Monday, November 21, 2016

The Wall-to-Wall Absurdity of Trump's Folly

by Nomad


If President-elect Trump has his way, he will leave as his legacy one of the most embarrassing and expensive monuments to one man's vanity in American history. The Wall, otherwise known as "Trump's Folly."

The Folly of Donald Trump

In the 19th century, when some self-important character became transfixed by a foolish notion, the public would name it after him by calling it his "folly." It was a way of bringing home the public shame to a personal level. To use modern parlance, the fool would be made to "own" his act of stupidity.

President-elect Donald Trump has, for quite some time, been obsessed with his own particular folly- the building of a monumental wall between Mexico and the US, as a means of stopping the flow of illegal immigrants.   
"This will be a wall with a big, very beautiful door because we want the legals to come back into the country."
The idea was to first deport the millions of illegal immigrants in the US and then seal them out with a wall. Later, we could let them filter back in an orderly fashion.
(Now, even the mass deportation aspect seems to be undergoing a drastic re-think.)
"I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively.
However, the man who thinks going bankrupt is a clever business strategy has, according to the numbers crunchers, underestimated the costs of construction by perhaps a full half.

How to Turn a Neighbor into an Enemy

By Trump's estimates, his wall could cost up to $12 billion. In any engineering project, there are always hidden costs and critics of the plan say his cost estimates are grossly inaccurate. The Washington Post estimated the wall would cost closer to $25 billion. And that's only if every detail goes according to plan, something that, as Trump surely knows, rarely happens. Not to worry, the US taxpayers won't be footing the bill anyway.
I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
Trump needn't worry too much. Historians will be marking his words and the outcome of his folly will be laid squarely on Trump's shoulders.

And what if the Mexican government says "No way, Jose"?  Then Trump will, he told his supporters, he will extract the sum "by blocking Mexicans who want to send money from the United States back home to Mexico from doing so if they don't show documentation proving their legal status." 

ThinkProgress gives us a few details on this aspect of Trump's scheme:
Each year, the average immigrant who’s sending money to Mexico sends about $1,900 to their family back home — money that’s desperately needed to reduce immediate poverty among their family members. This money helps provide basic food and shelter for some poor communities.
Trump would cut off the flow of money into Mexico unless the Mexican government makes “a one-time payment of $5–10 billion” to the U.S. to pay for the wall. This bit of intimidation would be accomplished on the American side by changing a rule under the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. 

There's no guarantee that President Trump could do such a thing without Congressional approval. Changing laws isn't something Presidents do. Even if this is possible- and it wouldn't happen without a significant backlash from both Republicans and Democrats who would pay a price in the mid-terms.

Moreover, this method of intimidation of the Mexican government certainly not without setting off an avalanche of legal challenges which could take years to resolve. 

Not only that, Mexico would stand to lose something around $24.4 billion in remittances which is, according to World Bank data, roughly 2% of the nation's GDP. Suffice to say, losing that money could devastate the country’s economy.

The other consequences of this form of bullying are hard to predict. Critics also point out that Trump's attempt at what amounts to coercion will undoubtedly cause damage to the local economies of both nations. What happens if the Mexican government calls Trump's bluff and retaliates? 
Trade between the U.S. and Mexico reached an estimated $583.6 billion in 2015, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. But that could plummet if a border wall turns away Mexican shoppers who buy food, clothing and other goods in U.S. border towns.

Concrete Challenges

Aside from the costs, there are the sheer technical challenges to overcome. According to a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, building his wall could require about 339 million cubic feet of concrete, or three times what was used to build the Hoover Dam. Trump's Wall will be made of precast concrete and reach up to 50 feet. 

Ali F. Rhuzkan, a New York-based structural engineer, estimated in an article for National Memo explained that that concrete would need to be manufactured in slabs nearby- likely in dedicated plants- and transported to building sites, with all the enormous production and staffing costs involved.

The remote  and mountainous regions are very likely to add to the costs of the construction of Trump's Folly substantially. The slabs would have to be transported to difficult areas without road access which presumably would have to be built.
Adding even more to the expense, the new 1,000 miles would crisscross private land, which would have to be purchased, perhaps by legal force, or financial settlements made with owners.
The short film below, “Best of Luck With the Wall,” uses 200,000 satellite images from Google Maps to show what the 2,000-mile wall would look like. It makes pretty clear why this wall will never be built and if begun, will never be completed. 

Common sense and indisputable facts will probably have no effect on the over-confident Trump, now president-elect. Heedless of the damage it will do to his country, Trump is expected to embark on one of the stupidest wastes of taxpayers' money in US history. 

Trump's Folly calls to mind a famous poem about human vanity by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias. The poem tells of a lone traveler in the desert who finds an inscription in stone.

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Common sense and indisputable facts will probably have no effect on the proud Mr. Trump.
Nothing is likely to stop him.
Heedless of the damage it will do to his country, Trump is expected to embark on one of the stupidest wastes of taxpayers' money in US history.