Who cares who pays? Not having Trump’s wall already costs us big


“Build the wall”

The chant that resonated in arenas and airplane hangers throughout the country over the course of the presidential campaign is on the brink of becoming reality, despite the fact that there’s a growing argument over who will pay, when they will pay, and how it will be paid for.  

{mosads}Many of those now troubled about a congressional appropriation for its construction are losing site of the fact that the heroin trade through our southern border is arguably costing more in lives, money and potential than any amount the 115th Congress could approve.


These concerns, as well as the broader Democratic party hyperventilation over all things Trump, are an attempt to ignore the inconvenient truth about his “big, beautiful” wall which the American voters had accepted: That it is in our interest, economic and otherwise, to have a secure border.

Two months after the election, the Democratic party is still micro-focused on fanning the flames on foreign email hacking, rather than examining their own failure to connect with substantial chunks of the American public.

While they rant over Russia, Trump and the GOP stand poised to deliver on one of the president-elect’s most prominent campaign promises, and one that can deliver plausible and tangible results.

Initially in the campaign, Trump boldly claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall — estimated to cost between $8 and $12 billion. Over time, he honed and clarified the policy, declaring in Gettysburg in late October that Mexico would, in fact, be simply “reimbursing the United States for the full cost of the wall.”

Cast aside the financing plan. Forget the facts and figures of how the president-elect hopes to use tariffs, fees, remittances, and whatever leverage he frankly can to recoup the money.  

If a near-impermeable border wall lessens the availability of heroin in our communities, we will likely already be running in the black.

As now understood, more opioid users are moving toward heroin as the prescription medications they previously abused have become less available and more costly, as states enact new laws targeting “pill mill” doctors. The lack of a ready supply has changed behavior and lessened the likelihood of new painkiller addicts.  

A Journal of the American Medical Association study confirmed that as Oxycontin and other opioid prescriptions dropped by 20 percent between 2011-2013, heroin overdose rates actually rose 23 percent.  Overall, they have now tripled since then.

Last week when the CDC reported the 2016 statistics, it found the situation had only gotten worse — 12,989 people died from heroin, meaning more Americans were killed by it last year than by gun homicides.

So where is all the heroin coming from?

The Obama White House correctly identifies that nearly all heroin in the United States comes from Latin America, most predominantly from Mexican and Columbian origins.

The DEA’s 2015 National Drug Assessment Summary goes further, claiming that Mexico is the primary source for not just heroin, but also fentanyl, a chemical compound 80-100 times stronger than morphine. When mixed with heroin, it is largely to blame for the newest and deadliest batches.

The report also also paints a bleak picture about other drugs, declaring both that Mexican cartels “dominate cocaine transportation in the United States with little to no competition,” and  “most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is clandestinely produced in Mexico and smuggled across the Southwest Border.”   

Donald Trump was right when he told rallying crowds that an enhanced and expanded southern border wall would help combat the illegal drug trade. He can use that fact alone, plus what the current administration has said, to make a financial case for its construction.

In 2011, the National Drug Intelligence Center published a report entitled Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society, which used 2007 data to conclude that drugs cost the U.S. economy $193 billion that year. Now, a decade later, as the rates of certain opioid abuse are much higher, the price is likely also far greater.

Looking at just the hard costs, the drug-related tab on our criminal justice system reached a total of $56 billion in 2007, and health care for treatment and emergency room visits cost states and the federal government a combined $11.4 billion.

More recently, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, adding even more money to fight opioid abuse nationwide, all the while states are fighting with pharmaceutical companies to keep the cost of the hundreds of thousands of naloxone (a heroin overdose antidote) doses they must buy as low as possible.  Spending on drug abuse does not seem to be subsiding.

Let’s be clear, building even the most impenetrable wall won’t solve the opioid problem and end these rising costs.  There is no panacea. Everyone involved in the drug trade, from the shrewd, savvy and violent cartels down to the street users, will do what they can to keep their preferred products flowing.  

However, like it was with prescription painkillers, when we make it more difficult and more expensive for the sources to deliver drugs into the hands of users, the overall usage rates go down.  When these rates go down, especially with respect to heroin, it will alleviate our economic losses and lessen the financial demands on our federal, state and local governments.

If Democrats and other Trump critics are opposed to the wall for immigration reasons; so be it.  But to ignore the economic and societal problems of an over $100 billion annual drug trade in all 50 states is tantamount to willful substitution of partisan emotional politics for an objective look at the reality of what is really coming across our southern border.

“Build the wall!”

Joseph Borelli is a New York City council member, Republican commentator, professor and Lindsay Fellow at the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance. He has been published in the NY Daily News and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, and BBC. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Drug culture Heroin Illegal drug trade Morphinans Nervous system Neurochemistry Opioid overdose Opioid use disorder

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