President Trump’s $21.6bn border
Probably the most spoken name of late 2016 to early 2017 has to be Donald Trump. The 45th President of the United States has to be among the most controversial figures ever to adorn the title of ‘Leader of the Free World’. Only searching his name on Google proves his penchant for drama and controversy—today’s array of headlines coming from US-based New York Observer (“The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins”), and UK-based The Guardian (“Donald Trump’s Doctrine of Unpredictability Has The World on Edge”).
Words like “revolt” and “unpredictability” seem to be the order of the day to accompany Mr. Trump’s presidency. He has made headlines all across the world of late because of his much-maligned ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants (with particular focus on Muslims) which has angered much of the world’s population and led to demonstrations the world over in protest of this act of outright racial discrimination. However, not content with racially profiling foreign immigrants, Mr. Trump has made sure that his flagship policy during his fierce election campaign—the wall he proposes to construct to divide the USA with its neighbouring country of Mexico—has lost none of its momentum.
If it came to pass, President Trump’s wall would cost nearly double the $12bn quoted during his infamous presidential campaign, with the US Department of Homeland Security pitting the overall cost of the wall somewhere in the region of $21.6bn (£17.3bn), a bill that would be footed by the US taxpayers. In real terms, a border of this magnitude, if split evenly, would cost each American citizen a significant $170 (£136) each. Part of the money would be in the procurement of 1,250 miles of fences to zigzag the entire length of the US-Mexico border, whilst the lion’s share of the $21.6bn would be taken up in labour (with the project expected to take over three years to finish), and acquiring private land. However, further research by Bernstein Research has indicated that costs could skyrocket to $25bn by the project’s end.
Whilst each taxpayer’s individual contribution is peanuts to Mr. Trump, who was the heir to his father’s fortune and is himself a multi-billionaire with his eponymous Trump business empire, the Census Bureau reports that more than 45m people in the USA (equivalent to 14.5% of all Americans) lived below the poverty line in 2016. A huge proportion of people can barely afford to feed, clothe and house themselves in America, let alone fund a billionaire’s outlandish pipedream of a wall that would only separate the USA even further from allies, job opportunities and many other prospects besides that Mexico could provide.
Despite Mr. Trump’s firm protestations that Mexico will foot the bill and reimburse US taxpayers, sitting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto refutes this with equal vehemence. So it looks like if this wall is to become a reality, it will be the US taxpayers who will fund this endeavour, whether they want to or not (and more acutely, whether they can afford to or not). President Trump has a vision, a vision it seems that no amount of protestations from the Senate, US taxpayers and Mexico’s exasperated president can prevent.