The cost of the Wall that President Trump wants to construct along the U.S.-Mexico border keeps climbing.
According to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters, the cost of the wall will be far higher than the $12 to $15 billion price tag projected by Trump’s campaign.
The “wall” would actually be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and will take more than three years to construct, says the report.
Even that staggering amount may be a low estimate: Bernstein Research, an investment research group that tracks material costs, has said that uncertainties around the project could drive its cost up to as much as $25 billion.
Considering that everything government does costs more and takes longer than politicians and bureaucrats predict, we should probably double or perhaps even triple the $21.billion and 3 year estimates.
The report is expected to be presented to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly in coming days, although the administration will not necessarily take actions it recommends.
The plan lays out what it would take to seal the border in three phases of construction of fences and walls covering just over 1,250 miles (2,000 km) by the end of 2020.
With 654 miles (1,046 km) of the border already fortified, the new construction would extend almost the length of the entire border.
Many cost estimates and timelines have been floated since Trump campaigned on the promise of building a wall. The report seen by Reuters is the work of a group commissioned by Kelly as a final step before moving forward with requesting U.S. taxpayer funds from Congress and getting started on construction.
Did you catch the last line of that quote from Reuters?
The report seen by Reuters is the work of a group commissioned by Kelly as a final step before moving forward with requesting U.S. taxpayer funds from Congress and getting started on construction (emphasis mine).
Did anyone actually believe that Mexico was going to pay for the wall?
The report assumes DHS would get funding from Congress by April or May, giving the department sufficient time to secure contractors and begin construction by September. Trump has said Congress should fund the wall upfront, but that Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers. Mexico has said it will not pay.
“Congress should fund the wall upfront, but Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers.”
Is anyone buying any of this?
Of course taxpayers are going to pay for it, and of course Mexico is NOT going to reimburse us. Even if a tariff is imposed on Mexican goods entering the U.S., Americans will ultimately foot the bill for the wall.
On Wednesday, Trump told law enforcement officials “The wall is getting designed right now.”
The U.S. government has begun seeking waivers to address environmental laws on building in some areas, the report says, and it also shows the government has begun working with existing contractors and planning steel purchases for the project.
Once the names of the companies who will be building the wall are released, it will be interesting to see if any of them donated to Trump’s campaign. The steel industry donated more to Trump’s campaign than it did to any other 2016 presidential candidate, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Huge corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrup Grumman land highly lucrative government contracts for projects like the wall – and all of them donated to Trump’s campaign.
Those contractors stand to gain billions from Trump’s wall project.
Who stands to lose?
Past border security projects have failed tremendously, at a huge expense to taxpayers.
In 2006, Boeing and a team of other companies won a federal contract to build a “virtual fence” to protect the U.S. border with Mexico. Five years and about $1 billion later, the government halted the project, called the Secure Border Initiative (SBInet). In 2010, then-US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified that “SBInet, a contract and a concept that was entered into years ago, has been plagued with troubles from day one… It has never met a deadline, it hasn’t met its operational capacities, and it doesn’t give us what we need to have.”
In May 2010, a report on the failed border security project stated:
“Not only did this expedited border security lack a strategy, but it also lacked a foundation of successful experience in high-tech border control,” according to the report, Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security. “Instead, it has been based more on dreams, hopes and fantasy — and on the widely shared, but faulty, assumption that technology provided by private contractors could meet the challenge of securing the country’s nearly 6,000 miles of land borders with remote surveillance systems.”
Tom Barry, author of the report and senior policy analyst at the CIPas its director of the TransBorder Project, told Leischen Stelter of the Security Director News that after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, followed by a push for immigration reform, the government jumped to secure the border, a rush that ultimately led to the failure of this program. “They couldn’t manage to do it right because they were in such a hurry to show the American public that the government was fulfilling its responsibility to secure the border and they didn’t do the adequate preparation.”
Nearly all of that $1 billion was spent on just 53 miles of the border in Arizona.
That project was a major loss for taxpayers, but guess who won BIG?
The contractors that were awarded the contract.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
In One Certainty of Trump’s Wall: Big Money, Danielle Ivory and Julie Creswell emphasize this point:
An examination of failed efforts from the past highlights the potential gains for companies and potential pitfalls for taxpayers. Among the possible winners are construction firms, high-tech surveillance companies and cement manufacturers including, in what would be an ironic turn, one of Mexico’s largest materials companies.
“There’s no question that, when the government spends money on a big project like this, companies are going to make a lot of money,” said Joe Hornyak, a partner with the law firm Holland and Knight, who specializes in government contracting law. “There’s no question about that.”
Last year, Researchers at M.I.T. said that a 1,000-mile, 50-foot-high steel-and-concrete wall would cost taxpayers about $40 billion, and companies and investors who see the profit potential took notice:
The stocks of several construction companies and cement and concrete manufacturers jumped after the latest talk from Mr. Trump, as investors bet not only on a payday coming from a Mexican border wall but also from proposals floated for about $1 trillion in infrastructure projects.
