Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday's Guest Post By Michael Arnovitz

In an election rife with ironies none looms larger than the disheartening fact that millions of Americans rejected Clinton because of her supposed dishonesty, only to then vote for a man who not only ran what is probably the most dishonest campaign in history, but who is himself a proud and unrepentant conman. (

Trump’s actions during this transition period have continued to confirm that reality, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch how his supporters react as they (slowly) realize that they have been the victims of yet another Trump con job. A few of them are already realizing what is on the horizon, but for those who remain stubbornly immune to news and facts, it will take a bit longer. Knowing Trump however, I would personally predict that a great many Trump supporters will be as exasperated as Clinton supporters by early summer at the latest.
Perhaps they should have listened to Tony Schwartz, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal” for Trump, and who spent nearly 18 months in close quarters with him in order to finish the book. Schwartz stayed quiet about Trump for decades, but when Trump ran for president he could no longer in good conscience remain mute, and agreed to an interview with “The New Yorker”. (
Stating that he considers Trump a true “sociopath,” Schwartz warned months ago that, “People are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world…If Trump is elected President the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”
Which brings us to today’s tweet by Trump, in which he (again) slammed the press as “dishonest” for reporting something that is completely true. This time their offense was in reporting that instead of getting the money for his “wall” from Mexico, he will be asking Congress for it. Because of course.
If there is a single thing that can be called Trump’s “Signature Issue”, this was probably it. Hundreds of times throughout his campaign he insisted that he would “build a wall”, and that “Mexico will pay for it.” Now, weeks before he is even inaugurated, that “wall” is a fence, and the only people paying for it are American taxpayers. Which as we know, does not include Trump himself.
To be sure, Trump and his people are spinning this as nothing more than a way to speed the process up. But the fact remains that no one on team Trump actually seems to have a realistic plan to extort the money from Mexico. And to be clear, it would need to be a form of extortion, because Mexican leaders across party lines have made it clear that they will never pay for this thing.
So what is the Trump plan? Currently, their plan is to get the money from Mexico through remittance seizure, tariffs, foreign aids cuts, increased visa fees, and increased fees at ports of entry to the US from Mexico. Let’s take a look at those numbers.
The first number, of course, is the cost of the “wall” itself. Since the wall is now a fence (or a combo wall/fence/barrier), it will be significantly less expensive. But let’s be clear, a security fence of this length is still going to cost a ton of money. The official estimate is $8 billion, but that seems wildly optimistic. Using the Israeli barrier as an example, which is a combination of walls and fences, their final cost ended up being about $8 million per mile. Which means that a similar cost along our border with Mexico would turn this project into a $16 billion expense. BUT, and this is important, these costs are simply not transferable to our country.
Remember, we already built a security fence along the border with Mexico, so it’s not as if these costs are a complete mystery to us. Our current barrier fence is not nearly as good as the Israeli one, and depending on how you parse the costs, it cost us about $5-$7 billion, which works out to about $7-10 million per mile. (
So how is Trump doing this? Will he leave this less effective fence in place? Will he replace it? Will he upgrade it? It’s not clear that anyone actually knows. Here’s what we do know - if we left the fence we already have exactly as it is, and used a fence just like it for the rest of the border, we would still be looking at a cost close to $13 billion. And quite frankly, it would probably be more, since the GAO’s estimates went as high as $15.1 million per mile for the remainder of the border. On the other hand, if we upgraded the entire fence to one that was roughly similar to the Israeli barrier, the cost would very likely shoot up to somewhere between $20-$25 billion.
So to be clear, the first thing we need to do is ignore the $8 billion figure, because that is almost certainly horseshit. Based on known costs for the Israeli barrier and our current Mexican border fence, it’s safe to say that the cost of this project would come in somewhere between $13-25 billion. And if the history of American infrastructure projects is any guide, it’s probably safe to assume more rather than less.
OK so we have a rough build cost. How does Trump get that money from Mexico? The most obvious answer, of course, is that he won’t. But many people are still deluded into thinking otherwise, so let’s look at Trump’s current plan. Trump’s website states that, "even a small increase in visa fees would pay for the wall.” But is that true? Well, no. Of course it isn’t. Currently, visa and entry fees from Mexico add up to about $200 million a year. If Trump even DOUBLED them, which seems highly unlikely, that would only be an additional $200 million per year. Which wouldn’t begin to do it. (
Let’s add in Mexico’s foreign aid. Currently, this is about $186 million a year. If we took every dime of that away, which also seems highly unlikely, that would increase the total haul to about $386 million a year. Tariffs I’m not even going to get into, because that’s a trade war, and if we start one of those with one of our biggest trading partners we’re going to have much bigger problems than a mere fence.
So with our fictional $386 million a year, it would take somewhere between 35-65 years to cover the barrier's construction costs. And keep in mind this is just the estimated cost to BUILD the fence. We haven’t even started talking about the significant expense of maintaining it. Our current fence, which is nearly three times shorter than the proposed fence, is costing about $275 million a year to maintain. So this new fence would cost as much as $750 million per year to maintain. Which means that all of those millions of dollars we just lifted from Mexico would barely cover HALF of the ongoing maintenance of the new barrier, much less the cost to build it.
Which leads us to the final part of the Trump plan: “remittance seizure.” And while this may sound like some sort of arcane accounting function between governments, it’s actually significantly more disturbing than that. You see “remittance payments” are money that immigrants send back to their families in their previous/native country. Nearly all of the remittance payments flowing into Mexico (97%) come from immigrants living in the US. In 2015 alone, those payments were estimated to be nearly $25 billion. Unlike the small amounts above, this is entirely enough to pay for the new barrier. But the problem is that this money would not come from the Mexican government, it would essentially be stolen from millions of innocent immigrants.
Trump claims that he has the authority under the Patriot Act to demand the information necessary to identify these wire transfers and subject them to seizure. But there are three issues with this: 1) These Patriot Act laws were designed to protect against terrorism, not steal money from poor Mexican families. So it’s not clear the courts would go along with this. 2) Mexican immigrants, whether they are here legally or otherwise, are not stupid. If there is even a small chance of wire transfers being seized, they will simply quit using them and get the money to their families using other means. 3) Stealing money from poor and working people in service to racist policies may nicely sum up both Trump and the modern Republican Party, but it’s still fucking despicable.
So to recap: The "wall" is now a barrier (which probably means fence), it will not be paid for by Mexico despite hundreds of promises to the contrary, even successful attempts to retrieve payments from Mexico will cover only the smallest portion of the cost, and the only real strategy Trump has for getting Mexico to pay for the entire project literally involves the widespread (and highly unlikely) looting of millions of poor Mexican families.
In other words, and once again, it was all bullshit.
It was always bullshit.
Meanwhile: two weeks until inauguration day.


