Let’s Build a Taller Chimney

You’ve certainly read that the US government is currently without a fiscal budget? That many federal agencies are closed now and that hundreds of thousands of government employees risk not getting paid next month?

You’ve probably also heard that President Trump refuses to sign a new budget and add more debt until Congress approves the financing of the wall along the southern border to Mexico.

What mainstream newspapers don’t write much about is that the US’s total debt now amounts to close to $20 trillion. Which is not just a staggering amount of zeros, but also a worrisome liability which is going to be almost impossible to balance.

What bothers me about this is how stupid it is to put so much money ($5 billion at first, $18 billion in total) into building a wall when the project’s real purpose is really just to win political points and not solve real problems.

It’s like building taller chimneys to deal with pollution that factories pump out into the air. Which is treating symptoms, not solving problems.

For many decades, American companies have exploited Mexican workers, both in the US and above all in Mexico, where dozens of America’s largest corporations have been operating for a long time. Extremely low wages have been paid to employees whom in addition have been forced to work in rough environments and with fewer benefits than most Americans working in the US manufacturing industry.

These low wages have not by a long shot been enough to build up a stable, Mexican middle class in the villages and towns where the factories are located. And if you’re a Mexican factory worker and hear that you’ll get paid ten or twenty times as much in the US as you currently are in Mexico, it shouldn’t really be too surprising that this country has a problem with illegal immigration.

So, what if American and other multinational companies operating in Mexico had instead paid sensible wages to their local employees and took a stand in favor of social responsibility and Fair Trade (listen up, all you Milton Friedman followers!)? I think these poor folks need to risk their lives, flee from poverty, sneak into a country up north in pursuit of a better life, would likely be reduced to a minimum. There wouldn’t be an incentive to relocate.

On a side note, I wonder how well the United States would actually manage without all the legal and illegal immigrants from Central America. How would the hospitality and restaurant business or the agricultural industry survive without the huge pool of cheap labor it has today?

The wall is unlikely to get built. Hopefully, Trump will have left his increasingly tarnished presidential post long before any wall has been erected. I also hope that some smart person in the United States identifies that the problem will never be solved with a wall. Neither now nor in the future. That the problem is only going to be solved when corporations have a long-term view and are not just focused on quarterly earnings.

Walls never solve problems. They only demonstrate that one does not understand or care about where the problems lie or don’t want to take on an important challenge. And that’s exactly the same attitude as the American government has to the country’s abysmal debt. Borrowing more money instead of trying to find ways to get debt free.

Trump (and most of his predecessors) would rather build a taller chimney so they don’t have to see the crap they’ve been burning during their tenure.

The video was shot during a photography excursion the other day arond Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles with friend and colleague Larry D’Attilio.