Tag Archives: The Wall

These projects don’t pay for themselves

Donald J. Trump’s proposal to cut taxes — notably for the wealthiest Americans — is getting considerable play in conservative media and political circles.

The president thinks he’s on to something. He has pitched what his team has called the most sweeping “tax reform” package in U.S. history.

Now …

Let’s get real for a moment.

* The president also wants to enact a few big projects. He has proposed spending an additional $54 billion next year alone on the Department of Defense. He contends the military is depleted and, of course, blames the previous administration for all but rendering us defenseless against our enemies.

* He also wants to rebuild our nation’s roads, bridges and airports. The price tag for that? A cool $1.2 trillion. This is a project worth doing, given the sorry state of our highways and airports. I’m still baffled as to how this plays among fiscal conservatives who (a) voted for Trump in 2016 and (b) say they dislike spending money the government doesn’t have in the bank.

* The president also wants to build that “big, beautiful wall” along our southern border. The price tag varies on this matter, but I’ll go with the bigger number that’s been floated: $25 billion. I do not believe the wall will be built. Nor should it be built. Still, the president insists that it will and he no longer is saying at every campaign-style rally that “Mexico will pay for it.”

These things do not pay for themselves. Thus, Americans across the land need to ask themselves: Are we willing to step up to shoulder the cost of all these projects or are we going to ignore the reality that the money must come from each of us?

The tax cut mantra has become standard Republican Party policy. President Reagan famously sought to cut taxes while “rebuilding” the military. He railed against President Carter’s budget deficits, only to preside over a skyrocketing deficit during his two terms in office. President George H.W. Bush challenged us to “read my lips” while vowing at the GOP convention in 1988 to never raise taxes; which helped get him elected. He then raised taxes — wisely, in my view — and it cost him votes among his conservative GOP base in 1992. President George W. Bush cut taxes in 2001, then went to war with international terrorists after the 9/11 attacks; the deficits exploded.

A new Republican president is now proposing another massive tax cut while at the same time seeking to do big things. With what, Mr. President? Where’s the money coming from?

I hate the wall idea. If the president wants to stem illegal immigration, then invest more money in better enforcement along both of our lengthy borders — north and south — and at ports of entry along all three coasts.

The defense buildup doesn’t need to cost nearly what Trump is proposing. Our military remains the strongest in the world.

Infrastructure improvement makes sense, but it’s going to cost Americans a lot of money to get it done.

Are we going to fall for the GOP tax-cut dodge because we don’t want to pay for the things we insist that government do for us? Or are we going to understand that our government requires us to spend a bit of our money to make it work?

100 days: real — or phony — benchmark for POTUS?

Donald John Trump now calls the 100-day threshold for presidential performance a phony standard.

That’s not what he was saying, however, while he was running for the office in 2016. He said repeatedly — and loudly — that he would do more than any other president in U.S. history during his first 100 days in office.

How has he done?

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act? Nothing. Tax reform? Zip. Infrastructure renovation? Forget it. The Wall on the southern border? Ha!

Yes, the president has signed a lot of executive orders. I like a few of them; most of them are clunkers.

Legislative accomplishment? The president has come up empty.

That means the 100-day report card — when it comes due — is going to record a pretty dismal job performance. Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump, who’s been saying in consecutive breaths that he’s done more than any president in history and that the 100-day benchmark doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Trump’s victory in the 2016 election rewrote the political calculus on so many levels. He wasn’t supposed to win; he didn’t know anything about government; he insulted too many key political demographic groups.

Despite all of that he won the Electoral College by a comfortable — if not a massive — margin over Hillary Clinton.

He’s parlayed that changing political dynamic into some sort of success in his own mind.

I’m not buying the president’s version of success. And, yes, the 100-day marker for first-term presidents does matter, no matter what the current president might think publicly about it.

How did The Wall become our responsibility?

Hey, didn’t Donald John Trump vow, declare it a lead-pipe cinch that Mexico would pay for a “big, beautiful wall” along the border between that country and the United States of America?

Didn’t he say he would force Mexico to foot the bill because, after all, those criminals and terrorists were “flooding” the country through our southern neighbor?

He got into an immediate war of words with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto after taking office this past January. Why? Pena Nieto said “no way” would his country spend a nickel to pay for the wall.

Here we are, nearly 100 days into the Trump administration’s existence. The wall is now central to a domestic political dispute — in the United States. The federal government might shut down if Congress cannot come up with a plan to stick American taxpayers with the bill to build a wall that (a) won’t work and (b) will blow up the annual budget deficit.

What’s the cost of this boondoggle? $20 billion to $25 billion? For starters?

Congress and the president are squabbling over whether to approve one of those “continuing resolutions” that would fund the government for the short term. Meanwhile, that damn wall is still being negotiated between Republican congressional leaders and the Republican who now sits (once in a while) in the Oval Office.

If there is a more impractical, illogical and ill-conceived idea than building such a barrier between two ostensibly “friendly” nations, then someone will have tell me.

