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Trump shutdown, NAFTA, Mexico border wall argument’s flaw

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday lambasted President Donald Trump’s demands in the current government shutdown fight, arguing they don’t logically make sense.

Trump has said that the US must allocate substantial amounts of money for the wall along the US-Mexico border. But as Schumer pointed out, that comes into direct conflict with the president’s insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall.

The latest iteration of Trump’s argument is that money coming in from the new USMCA trade deal — the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA — will fund the wall.

Trump made the claim during a meeting with Schumer and House Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday and reiterated it in a tweet Thursday.

“I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall,'” Trump tweeted. “This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

But Schumer asked a simple question during a floor speech on Thursday: If Mexico, as Trump insists, is paying for the wall, why do we have to spend $5 billion on it right now?

“Well, Mr. President, if you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, I guess we don’t have to,” he said. “Let’s fund the government.”

Trump seems to be arguing that the USMCA will boost US GDP, thus increasing the amount American businesses and families earn. That increased income for Americans would then boost tax revenues, since higher incomes means more money for taxes.

But even in that scenario, the funds are still coming from tax revenues — which are paid by Americans, not Mexico.

“If the president really believes what he tweeted this morning that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he wouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless American taxpayers pay for the wall,” Schumer said. “He can’t have it both ways.”

The only way to have Mexico directly pay for the wall through the USMCA, without taking money collected from American taxpayers, would be to include a clause in the trade deal. No such clause exists.

The USMCA is identical to NAFTA in many major ways, and economists don’t expect a large boost to US GDP from the deal.

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