Tag: border wall shutdown

Is Trump’s Wall What’s Best At The Border?

Mark West | United States

In the midst of our nation’s longest partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address making his case for the necessity of a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico. The next day President Trump stormed out of a meeting with Congressional leaders, still at odds over how much money should be dedicated in the upcoming budget for border security. President Trump took immediately to Twitter to lodge his complaint:

If you ask the President, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are to blame for the shutdown, even though he pledged to take the mantle for it during their meeting in late December. President Trump has gone as far as threatening an emergency declaration in order to build a border wall, which raises a host of controversies on its own.

A standoff like this leaves libertarians stuck between a wall and a hard place. The wall being their opposition to President Trump’s wall on the Mexican border and the hard place being their support for the government being shut down, even if only partially.

Shutdown aside, we must asses what began this impasse to understand why it is the political albatross we are facing today.

President Trump descended the escalator to announce his intention of running for President in 2016 with a promise to build a big, beautiful wall. As the campaign progressed, his promise morphed with a guarantee that Mexico would pay for the wall he wanted built on the border. Mexican officials have publicly rejected this part of the deal from its inception.

Fast forward to early 2018 when the Democrats came to President Trump with a deal offering to exchange $25 billion in wall funding for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. The deal seemed set until signals reached the Senate that President Trump wasn’t going to sign the deal and the bill failed as Republican Senators voted it down to avoid facing primary challenges.

Another bump of the jump button and we arrive at our current budget battle that has shut the government down as President Trump wants $5.7 billion for border barriers while the Senate budget only allotted around $1.6 billion. Apparently, the chasm dividing our government is $4.1 billion.

This last gasp at keeping a promise that probably shouldn’t have been made led to the President’s necessary aim of convincing us that our border is in an emergency situation and the only solution must include a new wall.

You read that right, I said a new wall. One of the larger fallacies in this debate surrounds the belief that no barriers are on our border with Mexico. Approximately 650 miles of border wall exist and another 1,200 miles of the border is the Rio Grand River. Let’s not forget the Barry M Goldwater Range Air Force Base and Big Bend National Park portions of the border as well.

USA Today took a helicopter trip to scout out the border, beginning at the Gulf of Mexico and ending at the Pacific Ocean. I would encourage anyone interested in the debate to hop on the flight with them and check out the unique and diversified geography that makes up the border.

What this standoff should really be focused on is funding for an incomplete project that suffered from lacking funds and an appropriate definition. Why would a border wall project not be more defined? The Border Patrol wanted the leeway, and got it with an amendment in 2007, in determining what sort of barrier would work best in each topographical region along the border. I would argue that anyone who has looked at the entire border can understand that desire. A one-size-fits-all solution, like those red ball-caps, isn’t going to work.

However, calling the current border situation a crisis or national emergency seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I don’t believe the data supports it and without an appropriate cost-benefit analysis, it may also be unsupported fiscally as well.

First, illegal border crossing apprehensions have dropped 81% since 2000. Second, around half of immigrants living in the country illegally are VISA overstays. A wall will not send people back after they overstay their visas. Third, we do not have an accurate and independent cost-benefit analysis that can be reliably cited for argument’s sake.

I would like to see if Democrats would be up for additional funding for repair, renovation, and connecting of the current barriers where possible, but I would also like to see the new wall conversation die on a craggy, desert, path along the border.


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IRS To Issue Tax Refunds During Government Shutdown

By James Sweet III | United States

The Internal Revenue Service, despite previous reports stating that the agency would take money but not give any back, will issue tax refunds during the current government shutdown. Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russel Vought, brought relief to the citizens of the nation when he announced to reporters that “tax refunds will go out.”

The previous plan was for the IRS to take in tax returns. However, refunds would not be given out until the government was fully functioning again. Lawmakers were feeling the pressure of filing season, with many receiving calls about when the government would be functioning again. Constituents were worried that their families would not receive refunds when they needed them, giving members of Congress a reason to find a speedy and efficient solution to the problem of government funding.

In the first week of the filing season of the previous year, around eighteen million Americans claimed $12.6 billion in refunds. The filing season of this year begins on January 28th. If President Trump’s rhetoric is true, then the shutdown may still be ongoing by then.

To Republicans, this is a positive event, as they can now continue to pressure Democrats in both the House and the Senate to find money for President Trump’s border wall. Some also believe that this will allow American citizens to see the effects of the current tax laws, something that the GOP has said they had a hard time doing. To Democrats, this is something that distracts the people from the fact that Republicans are holding the government hostage. According to Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, “It’s a band-aid to try to make people feel better about the fact that the government is not functioning.”


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Government Shutdowns and Debt Ceilings

Craig Axford | Canada

Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.

Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.

That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?

The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.

America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.

Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.

In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?

The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.

In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.

Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.

Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.

I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.

I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.

If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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Trump’s Border Wall is Another of his Broken Promises

By Josh Hughes | United States

On Tuesday, President Trump and Democratic leaders met in the White House to discuss funding for the border wall. However, the conversation did not go well for either side. Rather than coming to a compromise, both sides kept at a standstill. The president, meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, reiterated how adamant he is about funding for the wall. In fact, he stated that if he did not get $5 billion in funding by the December 21 deadline, the government would shut down.

Despite this threat, the details of the shutdown are not the most important issue here. The part that sticks out the most is that President Trump failed on yet another promise. He has been doing this from the start of his political career. Unlike most politicians, he ran on an often “non-political” ticket. That’s not to say he didn’t run on important issues, but the way he went about addressing them was something many people were unaccustomed to. He was proudly “politically incorrect,” and portrayed himself as a candidate who wouldn’t be like other politicians. Now, nearly two years into his term, he has failed in coming through on many of his campaign promises, despite having a Republican majority in both houses of Congress until the midterms.

Broken Promises

During the president’s campaign, he repeatedly said the United States was going to build a wall across its southern border. He also emphasized a desire to make Mexico pay for it. Two years in, there is no wall, and now he is asking taxpayers to fund his wall. Whether or not the wall is a good idea is up to the reader to decide, but the fact that he has not kept a promise is alarming, but not surprising.

During the campaign, Trump also said that he would balance the budget, and “do it fairly quickly.” On the contrary, the federal deficit is increasing and has neared one trillion dollars. It is unlikely this trend will change in the future, either. The national debt is also continuing to grow.

During the campaign, Trump heralded himself as a champion of gun rights. Many conservatives were relieved that the war on the Second Amendment would be over after the Obama administration. Trump and the NRA struck a friendship that, to many, seemed to usher in an age of complete gun freedom. Yet, he has only stripped gun rights away, recently announcing a ban on bump stocks. Minor restrictions are slippery slopes that lead to the further erosion of rights.  

The List Continues

Other examples of promises broken by President Trump include not taking vacations, pushing for Congressional term limits, pursuing charges against Hillary Clinton, cutting Common Core standards, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

President Trump promised many things that sounded good to conservatives and libertarians. Despite this, he has failed to come through on most of them. With Democrats taking control of Congress in 2019, it will be tough for his promises to pass, even if he wants them to. They simply will face heavy compromises. It will be interesting to see what plan he chooses to finish the last two years of his term, but hope for actions favoring liberty is quite low.


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