The Big Beautiful Unfunded Wall

It’s being reported by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney (among others) that President Trump is open to signing a budget that does not include funding for a big beautiful wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Being that one of Trump’s signature campaign promises was to both build a wall AND make Mexico pay for it, I would guess his more ardent supporters are particularly pleased by the bill not being footed by America.

As a fiscal conservative, I too am pleased. The wall, if taken literally (and if paid for by the American taxpayer) would have been another example of government waste at the taxpayer expense, all while adding to the budget deficit. With the proposed tax cuts and other spending increases that the Trump administration has planned, any place where we can avoid further government spending should be considered a small victory. That the spending avoided is on a project that would never have succeeded in its intended purpose or meaningfully helped the taxpaying public is just a nice bonus.

Of course there is an argument to be made that the wall as an idea should not be taken literally, that it won’t be “ten feet taller” because of the tweets of former presidents of Mexico. Some Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham have argued that the wall is more a metaphor used to describe enhanced border security that will include additional agents, technology deployments, and yes, in some places a physical barrier.

This seems the most likely explanation, and one that might appease more fiscally minded conservatives as well as the more traditional conservative voters who are justifiably concerned about border security. If a wall is to be built, I would bet good money it looks more like this than a total physical barrier. Who will pay for it is an open-ended question no one seems particularly interested in answering.

A big piece of the puzzle that remains to be seen is how Trump’s base that doesn’t fit squarely into old conservative archetypes will react to the idea that there will not be a physical, two-thousand-plus mile wall spanning the frontera. My guess is not well, but if I had to wager on it I’d bet the man who once said he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and not slip in the polls will remain popular with the folks who put him in the oval office, the people who will spin this not as a broken campaign promise but as a sterling example of Trump’s dedication to Making America Great Again.

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