double layer of wall for the entire length. If we ignore inflation it will cost at least $16 billion to carry out his plan and that is just for labor and materials. It doesn’t include the cost for environmental studies, buying property, and suing in court to steal land from people who won’t agree to sell at the government’s offering price. When all is said and done it will end up costing $30-$50 billion for this boondoggle.

Why do I call it a boondoggle? BECAUSE IT WON’T STOP ANYONE FROM CROSSING THE BORDER!

How do I know this? Because I know what the existing wall is like. Let’s look at it.

Here is the wall where it meets the Pacific Ocean in San Diego:

I don't see anyway to get around this, do you?

See the merry-makers on the beach? They are in Mexico. Does anyone notice a problem with this section of the wall?

If one of these sunset-enjoying foreign nationals decides he wants to go to America all he needs is an inflatable pool float. Unless Trump is planning to extend the wall to Hawaii, this isn’t going to stop anybody no matter how many layers he puts there.

Here is a section of wall in Arizona:

Somebody call a tow truck.

This oddly parked SUV belonged to Mexican drug smugglers. They backed it up ramps (granted a little too far) and hopped into America. You can also get over using a ladder or rope, readily available at Casa Depot.

Here’s the border in Big Bend National Park in Texas:

These canoeists are floating down the Rio Grande River with Mexico on one side and Texas on the other. Guess we don’t need to worry about a wall here because not even Carl Lewis could jump across that canyon, amirite? Good thing, since it would be impossible to build a wall here!

But what’s to stop a Mexican from putting a canoe into the river on the Mexican side, paddling downstream, and then getting out on the American side? Nothing! According to the National Park Service you don’t even need a passport to do this. Can you tell a Mexican-Mexican from a Mexican-American just by looking at him or her? Of course not. Neither can the Border Patrol. There is no way to stop someone from entering the country via the river.

Here’s a portion of the wall near Brownsville, Texas:

Why does the wall stop at the road? Did they run out of money? Nope. Is this section still under construction? Nope. Where’s the Border Patrol post? There isn’t one. Why? Because this section of wall is completely within the United States and the road going through it never enters Mexico. (This photo is from an excellent video by Charlie LeDuff highlighting the idiocy of the wall – you should watch it.). Because of flood plains, environmental concerns, and topography, this section of wall cannot be built right on the border. The land on both sides of the wall is US territory. Americans live and work on both sides therefore the wall has to have a gap for the road to go through. And if Americans can pass through the wall unimpeded then guess who else can.

Don’t believe me? Here’s another section of wall in Cameron County, Texas (photo taken from Bing Maps on January 29, 2017):

That useless wall won't even keep Rusty's dog off my property!

This lucky Cameronian must pass through the wall anytime he wants to visit the rest of the country. And if he can do it unimpeded so can his neighbors across the river.

This problem isn’t unique to Texas. This is the state of affairs for most of the wall’s extent. Unless the US plans to build Border Patrol posts at every one of what will be hundreds of holes in the wall, there is no way to stop anyone from going through any time they want with no hassle. And if they do build all those posts then they will be requiring Americans to present ID to prove their nationality within the borders of the US. The Supreme Court has already said that is an illegal requirement. Unless Congress wants to go full Gestapo, that ain’t happening.

Since it’s so easy to go around, over, and through the existing wall, what makes Trump and his minions so sure that spending billions to make it longer will stop anybody? All evidence indicates that the wall is easily penetrated. You have to be willfully ignorant to think this will work.

But not as ignorant as you need to be to think Mexico is going to pay for it!

Short of a military invasion there is absolutely no way you can force the Mexican government or the Mexican people to pay for this. It’s just not possible.

I can hear some of you now – but Trump said he’s going to slap a 20% tax on goods imported into the US from Mexico. That’ll pay for it.

Oh really?

Imagine you sell hats and you are waiting on a shipment of sombreros from your Mexican supplier, Hector. The shipment gets delayed and you wonder what is taking so long, so you call Hector. Hector tells you he went to the border to bring you the hats but US customs wouldn’t let them thru until Hector paid the 20% tax. He further explains that he can just as easily sell his sombreros to the Chinese without paying any additional tax so he sure as hell isn’t going to pay 20% so Trump can build his “fucking wall”.

What are you going to do? Your customers want authentic sombreros “hecho en Mexico”. There is only one solution. You tell Hector you will pay him an extra 20% if he’ll pay the tax and bring you the hats. Hector agrees. You send him the money, Hector pays the 20% tax to the customs agent, and you get your sombreros.

So did Hector, a Mexican, pay the 20% wall tax? Of course not, he merely transferred the cash from you to the customs agent. You, an American, paid the tax!

This is how Trump’s scheme to finance the wall will work. This is how ALL tariffs on goods imported into the country work.

Trump can NOT force Mexico to pay for the wall. But he can lie to economically illiterate Americans and make them think Mexico is paying for it. And the Trump true believers will insist Mexico is paying for it no matter how many times you explain to them the actual mechanics of the transaction. They are really that dumb.

So Trump wants to build another 3,300 miles of wall at a cost that is certain to exceed $30 billion. The wall will be completely ineffective while creating an enormous pain-in-the-ass for Americans who live along the border. And he will force US taxpayers and consumers to pay for it while lying to them about the source of funding.

If you believe in alt-facts hard enough then any spectacularly awful idea sounds brilliant!

Wayne Middlesteadt is the author of Five Ways to Beat the Market and The Golden Age of Distance Running.

About Author

Wayne Middlesteadt

Wayne Middlesteadt is a 1986 graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State University. Currently working as a financial writer and track and field historian, his latest book is Five Ways To Beat The Market.