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Standard Deviations: Is a border wall really worth the government shutdown?

By Mark Saal standard Deviations - | Jan 20, 2019


I can't believe I'm about to say this, but seriously -- I give up.

Can we please just give Donald Trump his stupid wall already?

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on, it's now official: Clearly, there are no serious adults left in all of Washington, D.C.

Our elected politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, are tasked with one simple but important responsibility: to run the government of the United States of America to the best of their ability. And yet, for an entire month now that government has effectively ground to a halt. Meaning, these clowns can't even manage the one thing they were specifically sent to Washington to do.

So I ask you, what good are they?

A week ago I was driving past the Internal Revenue Service compound on 12th Street, thinking about the inability of Congress and the president to end their stalemate. And there on the chain-link fence surrounding the facility was a large banner reading "NOW HIRING."

Oh, the irony.

I couldn't help but think someone should probably point out to potential applicants that while the government is indeed hiring, apparently these aren't paid positions.

Speaking of ironic signage, the "It Pays to Live in Ogden" sign over Washington Boulevard has taken on an especially pointed meaning in the last month. Turns out, Ogden has the highest concentration of federal workers in the West, and as such the national news media have descended on the city to gauge the impact of the shutdown. Why, last week alone, CBS, CNN and NPR gave Ogden its 45 minute of fame.

And that was just the three news stories I caught.

With federal employers like the IRS and the Forest Service providing 5,000 local jobs, Ogden has suddenly become the poster child for the current government dysfunction.

It was during one of these national news reports that I finally had my epiphany. Near the end of a story on "CBS Evening News," the reporter asked Anna Davidson, owner of Jessie Jean's on Historic 25th, if having a border wall was worth it.

"No, it's not," said Davidson, whose cafe is struggling in the wake of the shutdown. "Not at the expense of the American people."

The segment then cut to local IRS employee Emalee Rausch -- who is currently making food deliveries in her car with a broken heater to make ends meet during the furlough. Asked if she wants Trump's border wall to be built, her response could not have been more telling:

"Ummm, I just want my job," Rausch said. "So whatever happens to get me my job back, I don't care. Like, as long as I can work."

And that's the real question we should be asking ourselves: "Is having a border wall worth this shutdown?" The obvious answer is no.

But the other side of that question is equally important: Is NOT having a border wall worth the shutdown? Also no.

C'mon, politicians. Do you damn job, so Americans like Rausch can get back to doing theirs.

But the problem is, this fight isn't about a wall, or border security, or even immigration. It's about a president and Congress so obsessed with destroying one another that they're willing to tank the country just to score political points.

Frankly, it feels like we're all on some never-ending family vacation from hell, and all these politicians are fighting in the backseat of the car, each pointing to the other and yelling "He started it!"

Which means it's up to the American people to respond with the appropriate parental rejoinder: "I don't care who started it, I'm ending it."

In other words, send partisan hacks like Trump, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer packing in their next election.

I get it. Republicans HATE Pelosi and the Democrats. Democrats HATE Trump and the Republicans. And that hatred has become so toxic that not even the needless disruption of millions of Americans' lives matters to them.

Fact: A wall is a stupid, outdated concept in 2019. But only slightly less stupid is a Democrat who decides this is the $5.7 billion hill to die upon. As far as billion-dollar boondoggles, I'd be willing to wager that the wall wouldn't even make the Top 10.

Now, I realize that giving in to Trump at this point is bad political parenting. For the same reason you don't negotiate with terrorists, you're not supposed to cave to the immature demands of a 2-year-old -- or a 72-year-old, for that matter. Yes, some will argue that it's the principle of the thing. They'll point to the dangerous precedent such concessions may set for future presidential tantrums.

But people like Emalee Rausch can't eat principles, and they certainly can't pay the rent with precedents.

A wall just seems a small price to pay.

Ah, but would you like to know what the ultimate irony is in all of this? While actual, physical walls may divide countries, smugglers and armies have proven that they're pretty easy to go over, under or through. However, the mere idea of building a wall?

Why, the concept alone is proving to be an impenetrable barrier that is successfully dividing a nation.


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