BERNARD KELLY, host: President Donald Trump has proposed spending $1 trillion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
And he said the wall will cost $10,000 per foot of wall.
That would cost the government $1,000 for every foot of border wall.
But how would that impact the economy?
And how much will it actually cost?
And is it actually feasible?
I’m Bill Dean with the Cato Institute, and this is FRESH AIR.
We’re talking about the potential for a wall on the border.
I’m Brian Klaas.
And we’re going to get the real story of what is going to happen when the wall is built.
Bill Dean is the Cato institute’s senior fellow and senior policy adviser on immigration.
He is the author of the new book, “A New Frontier: Immigration Reform, the Border Wall, and the Economy.”
He joins us now from the Cato headquarters in National Harbor, Maryland.
Welcome to FRESH Air.
BRIAN KLAAS: Thank you for having me.
And thank you for inviting me to this program.
I’d like to start off by saying, thanks for having us.
The President is absolutely correct that the wall, if it’s built, would cost a trillion dollars.
And that’s based on the fact that the costs of building a wall would go up the longer it is.
It will be taller and more expensive than a wall built today.
But let’s get to the numbers.
The real cost of the wall that Trump says is necessary would be between $10 million and $10.5 million per foot.
That’s the real cost for building a border wall today, according to a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
And it’s $10 billion higher than the price tag of the previous Republican-led effort to build the border wall that failed in the Senate last year.
And the price to taxpayers in the United States of $2.5 billion would be about 1.7 percent of the country’s GDP, more than twice the amount that Mexico paid to build that wall in 2017.
So, if you’re looking at how much money a wall costs, you have to account for inflation.
So that’s the way you should think about the costs and how much the wall would cost in the future.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, we’re not talking about just the cost of a wall here.
We’ve got to take the wall into account, of course, as well.
There are a lot of things that would happen with a wall.
First, there would be the construction of fencing.
That will include the fencing around the entire wall.
So you would build a fence along the border, but you would have to make sure that the fencing is very, very high.
And then you would also have to keep people out.
There would be a security component.
There will be a border patrol.
And there would also be a Border Patrol agent at the border crossing.
And you would need to make certain that there are proper checks and balances, in terms of a Border Security Force, which would include Border Patrol agents, federal prosecutors, and others to make it safe for people to cross the border and enter the United State.
So those are the basic components of a border barrier.
Then there would come the actual construction of the border fence.
So what would happen, as we’ve seen in the past, would be that the construction phase would be more costly.
And in fact, the cost would go even higher than what Trump is talking about.
We know that the cost to build this border wall would actually go up by more than a trillion.
The cost would increase by $1.4 trillion from the current estimate of the cost, according a Congressional Budget Offices analysis released last month.
And, of those, $2 trillion is the cost that would be borne by the federal government, $600 billion of that would go to pay for border patrol agents.
That means the cost could go up from what Trump’s estimate is to $6 trillion.
But that does not account for the cost borne by taxpayers.
If you’re going by the current estimates, then you could be paying more for a border fence than the wall itself would cost.
And by the way, if the border barrier was not built, the total cost to taxpayers of the entire border would be even higher.
So this is a wall that the President has said will cost a lot more than it costs to build, because it will cost more money to build than it would cost to keep Americans safe.
That is a reality.
But we should also take into account the fact there will be other costs.
First of all, there will also be costs of the legal defense.
The Border Patrol, as it’s known, would lose its legal defense fund, which is a fund that helps people defend themselves against illegal border crossers.
And a lot would depend on how the case goes. So