Pollak: Trump Just Found a Way to Make Mexico ‘Pay for the Wall’

EL PASO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the El Paso County Coliseum on February 11, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. U.S. Trump continues his campaign for a wall to be built along the border as the Democrats in Congress are asking for …
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Donald Trump may have found a way to fulfill one of the more ambitious — and controversial — pledges from his 2016 campaign: making Mexico pay for the wall.

On Thursday, hours after Trump tweeted that the U.S. Border Patrol had apprehended a record number of illegal migrants, the president announced that he would impose a 5% tariff on all imports from Mexico, increasing over time, until the Mexican government stopped the migrant flow from Central America .

Technically, a tariff is a tax paid by Americans to the U.S. government. But there will be a cost to Mexican firms, to Mexican workers, and to the Mexican government. In that sense, Mexico will be “paying for the wall” — or, rather, paying a price for the absence of a wall. To stop, Mexico will have to spend money on immigration enforcement.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, as usual, noted the political potential of the president’s gesture.

To the extent domestic American companies and workers benefit from reduced Mexican competition, and their benefit yields more tax revenues to the U.S. government, Mexico’s loss would be America’s gain. In that way, albeit indirectly, Mexico would be “paying for the wall.” True, to the extent the tariffs would have negative effects on the U.S. economy, Americans could be paying twice — directly when the tariff is collected, and indirectly when paying the economic cost.

But for the first time, Trump has connected some form of revenue collection to the policy of immigration enforcement. That, in turn, opens the door to using America’s interactions with Mexico — commerce, labor remittances, and tourism — to pay for the wall. Trump already has Mexico asking for a compromise solution.

To many Trump supporters, the promise that Mexico would pay for the wall was a rhetorical flourish. But it could actually happen — now that Mexico feels a cost.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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