Is a border wall even possible?

Kilgore Trout suggested today that building a 2500 mile border wall would be “patently impossible” making me ask myself if he was right. Would it be possible to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico? Without worrying about whether or not it is a good idea to build a wall I decided to find out if it was “patently possible”.

First, my advice to anyone is NOT to bet against America. Sometimes our grasp may exceed our reach, but we’re not shy about accepting a challenge. While the rest of the world was focused on flower power the United States landed on the moon — the first “moonshot” event in the history of humanity. In this context, suggesting that building a 2,500 mile wall is somehow “patently impossible” is almost laughable.

To start, the border between the United States and Mexico is only 1,989 miles (that is almost 600 miles less than Kilgore’s impossible wall). Evidently, if you take into account natural barriers the figure comes down to 1,000 miles. Trump estimates he can build the wall for between $10–12 billion. The Washington Post’s fact checking group suggested the cost would be twice as much — $25B.

It just occured to me that the United States government prints money. We’re spending trillions that we don’t have — spending $25B more to build a wall seems relatively cheap in comparison. I suspect Mr. Trout would argue that Trump’s plan to have Mexico pay for the wall is impossible as well. Could Mexico pay for the wall?

The wall would take around 8 years to build. As Mr. Trout explains, the Congress would need to fund the construction of the border wall — unless Donald Trump could find a way to force Mexico to pay for it. Assuming the highest cost estimate from the Washington Post, annual payments from Mexico would need to be around $3.2 billion per year to pay for the wall. Mexico generates around $2.3 trillion dollars per year — $24 billion of that coming from remittances from the United States. The Treasury Department (part of the executive branch) has already enacted regulations making it very difficult for banks to transfer money internationally without the approval or support of the department — they routinely block international money transfers that they suspect are illicit. Trump’s plan simply applies those regulations to include money transfer companies like Western Union. The Trump administration would have a few options due to the amended regulations. For example, the administration could add a 10% fee to remittances destined for Mexico or even block any money transfer to Mexico/Latin America unless the sender is in the United States legally — essentially forcing an agreement to pay for the wall.

I have no doubt that if Trump is elected he’ll manage to get his wall built and I suspect he’ll find a way to fund it without asking the American people to foot the bill. It is an audacious plan, but it is certainly possible. Suggesting that it is “patently impossible” is an overreach.

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