A huge portion of the U.S.-Mexico border happens to be along a mighty river — the Rio Grande — that separates Texas from Mexico. How in the name of civil engineering does the president build the wall along that border? How does the president propose to seize all that private land without adding to the already-enormous cost? The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment requires “just compensation” for any “private land taken for public use.”

Well, why quibble over the small stuff?

The very notion of this wall becoming central to this political dispute simply illustrates yet another blind and thoughtless campaign promise the president cannot keep.

And if he made that promise knowing that he couldn’t fulfill it, isn’t that just another flat-out, bald-faced lie?

Building ‘The Wall’ faces mountain of obstacles

Donald J. Trump’s mouth provides an endless supply of nonsense.

The wall he intends to build to keep an imagined horde of criminals and terrorists from entering the United States of America provides a stark example of his “ready, fire, aim” approach to public policy.

The New York Times, in an editorial published Sunday, took note of the enormously complicated task associated with building a wall across our nation’s southern border.

Did the Republican candidate for president consider any of them before riding down the escalator to announce his candidacy in the summer of 2015? Umm. Nope. No way, man.

The Times asks:

“How do you build a wall along the 1,200 miles of the Rio Grande, the Texas stretch of border? Do you put it on our side and abandon the river to Mexico, or seize Mexican territory for it, or put it in the middle of the river, or do some zigzag compromise? What do you do then about a treaty requiring that both countries have open access to the river?

“How do you make a concrete wall see-through, so smugglers aren’t invisible to the Border Patrol?

“How do you get private landowners to go along? What about the Tohono O’odham Indians, whose reservation straddles the border in Arizona and who want no part of any wall on their sacred land?

How do you wall out deep tunnels, drones and catapults? What about the tons of drugs that pass through existing ports? Did you know that drug cartels have ships and submarines? What happens when drug bales start coming ashore in San Diego, or over from Saskatchewan?

These things do not seem to matter to the president who keeps referencing these matters in the first-person singular, suggesting that he’s going to make it happen just because, well, he can.
Actually, he cannot. That’s not how it works.
The president cannot just say things, as the NY Times notes, without understanding the consequences of his utterances. It worked for him as a candidate for the office. Now that he’s occupying it, the time has come for the president to start thinking rationally — and strategically.

Trump now must get ready to attack other ‘top priorities’

If the Republican plan to overhaul health care fails, the president of the United States will have to face a serious quandary.

Which issue will become his top priority item?

Donald Trump said his first order of business was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. His effort is now gasping for air. A vote on Friday stands as a now-or-never effort. If it fails, which it appears will occur, he will move on to other matters.

What’s next? Let’s see. Building the wall along our southern border? Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement? Bringing back all those jobs that have moved offshore to China?

He won’t deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine, Syria or its meddling with the U.S. presidential election. That’s pretty much a given.

Trump, though, will have to pivot rapidly from health care overhaul.

Heaven knows he’s got a full plate of top-drawer issues to handle.

He did refer to the U.S. economy as a “disaster.” Oh, wait! Then he got that great jobs report for February in which non-farm payrolls grew by 235,000 individuals; joblessness fell to 4.7 percent.

And, no-o-o-o, the numbers weren’t cooked.

I am watching all this flailing right along with the rest of the country. The president cannot get his footing. He has been unable to fill many top administrative posts. He must appoint more than 140 federal judges, which is a consequence of Republicans blocking Barack Obama’s efforts to fill those vacancies when he was president.

And then …

We’ve got all those questions about Russian connections with the Trump campaign, the president’s bogus assertion of wiretapping and whether Donald Trump has any idea of just how he intends to actually govern.

Think of it: We’re only at Day 63. My head is spinning.

Happy birthday, Father of Our Country

LAREDO, Texas — They love the Father of Our Country way down yonder in this bustling South Texas community.

I consider it an interesting thing to witness.

Why is that? Laredo sits at Ground Zero of the U.S. immigration debate. The president of the United States wants to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico. It will have a direct impact on this city of 236,000 (and counting) residents.

We drove here to get away from the cold weather that continues to plague the Texas Panhandle. We found it — and then some! — in the Rio Grande Valley. They were setting record high temperatures during our stay at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park.

Laredo this past weekend celebrated its 120th annual George Washington’s Birthday Celebration. The city publishes a glossy magazine commemorating the event, which it describes as “one of the biggest celebrations that contributes to Laredo’s history and a must see in South Texas!”

It began in 1898 when the Improved Order of the Red Men sought to bring together various ethnic groups in Laredo. In doing so, they discovered that George Washington himself was a member of the order.

Princess Pocahontas also became part of the celebration to honor her role in saving the mayor, who had been held captive by Indians who had raided city hall.

It’s all a huge deal in Laredo, where one — such as yours truly — might not expect to see such a huge tribute to our nation’s first president and the commander of the colonial forces that fought the British during the American Revolution.

