Donald Trump's main policy point during his 2016 campaign for president has been a "big, beautiful wall" along the southwest border with Mexico to keep immigrants, guns and drugs from crossing into the United States. Last Week Tonight's John Oliver actually examined the border wall idea Sunday night and found that it isn't exactly plausible. In addition to pointing out that Mexican drug cartels are excellent at building tunnels, Oliver debunked Trump's cost estimates and noted precedent in a 2006 law that established the current border fence.
Oliver examines Trump's statements and finds them lacking, from Trump's increasingly optimistic cost estimates to his lack of understanding as to how Mexico is going to pay for the wall. In the case of the former, Trump's first statement suggested the border wall would cost $8 billion to build, but contracting economists suggest it would cost at least three times that. In the case of the latter, Oliver says that Trump misunderstands how trade deficits work regarding private businesses and the government (similarly, current and former Mexican presidents have dismissed Trump's statements out of hand).
The same economist suggested, as Oliver points out, that management, design and roads to deliver the wall materials will drive up costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that maintenance of the wall "would exceed initial construction costs within seven years." As Oliver said, "It's like getting a pet walrus: You think it's stupid now. Wait until you learn what a bucket of sea cucumbers costs. You've not prepared for that."
Oliver then looked at the current border wall separating the United States and Mexico and the 2006 law passed to construct 700 miles of fencing along the southern border. Some stretches of the fence have spawned eminent domain lawsuits, while another stretch created an intra-border golf course due to the Rio Grande. The Secure Fence Act also allowed the Homeland Security Department -- the agency in charge of construction -- suspend 36 laws to build the fence, including the Endangered Species Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, damaging habitats of endangered animals and upending Native American grave sites along the border. Trump's "great, great wall" would likely incur much more damage.
Despite the fact that about half of illegal immigrants come here through regulated ports of entry like airports, Oliver noted that the border wall could provide a feeling of satisfaction to many Americans about immigration. But Oliver has a better idea. For the money -- $25 billion dollars, or $77 for each man, woman and child in the U.S. -- that could be spent on Trump's border wall, every American could get a waffle iron.
"If the main thing it’s going to get us is a warm sense of satisfaction inside, I suggest instead of building that wall, we use the money to buy every man, woman and child in America a Palmer waffle iron," Oliver said. "These beauties retail at $75 dollar apiece, so we’d still have about $1 billion left over."
Watch the entire piece below: