Trash overflowing from unserviced receptacles. Rare Joshua trees cut down in order to forge paths through fragile desert lands. Airport terminals in Houston and Miami closed. Food inspections stalled. Federal workers going without pay for almost a month. And especially ironically, E-Verify, a program that’s supposed to prevent undocumented individuals from acquiring American jobs, is down. The consequences of the longest government shutdown in American history are far-reaching, and there’s no end in sight.
All because President Donald Trump wants $5.7 billion for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. But the efficacy of a border wall as a means of security is dubious, at best. After all, despite Trump’s 2015 assertion that “Mexicans” coming over the southern border are “rapists” who are bringing drugs and crimes, and his later assertions that this wall is a matter of national security, the fact of the matter is that more terror suspects enter the U.S. from Canada than from Mexico, and most drugs are smuggled through ports of entry, not the southern border.
At the end of the day, this hostage situation is all over money that could be well-spent elsewhere, and we have a few ideas. Here’s what the $5.7 billion Trump wants for his wall could pay for instead.
In the middle of this whole fracas are the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed since the shutdown began on December 22. According to the New York Times, while the median federal salary is $77,000, roughly 20 percent of those furloughed make less than $50,000, and many have a month or less of savings. The shutdown is costing these workers a combined $200 million per day, with no end in sight. Congress may decide to retroactively pay them when the shutdown is over, but do you imagine any of these government employees are expecting their leaders to do the right thing right now?
With $5.7 billion, the U.S. government could afford to pay $6,500 to each of the 800,00 federal workers who have been furloughed.