President Trump is threatening to shut down the government again, or worse yet, declare a national emergency to build a border wall that our country doesn’t need. It’s an abuse of power. It’s a reckless use of precious taxpayer dollars when so many other real crises exist.
Trump held our government hostage for a wall that his own national security advisors don’t consider essential. When his intelligence chiefs testified before Congress last week on the most dire global threats to our nation, they never mentioned the so-called border crisis. In reality, Americans are far more likely to die in a car accident or from an overdose of drugs than be killed by an undocumented immigrant. Despite Trump’s claims of a mass invasion, illegal crossings are at their lowest in decades.
Trump’s political gamble failed. Not only was he unsuccessful in obtaining funds for his wall, his shutdown placed tens of thousands of American workers in financial peril and significantly jeopardized our nation’s security and economy. Closing federal agencies and failing to pay essential workers resulted in a breakdown in immigration control and airport safety. The economic effects continue to reverberate as analysts estimate the permanent cost of Trump’s shutdown at between $6 and 11 billion.
Now, in an unprecedented move, Trump is threatening to use executive power to divert funds for his wall. There are so many vital investments the president could make with taxpayer dollars. Here are my top five:
5. Implement a responsible and fair tax policy. Remember conservatives’ fear over our nation’s growing debt? Under Obama’s presidency, it was a recurring theme that kept many Republicans from supporting investment in infrastructure, jobs, healthcare and more. Yet, when they gained control of Congress, Republicans passed a new tax law wholly benefiting the very wealthy and costing U.S. taxpayers over $2.3 trillion. These tax cuts have ballooned our deficit. Now Republicans are threatening to raid Medicare and Social Security to pay for their irresponsible tax policies. Repeal the tax bill. Protect programs that benefit average Americans and make the wealthy pay their fair share.
4. Invest in replacing our crumbling infrastructure. If the president is intent on building, he should restore the structures that are vital to American life. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s infrastructure (bridges, roads, schools, water systems, etc.) a D+ and estimates costs at $2 trillion over 10 years for necessary safety and expansion improvements. Put America’s infrastructure first.
3. Protect against the impacts of natural disasters. Rising global temperatures are putting our communities in peril. In the past decade, we have experienced a dramatic rise in severe weather events that cost America in both lives and capital. The U.S. has spent more than $350 billion in the past decade and, as storms have become more intense, these numbers will only rise. Last year, Trump diverted $10 million from FEMA’s budget to border security, even though illegal border crossings have decreased in the past decade. Emergency services and municipal infrastructure are grossly underfunded. We don’t need a border wall, we need reinforced levees.
2. Tackle the opioid crisis. Let’s talk about a real national emergency from which no community is immune. More Americans died of opioid overdose in a single year than were killed during the entire Vietnam War. To his credit, Trump declared the epidemic a national public health emergency last year. Unfortunately, he failed to commit adequate funds. Trump’s recommendation to beef up border security misses the mark since the opioids killing Americans originate in the United States. In fact, Mexico has had a very low rate of opioid use; we are more likely to exacerbate their drug problem, not the other way around. Invest in treatments; invest in saving lives.
1. Invest in healthcare for all. Trump could follow through with the promises he made regarding our failed health care system. He pledged to provide coverage for all U.S. residents. Instead, he’s dismantled the Affordable Care Act, which provided tens of millions of Americans with insurance. Even with the Affordable Care Act, too many Americans lack coverage. By ensuring affordable care, Trump could improve Americans’ health, quality of life and financial security. If there’s one campaign promise Trump should pursue, it’s this: Affordable healthcare for all.
(Faraguna is with Susquehanna Valley Progress.)