Vague plans for funding the border wall rely on support from Texans
On Thursday June 10th Governor Greg Abbott announced his plans to build a wall along the border between Mexico and Texas - reviving the ill-fated wall construction project that became one of the big disappointments of the Trump Presidency. At the time the impression was given that the $1.1 billion cost of the project would be funded from Federal money allocated for border protection.
While detailed funding plans have yet to emerge, in an interview on the Ruthless podcast released on June 15th, Governor Abbott hinted that the project may yet take donations from the public to pay for it.
Twitter was quick to react with skepticism over the proposal:
What can be deduced from the announcement?
- Is it the case that the federal money comes with strings attached that prevent its use for such a purpose?
- Perhaps a reality check has forced the state to reassess the costs of the project?
- Does Abbott think that the crowd funding model is a means of getting the wall built without having to dip into government money?
A doomed project?
Like many things promised by President Trump during his term in charge the border wall was a a failure from the moment it began.
He promised to build "a great wall" that Mexico would pay for. Instead, work carried out under Trump did little more than replace barriers that had been installed by previous administrations. Mexico has not paid for anything.
During his political campaigning Trump estimated costs of between $8 billion and $12 billion. Time magazine estimates the federal govenment actually allocated $15 billion to the project during his presidency.
The US-Mexico border spans approximately 2,000 miles and prior to Trump, 654 miles of that had some form of wall or barrier. At the conclusion of his presidency that had increased to just 657 miles.
Questions must surely exist, not only regarding what possible merit the project has as a means of resolving the ongoing US-Mexico border crisis, but also what Abbott hopes to achieve with a relatively smaller amount of money to build it?
Remember the last time a wall project was crowd funded?
It seems relevant to remember what happened the last time crowd funding was used as a means of extending the wall. Via their online crowd funding campaign 'We Build The Wall', Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage raised over $25 million of donated public money that was intended to be used to build a section of wall in Sunland, New Mexico.
Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea were later indicted on charges of conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering. They were later charged with diverting around $1.3 million of donations for personal use.
Bannon was the recipient of a last-minute presidential pardon from President Trump at the conclusion of his presidency, but still faces a new state investigation into his role in the “We Build The Wall” fundraising scheme.
Even if Abbott's scheme goes ahead, it will carry a difficult legacy, one that has already prompted comparisons with Bannon's project.
What about the energy shortages?
With Texas on the brink of summer, residents are being asked to take measures to use less energy out of fears that the power grid won't sustain the state through the heat of a Texas summer. Given a clear need for additional energy generating capacity, many Texans are questioning whether the money being spent on a wall might be better put to that use?
In this wider context, many Texans must wonder whether Governor Abbott's decisions are based around what's in the best interests of the state, or rather motivated by proving worthy of the recent endorsement given by former President Trump for his forthcoming re-election campaign. Time will tell.