BALTIMORE – The Donald goes to “The Wall” and the debate goes on. POTUS visited America’s southern border towns, trying to drum up support for his long-promised border wall.
Meanwhile, as we saw last week, so far, we’re losing ground financially. The country is at least $1.2 trillion poorer today than it was in 2016.
But money isn’t everything. Maybe there are other things – like border security – that are more important.
Our job here is to connect the dots. To many readers, that means separating Heaven from Hell… good from evil… “us” from “them.”
But that is far beyond our ken. We only try to laugh from time to time… and at the right thing. And since money is the source of so much of our mirth, we won’t give it up here.
Lately, we’ve been pointing to a deep hole – a $21 trillion hole of debt.
When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. No American president in 50 years has been able to do that.
They dig for foreign wars and domestic boondoggles. Over that half-century, they probably spent $50 trillion. But we would be hard-pressed to name one single thing… one real achievement… that wasn’t a scam or a failure.
And the hole just gets deeper and deeper. Trump, Obama, Bush – all of them just kept shoveling. And with so much dirt flying, we hardly noticed “The Wall.” But what projects could be more important than securing America’s southern flank?
We don’t know, but this year, Congress found $4.4 trillion worth of them. That’s what the feds will spend, even without the wall. Of course, the feds don’t have $4.4 trillion. They only expect $3.4 trillion in revenues. So nearly $1 trillion will be borrowed.
What kind of way is this to run a government? Instead of figuring out a reasonable budget – with or without a wall – the feds are arguing about spending $5.7 trillion more.
But today, with malice towards none… and charity for all… let’s spare a thought for border security.
Walls are built to keep “them” out… or in. The walls of Jericho, Athens’ “Long Walls,” the Berlin Wall – all served a purpose.
Hadrian built a wall across Britain to secure the border along the River Tyne. Twenty years later, the Romans pushed the frontier up to the Firth of Forth and built the Antonine Wall. The Great Wall of China was built to keep out the Steppes’ barbarians.
All are now tourist attractions.
Why not another one?
Money, as we’ve been saying, is more than “just money.” It’s a way of keeping score and staying honest. When we spend money, we make choices. We accept trade-offs, taking real time and resources that could have been used elsewhere. And we have to ask – is it worth it?
On the evidence available to us, the case for a border wall is mixed, inconclusive… with heavy contributions of malarkey.
The first immigrants to America faced a harrowing journey, threats from hostile natives, hunger, and thirst. Most of them came without papers. For good or bad, they came and made the best of it.
The closest parallel today is illegal immigration. At least these immigrants have gumption. They brave such hardship, detention, and danger that Mr. Trump says it is a “humanitarian crisis.”
And why do they do it?
Mostly for a chance to do the miserable work as is available to an undocumented laborer – in factories, fields, and furnaces – where they earn such a pittance that the native-born don’t want to do it.
But are they a danger to the rest of us? Are these mañana-loving foreigners caving in our health and retirement plans… or rescuing them? Are they raising our crime rates, or lowering them?
And let us pose a question to you, Dear Reader.
You are in Baltimore, parking your car late at night in a deserted lot. Which would you rather see approaching? Three illegal immigrants getting off their late shift at Five Guys?
Or three home-grown, locally raised, 100% Americanos?
Rampage of Crime
In our very limited experience, the illegals are polite, hard-working, and self-reliant. They don’t get into trouble with the law; they don’t sue anyone; they don’t angle for welfare benefits or riot – because they’re afraid of being deported!
But wait! Some of our dearest readers are dead sure that illegal immigration is ruining the country and that the border with Mexico is teeming with terrorist hordes… murderers… rapists… and hellish fiends – all waiting to cross the Rio Grande and go on a rampage of crime.
Is it true? Would we be safer, richer, better off with a wall to keep them out? What does the evidence tell us?
As usual, both sides of the argument find the evidence they’re looking for. Those concerned about protecting social security and medical benefits say immigrants, legal or illegal, are a definite plus. They’re young. They have children. They pay in. And it will be years before they join the zombie rolls.
But is it worth it? What about the crime? The first thing we notice is that Mexico’s murder rate is nearly four times that of the U.S. There are a lot of bad hombres way down in Pancho Villa land.
But wait… we’d still be safer in Mexico than we are here in Baltimore; the murder rate here is more than twice as high as it is down there.
According to press reports, most of Mexico’s murder problem is linked to the drug trade – just as it is here. (We suspect that ending the drug war would eliminate most of the violence on both sides of the Rio Grande…)
But here’s something interesting: If murderers were spilling over the border, you’d expect the murder rate to go up in the counties nearest the Rio Grande. Instead, they have much lower murder rates. McAllen, where The Donald went yesterday, claims the lowest crime figures in Texas. Go figure.
And here’s something else: Donald Trump told us that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had picked up hundreds of thousands of illegals with criminal records.
But the Border Patrol tells us that the illegals they’ve nabbed actually have a lower crime rate than the general U.S. population. Fewer than 2% of them have criminal records.
In the U.S., 30% of adults have been charged (though not necessarily convicted) of a crime. In comparison with the natives, the illegals are saints.
But what about the hordes of immigrants ready to crash through our borders, like the Huns sweeping over Europe?
The border garrisons tell us that unauthorized immigration has been going down for the last 18 years and is now nearly 80% below its peak in 2000.
And what about terrorism? There, too, the illegal immigrants are models of probity.
The feds refer to foreigners from “high-risk” countries such as Syria or Iraq as “special interest aliens.” Guess how many of these people entered the U.S. illegally across the border with Mexico and murdered or injured Americans over the last 42 years… Zero.
The only incident where the alleged terrorist crossed a border illegally involved a guy who came from Canada! The others all had passports and visas… one stowed away on a ship.
So what exactly is the emergency? We don’t know. But if it were so important, you’d think the people’s representatives could easily cut out enough boondoggles to pay for it.
Otherwise, they are leaving the next generation with not just with a 2,000-mile scar, visible from space… but with the bill for it, too.