The event began as a two-day celebration. Now it goes on for several days and it fuses all aspects of a diverse and cosmopolitan community, bringing them all together as one.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this?

I believe so.

If only all American communities could celebrate our founding president’s birthday in such a manner.

Wall price tag keeps escalating

Donald J. Trump’s wall is going to cost a lot of money.

It will cost about twice what he said it would cost; and it will cost billions more than U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said it will cost.

A Department of Homeland Security report puts the cost of the wall at $21.6 billion.

That ain’t chump change, ladies and gents. What’s more, many of us have yet to be convinced that building a wall across our southern border is going to work. We doubt it will keep every illegal immigrant out of the United States; nor is it even in keeping with the welcoming values that gives this country its “exceptional” status.

How do we pay for this?

Paying for this wall is going to be the biggest debate topic — if our government actually proceeds with this specious plan.

Let us consider a couple of critical factors.

* The president insists Mexico will pay for it. The Mexican government says categorically it won’t pay a nickel. Trump insists that a steep tariff on all imported goods from Mexico will foot the bill. That means importers are likely to pass the cost of those imported goods on to you and me. Bottom line? We pay for it

Suppose, then, that the tariff doesn’t come to pass. And suppose that Mexico holds firm on its refusal to pay for the wall.

* How does Congress find the money to pay for this monstrosity? Fiscal conservatives have insisted in the past that the government cut money elsewhere to spend funds on new programs. Example? Joplin, Mo., was devastated by a killer tornado in 2011 and Republican House leaders insisted the government peel money from other programs to pay for emergency relief for the storm victims.

If the government is going to shell out $21.6 billion — assuming the price tag doesn’t escalate even more — then how do we intend to pay for it? More taxes? Do we decline to spend money on other government programs? Which programs get cut?

The wall is far from done. Its cost is far from settled. Its future is far from certain.

The Wall won’t keep them out

A friend of ours who grew up in South Texas has some strong feelings about Donald J. Trump’s “big, beautiful wall.”

We had dinner with him and another friend this evening and we chatted about this and that — shared a few laughs along with a few groans.

Then our conversation turned to Trump’s wall. Our friend was blunt.

It won’t work.

It won’t keep out the criminals.

It is a foolish gesture meant only to appease those who voted for the president of the United States.

Our friend is a highly educated man. He has family still living in South Texas, not far from the Rio Grande River. Build a wall? Who’ll pay for it? The president says Mexico will foot the bill. How is that going to happen on a structure meant to be built on the American side of its lengthy border with Mexico.

This good buddy of ours has considerable knowledge of life along our border. I’ll accept what he knows and what he has seen.

He acknowledges that the bad guys — the drug dealers and human traffickers — already have carved out extensive tunnel networks all along our southern border that would enable such activity to continue.

Moreover, my pal has asked, how is the president going to stop illegal immigrants from entering from either end of the U.S-Mexico border — from splashing ashore from the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico?

Just think, Trump believes he can underwrite construction of the wall by levying a 20-percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico. Who pays the tariff? You and I do — when importers pass the increased cost of the imports to their American customers.

Yep, that’ll show them Mexicans.

R.I.P., young soldier

I posted this blog essay two years ago to commemorate Memorial Day. I want to share it again today as the nation prepares to honor the memories of those who have fallen in battle.

I don’t dwell too much on these kinds of things, but I’m thinking today of a young man I knew briefly many years ago.

His name was Jose DeLaTorre. We served in the same U.S. Army aviation battalion at Marble Mountain, a heavily fortified outpost just south of Da Nang in what used to be called South Vietnam. He served in a different company than I did; he worked on a UH-1 Huey helicopter crew while I was assigned to a fixed-wing outfit, the 245th Aviation Company, which flew OV-1 Mohawk reconnaissance aircraft.

One day in June 1969, Jose came bursting into our work area full of enthusiasm. He was going home in just a few days. I recall he’d extended his tour in ‘Nam several times. I think he had served something like 32 months in-country. I recall he usually was full of it – even on his quiet days. But on this day, Jose was pretty much out of control with excitement.

Later that day, his Huey company scrambled on a troop-lift mission. DeLaTorre did what he usually did when his company got the call to lift off: He strapped himself into an M-60 machine gun and flew as a door gunner on the mission.

It was supposed to be a “routine” drop at a landing zone. It wasn’t. The LZ was “hot,” meaning the ships were greeted by heavy enemy fire when they arrived.

You know how this tale turns out.

DeLaTorre was killed in action that day.

I didn’t know him well. Indeed, it took me 21 years – when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. in 1990 with my wife and sons – to learn he hailed from Fullerton, Calif. I saw his name carved into The Wall. I paid my respects and, yes, choked back the lump in my throat.

Today I’m thinking of that effervescent young man and the 58,000-plus other names on that monument, as well all those who have fallen in battle since the beginning of this great republic.

May they all rest in peace.

Thank you for your sacrifice.