Of Kids and Walls | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Of Kids and Walls 

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According to selected members of the "U.S. intelligence community" ("selected" for their loyalty to, and willingness to promote the line of, the Democratic Party establishment) Vladimir Putin and the Russian government just love them some Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Can't get enough of 'em. If November is a Trump/Sanders shoot-out, the Kremlin wins either way.

Yes, it's silly. It might even be funny if so many people didn't take it so seriously and if it wasn't so on the nose in aping Joe McCarthy's Red Scare tactics.

Here's why it's silly: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are also much beloved by those meddling kids (yes, I grew up watching Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!).

No, not the Russians. The voters.

Like K-pop and post-Roseanne The Conners, I find the appeal of the two northeastern authoritarian septuagenarians inexplicable, but it's very real.

Despite Herculean efforts by the Democratic National Committee to put anyone but Bernie over the top for its presidential nomination, by hook or crook, he's winning primaries and caucuses and leading in the national polls.

In states where anyone's even allowed to challenge Trump, he's pulling 85-95% support from Republican voters.

The Republican establishment went through an agonizing process in 2016, eventually coming to terms with having its party taken over and remade. By Trump, yes, but more importantly by Trump's voters.

The Democratic National Committee's "success" in 2016 was also a double failure: It managed to rig the presidential primary contest to ensure that its preferred candidate won the nomination, but it couldn't carry the general election and couldn't bring itself to accept responsibility for that. It was easier to blame THEM RUSSIANS! for Hillary Clinton's failure than to admit that Democratic voters weren't enthusiastic about her and didn't turn out for her in the needed numbers.

And the DNC still hasn't read the memo. Having abjectly failed to make Kamala Harris, Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren palatable to pluralities, it's still trying to whip those meddling voters into line behind Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar instead of accepting Bernie as their choice. Now, in desperation, it's playing the "Russian meddling" card again.

But in the case of U.S. elections, the Russian meddling doesn't even rise to the level of background noise, let alone to the level of excuse for the losing candidate's defeat.

Interested in meddling? OK, let's talk about meddling.

Over the past 130 years or so, the two "major" parties have conspired to limit voters' choices with "ballot access" laws, exclusory beauty pageants disguised as "debates," etc., such that both internal dissidents and "third party" candidates are severely handicapped from the start and seldom win "major" party primaries or break into double digits in November.

That's meddling for real. But suddenly it isn't working reliably anymore. Poetic justice, perhaps?

Now onto one of the past presidential campaign's most heated promises.

Back in 2016, presidential candidate Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his proposed border wall. Turns out Mexico wasn't interested, so Trump eventually resorted to declaring fake emergencies and illegally misappropriating money from the military budget.

He's spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars per mile on a barrier that, Samuel Lovett of The Independent reports, migrants are scaling with $5.30 ladders (when the wind isn't blowing it over for them, making ladders unnecessary).

Yes, based on the price of rebar at a local hardware store on the Mexican side of the wall, $5.30.

What a refreshing lesson! No matter how much money politicians like Trump spend trying to restrain and impoverish the people they stole it from, those seeking freedom and prosperity find ways to win through—and to do so for far less.

The wall was always a dumb and evil idea.

Dumb, because it was never going to "work." The U.S. has 95,500 miles of border and coastline. If people want to get in, they're going to get in, even if every member of the armed forces and every sworn law enforcement officer in the country is re-assigned to nothing but "securing the border." The only reliable way to keep people out is to turn America into such a crappy place that nobody wants to come here. Which, admittedly, is something our politicians are always hard at work on.

Evil, because even if it did "work," the result would be less freedom, a slower economy and worse lives for everyone on both sides of it. Capital—including human capital, aka labor—naturally flows to where it can be most profitably invested. If that flow is impeded, we're all worse off.

Well, not all of us, I guess. The corrupt politicians doing the impeding, and their crony corporate welfare queens, make bank at the expense of the other 99% of us. Which is as good an explanation as any, and better than most, for Trump's wall fetish.

Those $5.30 rebar ladders are a huge practical benefit to their direct users. But they're of double benefit—practical and political—to the rest of us.

As a practical matter, the immigrants who come over, under, around, or through the wall make our lives better.

As a political matter, the ease with which they're exposing Trump's multi-billion-dollar boondoggle for what it is makes it less likely that future politicians will waste our money on similar idiocy. 

Knapp is the director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. Send feedback to comments@ityweekly.net

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Thomas L. Knapp

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