Commentary: Playing politics around the border wall

The question is: How much does the average American care about the government shutdown? All the political junkies inside the Capital Beltway are having a conniption. Are you?

For example, did you plan to visit the National Zoo this week to see the pandas? No?

Or did you plan to visit some national park this week? No? Stay at the Jackson Lake Lodge, one of the few hotels owned by the federal government? No?

Reid K. Beveridge

A couple other things:

• Social Security recipients will continue to get their “checks.” For one thing, almost no paper checks are mailed these days. Almost everyone gets a direct deposit in their bank account.

• The troops will continue to get paid. The Marines and GIs in Afghanistan will continue to fight the Taliban.

• If you work at Dover Air Force Base, you will be paid Friday on schedule. That’s because the Department of Defense budget has been approved and signed into law. No shutdown, furloughs or working temporarily without pay for you guys.

• Embassies around the world will stay open.

• Your taxes will continue to be due April 15, shutdown or no.

Indeed, three-fourths of the federal government remains open because their agencies’ appropriations bills have passed the Congress and been signed into law. The list of “closed” agencies appears long simply because they are smaller agencies. But even those agencies “closed” will have some parts at work: Border Patrol and ICE in Homeland Security, for example.

That the shutdown adversely affects those federal workers at agencies where no appropriations bill has passed sort of goes without saying. The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge employees, for example. They are furloughed and no paychecks in sight. Of course, they will eventually be paid retroactively.

Same for those workers who are required to work without pay. They’ll be paid eventually. Just don’t know when. Although the shutdown affects 800,000 workers, only 380,000 are actually off work.

All of this is, of course, pure politics. President Trump wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the better to deter illegal immigrants. The Democrats oppose a wall in any form. As of last Thursday, Democrats control the House of Representatives. And further, as with most things other than Senate confirmations, it requires 60 votes to pass much of anything in the Senate. It’s called the filibuster.

But probably not all Democrats. The African-American leadership has been notably silent on this issue. That is because their black constituents are not necessarily in favor of unrestricted immigration. As one such person said some months ago, “My people are still bottom-feeding at the employment trough.”

Today, because the U.S. economy is booming the way it is, black unemployment is at the lowest level in history. Question: Will those jobs stay in black hands or will they go to Latin American immigrants who are willing to work for less?

They are willing to work for less because the places they are fleeing are far worse than the worst ghetto in Detroit or Chicago. The murder rate in Honduras or Guatemala is worse than Chicago, far worse, if you can believe it.

Nonetheless, most Democrats will oppose funding the wall. They will oppose it not because they are really against it, but rather because the Democratic Party’s agenda these days is “resistance.” Resistance to all things favored by the president. If Trump is for it, they are against it. This even though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted for wall funding as recently as 2006. However, back then, Barack Obama was president. That was different.

There’s a deal to be had here, but it’s uncertain whether the Democrats will come to the table to bargain. They view this resistance as a winning issue for them. And yes, so do Republicans. The trouble is both sides of the question think it is a winning issue for their electoral base. And they’re right.

Democrats are going on television these weeks saying a border wall is a “19th century solution.” Or they say that Great Wall of China didn’t work.

What they ignore is that the wall Israel built to keep Palestinian terrorists in Palestine does work. And further, the “Berlin Wall” wasn’t a wall to keep people out. It was a wall to keep East Germans in East Germany — millions of Germans who would eagerly have gone to West Germany during the Cold War if they could.

Call it a wall. Call it a fence. Call it border security. Call it what you want. Let’s get on with it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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