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AP Explains: Trump says wall will stop drugs, facts differ (copy)

FILE - This Oct. 26, 2017 file photo shows prototypes of border walls in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Elliott Spagat, File)

If you've been following the chaos caused by the governmental shutdown over Donald Trump's "big, beautiful, great, great" wall, that has mercifully ended, at least temporarily, I'll bet if you were asked how much it will cost you'd confidently say $5.7 billion.

And why not? That's the figure that has constantly been used in news stories and editorials since this fight began more than a month ago. The description of the battle is always boiled down to the $5.7 billion wall that the House Democrats have refused to fund.

This kind of simplification almost always misleads.

The $5.7 billion that Trump has stubbornly demanded be allocated for his coveted wall is merely a down payment on the true costs of the 1,700-mile wall and if the reports on the ongoing feud were anywhere near complete they would have referred to the $5.7 billion as just that — a down payment.

The actual cost of the wall has been estimated to hit $40 billion. Now that we've entered a new era in which congressional Republicans have already created a trillion-dollar-a-year budget deficit, Congress needs to be careful about committing billions more to the burden borne by future taxpayers.

The Government Accountability Office has warned that the wall could wind up costing even more than the $40 billion, take longer to complete than expected or not fully perform as expected, especially since migrants are already tunneling under existing walls and fences.

That's why some insist that Trump's wall, even the $5.7 billion down payment in this budget cycle, is akin to pouring real money down the drain.

Further, many point out, the number of illegal border crossings have dropped precipitously in the past two decades and many of the crossings are by women and children not trying to evade border guards, but seeking them out to ask for asylum, the New Yorker pointed out in a recent issue.

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If fiscal conservatives are still actually opposed to wasting money that the country doesn't have in the first place, they might want to get their leader to reconsider his spendthrift ways.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.