Government Spending: Border Wall vs. Other Large Expenditures

Written by Jeff Poor, 1-27-17, at Breitbart:


A section of our current border fence.

Many of President Donald Trump’s critics are grappling with the reality the U.S. government will actually build the much-ballyhooed border wall Trump had pledged to repeatedly during his campaign.

However, those critics are still arguing the money put toward the project would be a waste.

The main question now is how the government will pay for it, to which Trump had said throughout the 2016 presidential campaign that Mexico would be responsible for the project’s financing.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell estimated the cost would be between $12-15 billion. Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan had put the price tag at between $8-14 billion.

Assuming the cost is on the high end of those estimates at $15 billion, the total cost of the border wall would constitute nearly 0.4 percent of the federal government’s $3.8 trillion FY 2015 budget.

While there are many other big ticket items on the federal budget, many of them dwarf the cost of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Here are a few:

(NOTE: In Breitbart’s original post, they listed 10 examples; I’ve highlighted a only a few for the sake of brevity.)

F35-Jet_ReutersThe Lockheed Martin F-35 Stealth Fighter Jet Project: According to Reuters, the cost to build the fighter jet program is estimated to be $379 billion, which would be roughly the cost of 25 border walls.

Back in December in a tweet, Trump criticized the costs of the project, which have been plagued with problems and cost overruns, and said he was asking Lockheed Martin competitor Boeing to price out a similar project.

Early on, some anticipated that throughout the lifespan of the F-35, the federal government could spent up to $1 trillion overall in building the fighter jet and for its maintenance.

Medicare, Medicaid Improper Payments: A 2015 Government Accountability Office report estimated in 2014 the federal government made $59.9 billion in improper Medicare payments and $17.5 billion in improper Medicaid payments for a grand total of $76.4 billion, or roughly the cost of five border walls.

That same report found that when the $76.4 billion figure was combined with 122 programs, including the EITC, that number in FY 2014 comes out to $124.7 billion in improper federal government payment, which was up from $105.8 billion a year earlier.

Maintenance of Vacant and Unused Properties: The federal government reportedly spent $25 billion annually in 2009 on maintaining vacant and unused building.

The figure was cited in a 2009 Heritage Foundation report, which was calculated by then-Senate Oversight Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK):

Unused Federal Property:

  • $25 billion wasted per year in unused federal property. (At $21 per square foot occupancy cost, 1.186 billion square feet of excess space)
  • Federal buildings worth tens of billions of dollars sit empty around the country. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has set a goal of reducing the inventory of all real property by 5%, or $15 billion, by 2009. Based on this goal, it appears that OMB considers this amount– at the very least—to be excess.
  • DoD spends $3-4Billion on maintenance of unused buildings each year.

The figures have been revised downward over the year, to $8 billion in 2013 and to $1.7 billion in 2016. However, the cumulative amount over the past decade would have been more than enough to finance a border wall.

Farm Subsidies: According to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, the federal government through the Department of Agriculture spends at least $25 billion on farm subsidies.

Farm subsidies often go to those not necessarily in need of financial assistance from the government. Among those receiving those subsidies according to a 2015 Economist magazine piece are Walmart heirs Alice, Jim and Rob Walton, rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen and CNN founder Ted Turner.


In addition to the examples above, reports state that illegal immigrants cost the US anywhere from $100 billion to $113 billion a year. Putting a stop to that alone would save enough money to build 10 walls, even at McConnell’s higher estimate.

Our government is charged with the task of protecting Americans, which includes our borders. If Trump truly wants to make America great again, then he needs to follow through on building a border wall and getting these exorbitant expenses under control. Every department head he’s selected needs to be tasked with cutting their budgets and trimming off the fat they’ve gotten used to having.


Categories: Political

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5 replies

  1. Then there was the $6Billion Hillary’s State Department couldn’t account for in contract files…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Just think of it this way: the wall is one half of the annual Obama vacation budget.

    Seriously, great article, Kathy. This really puts the cost of the wall in perfect perspective. It also reminds me to hope that on top of everything else that Trump can find the time to address the rampant theft of our public treasury. It makes me sick when I see those numbers.

    No matter what it costs the wall will be worth it. It is important as both a physical deterrent and a symbolic stand for America. Trump made a big mistake, IMO, by making “Mexico will pay for it” such an integral part of his pledge to build the wall. It wasn’t necessary and can only cost him politically if he can’t show clear evidence that they ultimately do pay.

    As good as the wall maybe, however, it needs to be followed through with other actions that deter illegal immigrants, such as cutting off access to taxpayer funded welfare and public benefits like schooling. Why should U.S. taxpayers foot the bill to educate the children of illegals who shouldn’t even be here?

    It will be interesting to see what happens when work on the wall begins. That kind of construction work in the southern states – especially along the border – is typically done with Mexican labor, legal and illegal. The Trump people should be using this time to make there is not an embarrassing shortage of labor to build the wall when they’re ready to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, CW, and you’re right on all points, especially about the excess of money being spent on them from government handouts down to the various charities receiving grants to assist them with the transition.

      While a wall will significantly decrease the traffic, there is still the need for continuous active patrolling of the border for tunnels, etc.

      Yeah, stating that Mexico would pay for it was a little over the top, even for Trump. He may not be able to get Nieto to write us a check, but there are other indirect ways he can make that happen.

      Rather than avoiding the use of illegal labor, I was thinking how tongue in cheek it would be to use those illegals sitting in our jails to build the wall. Maybe it’s time to bring back chain gangs, eh? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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