Rational Nation USA said...

is in order. Well done.

Putting the "wall" in a common sense perspective should help those Trump supporters who pride themselves on having common sense see how stupid the idea really was/is, how Trump conned them, and how foolish they were to believe a guy who lies 69% of the time.

Like the article points out it will take a longer time for some of his supporters. Those of course are the ones with the least education, those who are the most xenophobic, and those who live with the greatest fear.

2017 is going to be a very interesting year.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Don the Con begins his presidency with the lowest approval rating of any modern president-elect, his signature promise "The Wall That Mexico Will Pay For" is looking more and more doubtful, if not completely nuts, and the FBI, CIA, and NSA have all concluded that Don the Con owes most of his victory to a hostile foreign government's interference with our election.

How's that for making America great again?

Rational Nation USA said...

One can't help but notice the general silence from the Trumpian steeple on this. Maybe it's starting to sink in. Of course the more dense ones, like the ones on certain extreme right wing weblogs, will hold to Trump's con until they go down in flames. Figuratively speak of course!

Dave Miller said...

Let's remember that GOP living extremists considered non fulfillment of Obama campaign promises lies and as such, Obama a liar.

I wonder if we will see any consistency of thought now that Trump is on the verge of breaking almost every promise he made...

Shaw Kenawe said...

Les, there's a certain denizen of the Stench Trench whose name begins with a "T" and ends with an "M" who visits here every day of"his miserable life to read everything I post, and then he leaves some sort of incoherent rant, I suppose, which is promptly deleted, unread. He's a good example of the mentality of a lot of trump supporters: irrational.

