One day after President Donald Trump asserted that building the wall on the southern border would “save billions,” he upped the ante.
And considerably, at that. On Tuesday, Trump claimed that the wall “pays for itself in two months.”
Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
This goes much further than Trump’s previous claims about the effectiveness or efficiency of the wall.
On Monday, Trump tweeted that “we would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall.” The basis for this claim appeared to be that the wall would shut down undocumented border crossings (it wouldn’t) and halt the flow of illegal drugs into the country (it wouldn’t do that either) thus eliminating unspecified costs to the U.S. economy, saving billions.
Tuesday’s tweet, which expressed the hope that someone would tell Democrats “that our country [loses] 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow,” argued that the wall, including additional border security, would cost $25 billion. Therefore, Trump argued, the wall would pay for itself in two months.
Leaving aside the fact that this wall would both fail to prevent people from crossing the border as well as not account for the 11 million people currently in the United States without documents, Trump ignores the economic hit the country would take if unauthorized immigrants were somehow taken out of the U.S. economy.
As it happens, unauthorized immigrants contribute billions to the U.S. economy, and their disappearance would create dire economic problems for many industries.
Even assuming Trump’s faulty math is correct, this implication that some amount of money “saved” would then make its way into the U.S. Treasury, thus zeroing out federal outlays for wall construction, is spurious.
Trump is not likely to get any congressional funding for his border wall, even after two years of Republican control (which will end on January 3). On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly claimed that he would make sure the cost of the wall’s construction would be covered by Mexico, a cloudcuckooland idea that should never have been seriously countenanced. And so we’re left with Trump’s new reasoning, in which he doesn’t have to get Mexico to pay for the wall because it won’t cost anything. It will.