On Friday morning, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in an attempt to secure funding for a border wall after Congress came up short. He intends to use the ploy to get an extra $6.5 billion through the emergency on top of the money Congress just approved in a funding bill. Trump maintains that there is a crisis at the border: “We have an invasion of drugs, an invasion of gangs, and it’s unacceptable.”
But there is no emergency at the border. Illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border, measured by apprehensions by Customs and Border Patrol, in recent years are at their lowest in decades.
That’s not to say the country is not facing a real crisis. In fact, it’s facing a number of emergencies that are leading to loss of life and property. Solving them will take a lot more than a wall — but even a fraction of the $8 billion would make a big difference.
In 2017, more than 70,000 people in America died of an overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This staggering number has actually lowered life expectancy in America. And while some drugs do enter the U.S. from other countries, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration they do so through legal entry ports, not areas without a wall. Concrete steps could include suspending regulations that prohibit doctors from prescribing lifesaving medication such as methadone and buprenorphine and ensuring that every Medicaid program covers multiple treatment options.
According to Harvard’s yearly State of the Nation’s Housing report, more than 38 million households nationwide pay more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing — the standard of affordability. One reason is that government support for housing has been falling short for years. The solution to this crisis includes building more affordable units, subsidizing existing units, and increasing wages. With $8 billion we could dramatically increase the number of housing choice vouchers or double the budget of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to promote construction of affordable housing.
In 2017, nearly 40,000 people in America died of gun violence — the most in decades. There are more firearms than people in the United States, which explains why, when it comes to gun violence, the U.S. is an outlier compared with other rich democracies. If America truly cares about victims of violence, regardless of the perpetrator’s country of origin, we would invest in gun buyback programs, ban assault weapons, and implement a universal background-check system.
There is no more imminent threat to the U.S. than climate change and the need to act before 2030, according to a report by the United Nations. That means transitioning our economy to one based on renewable energy, and punishing the biggest polluters. That includes placing carbon emission limits, providing tax incentives to developers to build energy-efficient buildings, and incentivizing consumers to make better environmental decisions.