The pres­i­dent and the wall

Op­pos­ing sides con­tinue the duel over facts and eco­nom­ics

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Don­ald Lam­bro Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Two years into his pres­i­dency, Don­ald Trump is still try­ing to con­vince Congress to cough up bil­lions of hard-earned tax dol­lars to build his wall on the south­ern bor­der with Mex­ico.

OK, he orig­i­nally promised vot­ers that Mex­ico would pay for the 2,000-mile con­crete wall, and his sup­port­ers swal­lowed it hook, line and sinker.

They bought it even after the pres­i­dent of Mex­ico flatly told him at a face-to­face meet­ing on the bor­der dur­ing the cam­paign that they were never go­ing to pay for his dream wall. But he con­tin­ued to re­peat his false prom­ise at all of his ral­lies, ask­ing his sup­port­ers, “And who’s go­ing to pay for the wall?” “Mex­ico,” his fans shouted back.

Now, with his job ap­proval polls stuck in the lower 40 per­cent range and the Democrats, who now con­trol the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, re­fus­ing to spend one nickel on his wall, Pres­i­dent Trump is rais­ing the stakes.

Mr. Trump is re­fus­ing to sign a bud­get bill un­less it con­tains the $5.7 bil­lion he wants to be­gin con­struc­tion of his wall, trig­ger­ing a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down that he says he will not open un­til Congress gives him the money.

Then the pres­i­dent went on na­tion­wide tele­vi­sion to de­liver what The Wash­ing­ton Post called a “factchal­lenged” speech from the Oval Of­fice Tues­day, telling the Amer­i­can peo­ple that the United States faced “a grow­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity cri­sis” on the Mex­i­can bor­der.

In a mis­lead­ing, fear-mon­ger­ing speech, Mr. Trump pro­ceeded to tell Amer­i­cans that thou­sands of Mex­i­cans are il­le­gally pour­ing into our coun­try, largely com­posed of crim­i­nals, rapists, mur­der­ers and drug smug­glers.

One false claim that he’s made be­fore — that ter­ror­ists were also cross­ing the bor­der into the United States — was miss­ing from his speech. Fact check­ers, TV an­chors, in­clud­ing Fox News, have ques­tioned that claim.

Still, Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have raised is­sues of ter­ror­ists en­ter­ing across the bor­der. But when NBC News looked into those claims, it turned out that U.S Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agents “en­coun­tered only six im­mi­grants at ports of en­try on the U.S.-Mex­i­can bor­der in the first half of fis­cal year 2018 whose names were on a fed­eral gov­ern­ment list of known or sus­pected ter­ror­ists,” ac­cord­ing to data given to Congress that was ob­tained by NBC.

In Mr. Trump’s world, only the worst el­e­ments in Mex­ico are cross­ing the bor­der, when most are pre­sent­ing them­selves at the bor­der, seek­ing safety, asy­lum, jobs and a bet­ter life.

What Mr. Trump doesn’t tell Amer­i­cans is that the num­ber of mi­grants cross­ing the bor­der il­le­gally has fallen to a 20-year low.

A re­cent Reuters news ser­vice story says this: “Il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings into the United States have de­clined dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years, yet Mr. Trump in­sists a wall is still nec­es­sary to stem a ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian and na­tional cri­sis’ in the re­gion.”

Il­le­gal cross­ings and ap­pre­hen­sions peaked at 1.6 mil­lion in 2000, but has since fallen to a lit­tle over 300,000 in 2017. That’s the low­est in 45 years.

In fact, there are many more cases of peo­ple who just have over­stayed their visas than bor­der cross­ing ar­rests.

As for drug smug­glers, it is true that 90 per­cent of the heroin sold in the United States comes from Mex­ico, The Post says, but “vir­tu­ally all of it comes through le­gal points of en­try.”

“A small per­cent­age of all heroin seized by bor­der pa­trol of­fi­cials “was be­tween Ports of En­try,” the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in a 2018 re­port. So Trump’s wall would do lit­tle to halt drug traf­fick­ing.”

Then there’s Mr. Trump’s spe­cious claim that if Congress does not ap­pro­pri­ate the $5.7 bil­lion for his wall, he will get the money from his newly-ne­go­ti­ated North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA).

“The wall will also be paid for in­di­rectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mex­ico,” he said Tues­day night.

The Post called this part of his Oval Of­fice speech a “Four Pinoc­chio claim.”

This be­trays a mis­un­der­stand­ing of eco­nom­ics, the news­pa­per said. “Coun­tries do not ‘lose’ money on trade deficits, so there is no money to earn … the size of a trade deficit or sur­plus can be de­ter­mined by other fac­tors be­sides trade.”

Writes NBC’s fact checker. “Trade ex­perts have told fact check­ers that this is false, too . ... but there’s noth­ing in the new trade deal that ear­marks funds for the bor­der wall; rev­enue raised by tar­iffs are fed­eral dol­lars that must be ap­pro­pri­ated by Congress.”

Mr. Trump must have skipped his Eco­nom­ics 101 course at the Whar­ton School of Busi­ness.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY NANCY OHANIAN

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