Dave, To answer your speculation: probably not. Those people have made a Faustian bargain and will, for the next four years, justify supporting Trump, who is clearly unfit for the presidency. Somewhere in the dark recesses of their brains they know this.

Dave Miller said...

Les, you are exactly correct about the silence.

Kathleen Parker, no fan of the Dems and certainly not Obama asked this regarding Trumps defense of Putin... "how long do you think it would have taken for Obama to be called a traitor for defending a country that tried to thwart our democratic electoral process?"

I've seen very little if any mention of this from WYD, Free, the Mother Ship or any of their denizens in the comments.

I wonder why that is?

Using long held GOP extremist logic, we can assume they too are agree with Trump and are siding against the US. Let's remember that when Dems and liberals did not side with Pres Bush in the war in Iraq, many were called traitors by this bunch for not supporting the US of A.

You do have to wonder why we are not hearing more. Or anything really...

Shaw Kenawe said...

Dave: "I've seen very little if any mention of this from WYD, Free, the Mother Ship or any of their denizens in the comments.

I wonder why that is?"

They are either horribly embarrassed by their poor judgement in supporting and helping elect Trump, or they are what I've called them: The Worst Sort of Hypocrites Imaginable.

But calling them what they are, hypocrites, doesn't phase them. Remember, they live in an iron-clad bubble. Nothing but what they approve of gets in.

Either one or both of those is probably the explanation for their support of the guy who's been The Tweeting PEOTUS.

Anonymous said...

TRUMP: "the loss by the Dems was so big . . . ."

Actually, no. It was very slim indeed. Of course, the Dems won the actual popular vote. Trump won three key states by about 70,000 votes out of 137 million votes cast. That is not "big" by any stretch. Trump confuses "big" with "unexpected", two entirely different concepts. Guess he prefers smaller, one syllable words.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Anon @2:57 not surprising since Trump's been a all his greedy, narcissistic life.

From CNN:

Washington (CNN)Former Mexican President Vicente Fox is back to trolling Donald Trump on Twitter, particularly as the US President-elect has waffled on his pledge to have Mexico pay for a border wall and amid questions about Russian interference in the election.

"Sr Trump,the intelligence report is devastating. Losing election by more than 3M votes and in addition this.Are you a legitimate president?" Fox tweeted Friday night.

Ouch! Trump doesn't want any doubt about his small electoral win over Hillary's massive popular vote. Vincente Fox isn't the only foreign leader who's laughing at Trump.

One foreign leader though, Vlad Putin, is blowing Trump kisses.

Ducky's here said...

@Dave Miller --- I wonder if we will see any consistency of thought now that Trump is on the verge of breaking almost every promise he made...

Yeah Dave, they're thinking they're up the junction.

Keep an eye on the move to repeal the ACA. Senators like Rand Paul who represents a state where the ACA benefits are extremely popular is pointing out that they have no way to replace the ACA and better hold off till they do.

I think we all knew the talk about a wall was noise.

He has know idea how to govern and his vaunted business experience which amounted to simply selling his brand ain't going to help him when he has to deliver. But I would say it's more important to brand this nonsense as what it is - a Republican failure. President Grabby is just the figure head.

Rational Nation USA said...

Yeah, he hitched on to a train wreck waiting to happen and now he owns it. His self vaunted business "skills and I'm a "huge winner" brag ain't gonna take him far when he has to actually govern and deliver.

It's going to be real, and it's going to be fun. But, it sure as he'll isn't going to be real fun.

Craig said...

Also,too, One of the barriers to building a continuous barrier is that it will have to cross private property. Invoking Eminent Domain would surely rile up the base. A real conundrum for the Bundy types. Keep out the Browns or keep the Feds off their lawns?

"the loss by the Dems was so big . He thinks his fingers are big, too.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Craig, Trump is documented on video saying he "loves" Eminent Domain," and thinks it's a great idea. Naturally. For a billionaire who loves to stomp all over the little guy, he would.

Anonymous said...

Third lien on Trump hotel brings alleged unpaid bills to over $5 million

Trump stiffing the little guy again, just like he'll stiff the people who voted for him.