One of the most common objections to building a fence along the southern border is that it would be too expensive. That this idea has taken root is nothing short of remarkable given that the cost would only represent a relatively small expense as far as federal outlays go. Since the confusion surrounding this issue is largely due to a lack of perspective, it may be helpful to consider some relevant figures.
Most fence estimates range anywhere between $20 to $70 billion depending on the design and the kind of materials used. But since such ventures have a way of exceeding their initial projections, let us take - just to be on the safe side - the high-end figure and multiply it by a factor of three. In other words, we will assume that the actual cost would be three times more than even the most liberal of today's estimates. This, then, would bring us to some $210 billion. Just how small this figure actually is becomes obvious when we place it next to some other budget items. Within days of Hurricane Katrina, for example, Congress and the president allocated some $250 billion for the stricken area. It is interesting to note that the politicians did not at the time complain that the amount was too high, or that the monies could not be found, or that the budget would not sustain the expense. On the contrary, they boasted loudly about their ability to put federal resources to good use while reaping praise for their perspicacity and compassion.
Now think about it: In less than ten days our government was easily able to come up with more cash for Katrina relief than it would take to construct a fence along the whole length of the US-Mexican border.
The ‘expensive' excuse becomes even more ludicrous when we realize that Katrina - despite the extensive coverage it received - was only a local emergency. The porous southern border, on the other hand, represents a genuine national crisis that poses a serious threat not only to our national security but also to our cultural and fiscal survival. Yet for some reason our politicians just cannot find enough money to address this problem.
Additional figures will supply further prospective. The recently approved 2008 fiscal budget is $2.9 trillion of which the $210 billion would constitute less than one tenth. To put it differently, our border could be safely and permanently secured with only 7 percent of this year's federal purse. Or consider this. The Department of Defense expenditure in fiscal 2007 came to more than $439 billion, twice the amount needed for the fence according even to the most inflated cost calculations. To make the already light burden even less onerous, the funds would not need to be allocated all at once as the project would take several years to complete. Should the whole thing take, say, four years to finish it would cost less on a yearly basis than what the federal government presently spends on education. That figure, by the way, stood at $56 billion last year.
What's more, the public would get its money's worth, since a good fence would most certainly keep the illegals out and thus accomplish its intended purpose. The same cannot be said about many other more expensive federal programs which rarely deliver the promised results, but for which the politicians always somehow manage to find enough money.
Rather than being an expensive boondoggle, as the opponents would like us to believe, a border fence would provide a sure solution to a serious problem at relatively low cost.
One country that clearly recognizes the value of a good fence is Saudi Arabia. Fearing an inflow of unwanted refugees from neighboring Iraq, the Saudis have decided to erect a high-tech barrier all along their 550 mile border. Justifiably proud of their common sense, one Saudi familiar with the details boasted: ‘It's being done in true Saudi style. State-of-the-art equipment and no expense spared.' The project's estimated cost is $1 billion. Our politicians should blush crimson knowing that the Saudi fence will incorporate many technologies invented and perfected in America.
While our elected federal officials needed less than two weeks to allocate $250 billion for a local disaster caused by Katrina, they are unable to come up with far less to address a dire national emergency. ‘It'd be just too expensive,' is their favorite mantra.
Vasko Kohlmayer defected from Communist Czechoslovakia at the age of 19 and legally immigrated to the United States. He can be contacted at email@example.com.