Under pressure from a crowded Republican field in the Senate special election, Sen. Luther Strange looked at the numbers (and I mean his polling numbers in the Senate special election), glanced furtively at Roy Moore hard on his heels, and wrote a really dumb piece of legislation.
Forget those “make Mexico pay for it” chants: Strange plans to send the border wall bill to American taxpayers.
U.S. Sen. Luther Strange has introduced a new bill to help pay for President Donald trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border.
The Securing the Border and Protecting Our Communities Act would redirect federal transportation funds from sanctuary cities to pay for the wall.
“If liberals don’t want to follow the law, then they can fund the wall,” he said.
He also posted the social media hashtag #LetLiberalsPayForTheWall.
Strange will “make liberals pay for” by using the money withheld from “sanctuary cities.” Note that the “sanctuary city money” is actually money we pay in taxes, and Strange’s effort doesn’t give us a refund. No, it saddles Americans with the bill for a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.
There’s an even bigger problem with the proposal: the federal government just doesn’t send a huge amount of transportation money directly to so-called “sanctuary cities.” Analysis indicates that Strange’s funding scheme will take almost 225 years to pay for the wall.
Even that timeframe relies on two major, but shaky, assumptions:
- The willingness of subsequent presidents and Congresses to continue funding the project.
- The total number of “sanctuary cities.”
In February 2017, the government transparency group, OpenTheBooks.com, published a report (PDF) titled “Federal Funding of America’s Sanctuary Cities.” The 70-page study details all federal grants to 106 “sanctuary cities.”
The total number of grants that are specifically transportation-related (roads, public transit, airports, & ports) totals $311,189,000 (rounded) per year. Here’s the detailed list & totals in PDF.
Trump’s wall is estimated to cost $70 billion – and that price tag doesn’t include land acquisition costs or routine maintenance on the structure. Government officials scoff at the $70 billion price tag; candidate Trump regularly boasted it could be done for $8 billion. Sure it could; government construction projects regularly come in ahead of schedule and under budget, right?
It’s easy to see the problem here: divide $70 billion by $311,189,000, and we find that it will take 224.94 years to completely pay for the wall. Even if you accept the Trump Administration’s most recent estimate of $22 billion, it’s still an unmanageable 70.69 year funding timeframe. And consider that Trump’s own estimate has more than doubled in less than a year ($8 billion to $22 billion): that $70 billion+ price tag isn’t an unreasonable estimate.
Here are some questions for Senator Strange:
- Do you think “sanctuary cities” will exist 224.94 years from now (or even 70.69 years) ?
- How does the wall get paid for if the 106 identified “sanctuary cities” decide they want the money and start rounding up people?
- What happens to the US economy if the affected airports and ports fall into disarray? The West Coast ports & Port of New Orleans, in particular, are vital trade conduits.
- Have you thought about what your DC commute to work will be like if Congress cuts all transportation funding to the city?
- If we cut off transportation funding to these cities, how will the government calculate the amount to be “diverted” to pay for the wall in, say, 2035? Will we use total the city received before funds were cut off? Will that total be indexed for inflation? Will we ask the city to go through the cumbersome federal grant application process so that we can determine how much they won’t be getting?
The bill (text here) doesn’t address any of these questions because, of course, it’s not a serious bill – just like Luther Strange isn’t a serious senator. He thinks Alabama voters are too dumb to run the numbers and recognize this as a sham proposal.
The country is facing some almost intractable problems, and we need senators who offer real, workable solutions – not eye-candy for the hard right.