By Malcolm McIntyre
For a little more than an hour Friday afternoon, in Dalton, Glenn Grothman–our representative in Congress–held forth at what was billed as a town hall.
If you want to view and hear what he had to say, you can click on this link. However, if you don’t have time to view the entire WisconsinEye.org video, it runs a little more than an hour, here are the highlights of his opening remarks.
A separate article will summarize the questions that were asked of him by some of the more than 75 people in attendance.
For most of the remarks, which ran about 12 minutes, Glen offered a defense of President Trump’s fixation on building a wall along our southern border. And by extension, his willingness to continue the historic government shutdown.
Glen did not lead with the wall and shutdown. Instead, he talked about his committee assignments, but it is clear that the wall and the shutdown are foremost in his mind.
A conservative Republican, Grothman made no bones about his position on the wall. He supports it and President Trump’s desire to build a wall.
Using one of the President’s favorite words, Grothman says there was a “crisis” along the nation’s southern border. “We have a real crisis there and while I think the President sometimes tweets too much and calls people names, which is a little bit frustrating, he is 100% right and we got to get a handle on that border.”
He then added, “One way to get a handle on that border is building a wall.”
Grothman, who claims he is one of the more “frugal” members of Congress, then defended the projected costs of building the wall, while also admitting that no one, including the President, is sure what the total cost will be.
He did say that some estimates are as high as $25 billion, but he thinks it would be money well spent.
“The amount we spend every year on foreign aid is $38 billion, so spending $5.7 billion (the amount the President is asking for now) is only about one-seventh of that total.”
The Congressman then said that while he thinks $5.7 billion is “a huge amount,” when looked at in comparison to where we spent other federal dollars, the amount is not that much.
“That is one thing you don’t hear a lot about, how the wall cost stacks up proportionally against other things we are spending money on.”
Grothman explained, “There were huge increases in spending for defense and non-defense items over the last two years.”
So, he reasoned, spending $6 billion on the wall “is something like 1/13 or 1/14th of the increase in defense spending on an annual basis.”
He then explained that a wall is a permanent structure. It is not a recurring expense. Once it is built, he added, the only expenses are for maintaining it. Grothman did not provide an estimate for yearly maintenance.
He also did not acknowledge that the $6 billion that the President is asking for is only a portion of the projected total wall costs. For example, $25 billion (a projection often used) is approximately 66 percent of the amount spent on foreign aid in a year.
Another thing people don’t talk enough about, he continued, is parts of the wall have already been built.
“I don’t mean to be jaded here, but when I see people saying it is Ok for Bill Clinton to build a wall, for George Bush to continue building the wall and for President Obama to continue funding it, but now we have to shut down the government because we can’t let Donald Trump build a wall. You’ve got to wonder, you know, what’s going on here?”
Continuing on the wall theme, Grothman said people often ask him why doesn’t the President compromise so we can stop the government shutdown.
Grothman’s response was that the President has compromised, signing Homeland Security appropriations bills in the past that he did not favor because they did not contain funds for building the wall. Trump has compromised, said Grothman, “He originally asked for $25 billion for the wall and now he is asking for $5.7 million.”
Grothman did not say if that amount was a down payment on the total amount the President would spend on the wall, but if past reports are true, the $5.7 billion is not the full amount. He also did not address the President’s campaign promise to have the Mexican government pay for the wall.
Meanwhile, the federal government is experiencing the longest shutdown in history.