6 emergencies more important than a wall
Trump should be dealing with crises that are real
President Donald Trump says that if Congress doesn’t give him money for his border wall, “probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.” He’s talking about declaring the situation on the Mexican border a national emergency, so he can fund the wall without Congress. I hope he doesn’t, because it’s not a real emergency. If it were, there would be no need for the steady stream of exaggerations, distortions and lies that the president and his team have told us.
If Trump wants to focus on a national emergency, he needn’t travel all the way to the Rio Grande, as he did Thursday. There are plenty of real crises for him to deal with. Some are not as visible and high profile and therefore not so apparent to this visually influenced president, yet they exist and need to be addressed. Here are some examples:
❚ The government shutdown. This is an emergency for 800,000 federal workers, and many more contract workers, who are not getting paid. Many are being required to work without pay, and others are being required not to work. This will almost certainly become an emergency for the rest of us if it drags on. Already, fewer food inspectors are working, and airline safety inspectors are among the furloughed.
❚ Teachers are quitting in record numbers. The reasons are many, including low pay and poor working conditions. Who will teach kids science, math and all the other things they’ll need to compete in an ever more competitive global economy?
❚ Empty piggy banks. What’s in your wallet? Perhaps nothing: Four in
10 Americans couldn’t cover an unexpected $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve. If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. Policymakers, employers and others must find ways to bolster the financial security of tens of millions who are living on the brink.
❚ Fiscal crisis. Remember all the talk about the $20 trillion national debt that Trump inherited and how it would ruin us? It’s now $22 trillion and projected to soar to $33 trillion by fiscal year 2028. Interest payments alone could top spending on defense, Medicaid or children’s programs — not to mention crowding out spending on God knows how many other things. This is just interest. And if rates go up, it’ll soak taxpayers even more.
❚ Foreigners fleeing. You might not know that nearly 7 million Americans work for foreign employers. This is hardly a token number, and backing it up has always been steady investment by others in the United States. For example, in 2015, foreigners invested
$482 billion here. In 2016: $486 billion. But in 2017 that plunged 40 percent to
$292 billion, and preliminary data show this number fell even more last year. Tthe Organization for International Investment, a Washingtonbased trade group that represents U.S. subsidiaries of overseas corporations, says the reasons include “a response to import tariffs and other trade actions from the Trump administration as international companies hit the pause button on potential investments.”
Some Americans don’t care what foreigners think. But money talks — it supports millions of jobs — and now it’s walking. As the world loses confidence in America, the economic and security ramifications could be significant.
❚ U.S. life expectancy is falling.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 2017 was the third consecutive annual decline. The drops have been small — a 10th of a year to 78.6 years in 2017 — but that’s enough to set off alarm bells among experts, who consider it a shocking reversal for a “wealthy” first-world country.
Do you consider immigrants a security threat? Consider some not-so-hidden killers among us: Drug overdoses killed 70,237 people in 2017 — quadruple 1999’s figure. There were 39,773 gun deaths in 2017, a four-decades high; nearly two-thirds of those were suicides. And more than 100 million Americans are diabetic or prediabetic — an omen of future trouble.
So I’m glad there’s a chance the president will not label the situation on the border an emergency. And I hope he’ll redirect his attention to the many other problems that might qualify, including those on this list.
Paul Brandus, founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports, is the author of “Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency” and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
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