Federal government contractors are surely excited about the wall project, because it means big money:
Past attempts at a wall have favored companies with decades of government contracting experience. From 2007 to 2012, the federal government paid contractors more than $1.5 billion for border protection, according to a New York Times analysis of spending under the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative.
But SBInet was not the only failed border project. In 2005, another project was harshly criticized by lawmakers after it was reported that its security cameras frequently malfunctioned. In another, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General reported in 2011 that officials had wasted $69 million in taxpayer dollars on an effort to build border walls, including the purchase of $44 million worth of extra steel that it did not need, reports the Times.
Despite the abysmal results and outrageous costs to taxpayers similar projects have yielded, Trump is moving forward with his plan. On January 25, he signed an executive order demanding “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.”
Not only will stolen money (taxes) be used to build the wall, stolen land will as well. A source familiar with the plans said DHS may have to go to court to seek eminent domain in order to acquire some of the private land needed to cover the final and most ambitious phase.
From Reuters (emphasis mine):
The first phase, estimated to cost only $360 million, could be a relatively easy way for Trump to satisfy supporters eager to see him make good on his campaign promises to limit illegal migration. But the rest of the construction will be markedly more expensive, covering a much larger stretch of land, much of it privately owned or inaccessible by road.
It should not be any surprise that Trump is willing to use government force to take land from citizens via eminent domain: In one of the the presidential debates, he referred to it as “an absolute necessity.” Trump has a personal history of attempting to use eminent domain to take other people’s property for business use.
Some may cling to the idea that the wall is necessary no matter what the cost because Mexicans are flooding into the U.S. in droves and are prone to committing crime, but data does not support either claim:
According to Pew Research Center, net migration flows from Mexico have been negative since 2008. In other words, more Mexicans are leaving the country than entering. Indeed, unauthorized immigrants from Mexico aren’t “pouring in,” as Trump claims. They peaked at 6.9 million in 2007 and currently stand at 5.6 million. However, return migration of Mexican nationals and their children is now higher than migration of Mexicans heading to the U.S.
What’s more, these immigrants are not criminals and are not disproportionately represented in federal and state prisons. To the contrary, they are less crime prone than the native population. Cities that have long been gateways for immigrants such as El Paso, San Antonio, and San Diego have experienced a drop in violent crime rates.
And the 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population is three times less than native born who lack a high-school diploma. (source)
In A Better Solution Than Trump’s Border Wall, Ron Paul explains that while Trump is right to focus on the issue of border security, “…he misses the point on how it can be done effectively and at an actual financial benefit to the country rather than a huge economic drain.”
The solution, Dr. Paul says, is to remove “…the welfare magnet that attracts so many to cross the border illegally, stop the 25 year US war in the Middle East, and end the drug war that incentivizes smugglers to cross the border.”
“The various taxpayer-funded programs that benefit illegal immigrants in the United States, such as direct financial transfers, medical benefits, food assistance, and education, cost an estimated $100 billion dollars per year. That is a significant burden on citizens and legal residents. The promise of free money, free food, free education, and free medical care if you cross the border illegally is a powerful incentive for people to do so. It especially makes no sense for the United States government to provide these services to those who are not in the US legally.”
U.S. foreign policy also needs to be honestly examined, Dr. Paul adds:
Finally, the threat of terrorists crossing into the United States from Mexico must be taken seriously, however once again we must soberly consider why they may seek to do us harm. We have been dropping bombs on the Middle East since at least 1990. Last year President Obama dropped more than 26,000 bombs. Thousands of civilians have been killed in US drone attacks. The grand US plan to “remake” the Middle East has produced only misery, bloodshed, and terrorism. Ending this senseless intervention will go a long way toward removing the incentive to attack the United States.
Fully legalizing marijuana would also help tremendously. The war on drugs is a decades-long failure of outrageous proportions. The legalization of marijuana in many states has already begun to cut into Mexican drug cartels’ profits while creating American jobs. Since 2010, marijuana smuggling from Mexico to the U.S. has dropped by 50 percent.
David Bienenstock, the head of content at High Times and a reporter with 15 years of experience covering marijuana markets and the federal government’s war on those markets, told Eric Boehm of Reason:
“It’s important to understand that the Drug War created the cartels, not the other way around. We’ve been wasting trillions of dollars for nearly 50 years on wholly ineffective, and even counterproductive, efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, and those efforts have only made the cartels bigger, stronger, and more dangerous.”
No amount of enforcement, even military-level, can remove the financial incentive of the black market. In fact, every increase in enforcement only makes the black market more lucrative, and the fight to control this illicit trade more deadly and destructive.”
There is, of course, another reason the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico should concern everyone: Walls between nations are not only used to keep people out, but to keep people IN.
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Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”