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Tags: Immigration | Mexico | Presidential History | congress | pelosi | reagan

Nation Can't Afford Endless Battle on Wall

Nation Can't Afford Endless Battle on Wall

On Jan. 10, 2019, President Donald Trump arrived at McAllen International Airport for a visit to the southern border in McAllen, Texas. The president scrapped a trip to Switzerland later this month, citing the partial government shutdown. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Paul F. deLespinasse By Tuesday, 29 January 2019 11:00 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Announcing the end of the shutdown, Donald Trump insisted that a "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution" to the claimed crisis along our southern border. These words suggest a way to put this mess permanently behind us. There is a critical difference between speaking of a "wall" ( singular) and of "walls" (plural), and this time the president used the plural, walls.

Trump's campaign mantra, "build a big, beautiful wall" (singular) conjured up images of a monolithic barrier across the entire southern border from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. This was never realistic, given the terrain in some places — water, mountains, etc. — where no wall could ever be built.

Nor did it recognize that a massive, expensive wall (singular) would not solve most of the problems posed by undocumented immigrants or smuggled drugs, mostly sneaking through official border portals.

A wall (singular) was a decent campaign gimmick, promising a simple solution to a cluster of problems. But in real life complicated problems usually require complex solutions, with close attention to details.

Different parts of the border may call for different measures, and one possible measure for particular border areas is to build a barrier. In fact, several hundred miles of such barriers were built during previous administrations. It's possible that cost-benefit analysis would show that a few miles of additional barriers or walls (plural) would make sense.

The bi-partisan congressional committee should listen to the experts who, according to Trump, claimed that additional barriers were needed. If they convince committee members that there are particular areas where additional barriers would be cost-beneficial, fine: let there be walls (plural).

Nancy Pelossi missed an opportunity to take this approach five weeks ago with her flat "no" when Trump asked if she would consider a wall if he let the government reopen first. But the opportunity still is there, and Trump's use of the word "walls" (plural) during his reopening announcement pave the way to take it up this time.

A permanent bi-partisan end must be put to this battle.

To describe the thirty five day shutdown as a mess understates the damage it did and will continue doing even after it ended. The finances of 800,000 families were clobbered.

Despite the fact that the workers would ultimately be paid, future paychecks did not pay current bills for mortgages, insurance, food, or tuition. Insensitive suggestions to hold garage sales or get bank loans didn't help. Useful work by those furloughed did not get done.

Businesses lost sales because federal workers were cutting back on spending. Reduced sales means lower profits, lower profits mean these businesses will pay less taxes, less tax collections will increase an already out of control federal deficit.

Air travel safety was threatened because air traffic controllers, working but not getting paychecks, were stressed out and finding it hard to focus on their exacting duties. If the shutdown had lasted another day or two the controllers might have declared a nationwide strike, completely shutting the entire air transport system down for the first time since 9-11.

Unlike President Reagan in 1981, President Trump would have been in no position to fire the strikers. There is more air travel now, and the 1981 strikers were getting paychecks.

The possibility of another shutdown will increase federal workers' motivation to do less discretionary spending so they can build up nest eggs they can tap for emergencies.

This is an excellent idea for the employees, but it will probably reduce GDP growth.

There is every reason for Congress to put an end to shutdowns once and for all, one way or another. If a president ever again tries using a shutdown to force Congress to pay for something that majorities of the House and Senate do not think is a good idea, members of both parties should remember that the presidential veto has its limits.

The special committee should pay no attention to Trump's veto threats and just recommend what makes sense to its members. Congress can enact laws keeping the government open over a president's veto, and when push comes to shove its members should consider loyalty to their own team, to their own branch of the government (and to the nation!), more important than loyalty to a president of their own party.

From this point of view, one of the major villains responsible for prolonging the recent pain was the Senate majority leader. Mitch McConnell's refusal to let the Senate vote on any measure not supported by Donald Trump deprived the Congress of its constitutional right to override presidential vetoes. Unless McConnell distances himself from the White House, Senate Republicans should seriously consider replacing him with a team player.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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A permanent bi-partisan end must be put to this battle. To describe the thirty five day shutdown as a mess understates the damage it did and will continue doing even after it ended. The finances of 800,000 families were clobbered.
congress, pelosi, reagan
Tuesday, 29 January 2019 11:00 AM
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