Not everyone wants the wall and no one wants to pay for it
4:37 PM EST: Following the president’s remarks at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the president would look to impose a 20% tax on all imports from Mexico in order to pay for the wall. Such a tax would require approval from Congress.
There is some consideration, however, as to whether such a tax would be effective in achieving its goal. Mexico’s primary export is manufactured products, which seems like a rather large category. However, a significant portion of those products are pieces used in the assembly of larger products, such as car parts and cell phone pieces. Direct imports to the US would result in higher prices to consumers and, most importantly, American businesses reliant on those parts. The increased cost would result in lower profits, inhibiting growth of American manufacturing.
The second largest export from Mexico is oil and oil products. Any tax here would require a separate act of Congress from the one taxing manufactured products. This would not only result in higher prices at gas pumps, but would significantly impact the profitability of American companies.
Finally, agricultural exports from Mexico are a critical area for US grocers as the demand for fresh fruit and vegetables year-round has become a dominant part of their business. Additional taxes on agricultural imports would significantly raise food prices and make some foods that are grown almost exclusively in Mexico unavailable to large parts of the US market.
There is almost no way to impose a tax on Mexican goods imported into the United States that doesn’t have the US taxpayer ultimately paying for that tax. The fact that the money might pass through the hands of the Mexican government somewhere along the way is irrelevant. We still end up paying for the wall out of our pocket.
12:00 PM EST: Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto has said he will not attend the working meeting scheduled for Washington next Tuesday. This seems to have come in response to a tweet from the US president that said, “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
Response across Mexico has been strong. “I think that, in general, diplomacy is not conducted via Twitter,” Finance Secretary Jose Antonio Meade told Radio Formula. Mexico’s best-known opposition politician, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, tweeted: “in the face of Trump’s latest outburst, don’t go to the meeting, and submit an urgent complaint to the U.N. for human rights violations.”
Both sides say that communication lines between the two countries are still open, but pressure is increasing on president Pena Nieto within Mexico to refuse any talks with the US until the wall is removed from the agenda.
The Short Version
Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, said yesterday that Mexico will not pay for any form of a barrier along the US/Mexico border. This comes just hours after the US president signed orders to begin construction planning on the wall. Immigration and refugee activists have long decried the very idea of a wall and funding for the wall still faces strong opposition in the US Congress.
A Little More Detail
Building a wall along the US border with Mexico was one of the president’s earliest, and most outrageous campaign promises, but one that resonated with a large portion of the American working class that mistakenly thought that Mexican immigrants were taking their jobs. So, it’s not too terribly surprising that the order for such a wall was among the first orders the 45th president has issued this week.
The order specifically calls for the construction of “contiguous, physical wall” along the border, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. All through the campaign, and even after signing the order, the US president has said that Mexico would pay for the wall, but no details as to how that payment would take place have emerged. Speculation is that increased tariffs might be a substantial part of that reimbursement.
Mexico’s not having any part of it, though. President Pena Nieto repeated yesterday what he has said repeatedly that Mexico will not pay for the wall in any way, shape, or form. Period. The Mexican president stated, “I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us.” While plans for a meeting between the two presidents is still scheduled for next Tuesday, Pena Nieto is very much aware of how much the Mexican people disapproved of him meeting with the then-candidate back in September. Speculation is high that Pena Nieto may yet back out of the meeting.
At the same time, the reality of such a barrier is coming under harsh criticism as the initial costs of the wall must be funded by US taxpayers who are feeling a bit duped by the new president. Wednesday’s order takes some initial funding from the Department of Homeland Security, but the remaining funding, which is likely to be well over a billion dollars, must come from Congress. Several members of Congress have already voiced their opposition to the wall and are likely to put up a strong fight against funding.
Then, there is also the practical matter of building a “contiguous, physical wall.” Standing in the way are things such as native American tribal reservations, national parks and forests, and the simple fact that about 1,300 miles of the border is impossibly difficult terrain that makes any kind of contiguous barrier just downright silly.
Oh, and has anyone bothered to tell you that we’ve tried this before and it didn’t work? President George W. Bush couldn’t even get a fence all the way across in 2006. Almost all the land along the Texas border is privately owned, mostly by ranchers. Texas ranchers aren’t too keen on what they see as a government land grab. In 2006 they stopped the fence by taking the president to court. Similar actions are almost a certainty again this time.
Finally, there’s the little matter of effectiveness. Even if, despite all the obstacles, a barrier were to be created, such a wall is likely to be ineffective as the majority of illegal immigrants initially arrive in the US on legal visas and then stay after their visas expire. Other means of transport, such as the use of private planes and boats, are unaffected by any kind of border barrier.
There is no logical method of reasoning for supporting any kind of physical barrier between the United States and Mexico. But then, it has become quite evident that the 45th president is neither logical nor reasonable.