Trump doubles down on a border wall, and a government shutdown looms

The border fence between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The border fence between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (The New York Times)


What are we to make of Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist extraordinaire who is embroiled in a child custody battle in a Travis County courtroom? His attorney wants us to believe Jones’ bombastic on-air persona is merely performance art – just for show, folks, that’s all. Jones, however, asserts no trickery is involved.

A far cry from President Trump, another well-known figure known for his crowd-pleasing bluster. You can count on Trump meaning what he says. Well, except for when he doesn’t.

Take for instance the president’s recent flip-flop on NATO, the trans-Atlantic alliance Trump called “obsolete” throughout the campaign and as recently as last month. The president declared then that NATO “doesn’t cover terrorism,” which isn’t true.

But earlier this month, as he stood with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump had a sudden change of heart. “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” the president said, explaining that NATO made a change and now fights terrorism. The record says otherwise; as the Washington Post noted, NATO has been active in counterterrorism since 1980, even moreso since 9/11.

The newspaper has taken to calling Trump the “king of flip-flops.” Like the Post, a number of news organizations routinely chronicle the president’s many 180-degree turns on policy.

But there is one policy position where the president isn’t showing any signs of budging or flip-flopping – his vision of a border wall.

On Thursday Trump doubled down on one of his signature campaign pledges. He wants Congress to add money for a new wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border to a massive spending bill, potentially forcing a government shutdown. As the Chicago Tribune reported:

Trump’s request, outlined in conversations with White House officials and in a memo from budget director Mick Mulvaney, calls for $33 billion in new defense and border spending — and $18 billion in cuts to other priorities, such as medical research and jobs programs.

RELATED: A border wall riddled with holes in logic 

RELATED: Why the border wall fences us in

A partial government shutdown would begin April 29 if the spending bill isn’t passed.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told The Associated Press that Democratic negotiators on the spending bill need to sign on to funding the president’s priorities, including a down payment on a border wall and hiring more immigration agents.

“Elections have consequences,” Mulvaney said. “We want wall funding.”
Mulvaney said the Trump administration knows many in Congress, especially Democrats, don’t like the wall, “but they lost the election.”

More Americans opposed (62 percent) than favored (35 percent) building a wall, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February.

A partial government shutdown is never popular and at least for now, it appears few in Congress share the White House’s desire to flirt with one, though some Democrats vow to oppose the wall and even some conservative Republicans object, though on fiscal grounds.

The Department of Homeland Security pegs the cost of a wall at up to $21.6 billion. Trump famously vowed throughout his campaign to make Mexico pay for the wall. That’s obviously not in the cards. Was it ever, really?

With the spectre of a government shutdown looming, some on Capitol Hill expect a bipartisan spending bill will emerge by next week’s end, and that a vote on funding for the wall will come in a separate spending bill later this year.

One thing is clear: Trump administration requests to fund the wall aren’t going away. The president is adamant about fulfilling his vision of a “big, beautiful border wall.”





Trump’s order a case of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’

President Trump Visits Snap-On Tools In Kenosha, WisconsinCall it a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Harkening back to a cornerstone of his campaign, President Trump this week signed a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that tightens rules under which visas are awarded to skilled foreign workers.

The order also directs the federal government to prioritize buying American-made goods and hiring American firms for federal projects.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure more products are stamped with those wonderful words ‘Made in the USA,’ ” Trump said during a visit to a tool manufacturer in Wisconsin, with wrenches forming a U.S. flag as his backdrop. “For too long we’ve watched as our factories have been closed and our jobs have been sent to faraway lands.”

On the campaign trail, as he did in his Wisconsin stop, Trump made buying American-made goods and hiring American workers a signature theme, one that played very well with blue-collar audiences.

That was Trump, the candidate. Trump, the billionaire businessman, however, was a different story.

As The Washington Post put it, “(Trump’s) business practices often contradicted his political rhetoric. Parts of his clothing line were manufactured abroad and he hired foreign workers at many of his properties.”

Trump may want the federal government and American firms to “buy American” and “hire American,” but he doesn’t always do that himself. Many of his products are made outside the U.S., and the use of undocumented immigrants to build Trump Tower became a flashpoint of one of the presidential debates, an accusation by Hillary Clinton that the Politifact organization rated as “True.” Trump also uses the H-2B visa program to hire foreign workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

The order Trump signed this week calls for federal crackdowns on fraud in another visa program, H-1B.

The order is intended to discourage use of foreign labor, which the White House argues puts Americans out of jobs and drives down wages.

That prompted a swift response from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which said H-1B visas have a positive impact on wages because workers earn higher average wages than Americans in similar jobs.

The immigration lawyers group said the H-1B is expensive enough that most American employers use it only when they can’t find qualified U.S. workers to fill jobs.

Trump’s order, AILA said, won’t have an immediate impact on the visa program because it will require legislative rule changes first.




Tell us your Affordable Care Act story

Dozens of Affordable Care Act supporters gather for a rally held Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in downtown St. Joseph, Mich.(Don Campbell/ The Herald-Palladium via AP)
Dozens of Affordable Care Act supporters gather for a rally held Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in downtown St. Joseph, Mich.(Don Campbell/ The Herald-Palladium via AP)


President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are preparing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka, “Obamacare.” At this point they have not crafted a replacement. We’d like to hear from you about your personal experiences with the Affordable Care Act.

We believe your stories can help inform policymakers on this important topic.

You can submit your story as a Letter to the Editor using our online form or by sending an email to (no more than 150 words , please). Don’t forget to include your full name, address and daytime and evening phone numbers.

Our goal is to publish a full page of those stories we receive. Your first-hand accounts will help foster understanding about how Central Texans are using or not using the Affordable Care Act and whether it should be refined, replaced or eliminated.

Thank you for your ‘Dear President Trump’ letters


On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our country’s 45th president. Along with the title, Trump inherits the fears and hopes – be they reasonable or not – of an entire nation. And hearing from approving and disapproving Texans is almost a given.

We’d like to give readers a platform to start those correspondences that will likely fill the next commander in chief’s inbox.

As part of the American-Statesman’s coverage of Trump’s inauguration, we will include some of the expectations you and other readers have for the incoming commander in chief. Share your thoughts in a letter addressed to President Trump. Letters must be 150 words or less and can be submitted online or email at by Jan. 13.  Don’t forget to include your full name, address and daytime and evening phone numbers.

Check back for a link to those submissions we’ve received and will be published.

Looking for our 2016 endorsements?

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Early voting for the national and local elections starts October 24 and while the Editorial Board is not endorsing in the presidential race, we are weighing in on some very important issues facing Central Texans.

There’s no doubt that by now most Americans know how they’ll vote on the main ticket this presidential election, but local races are just as important — if not more so, some will argue — and deserve voters’ attention. It’s at the local level that the Editorial Board has decided to focus and dig a little deeper, providing both analytical editorials on some of the most pressing issues coupled with Q&A’s with candidates who will take on these issues if elected. Below, you’ll find a list of the races and issues we’ve chosen to weigh in  on.

So whether you choose to head to the polls next week (early voting ends Nov. 4) or decide to wait for Election Day on Nov. 8, we encourage you to make it through to the end of the ballot and cast as an informed vote as much a possible. (BTW: Need more info on Austin City Council Candidates? Don’t know who represents you? No problem. Use the Statesman’s City Council Candidate Explorer to answer your questions.)

Presidential Election:

Mobility Bonds Election:

Travis County Sheriff race:

Travis County District Attorney race:

Austin City Council District 2 and 4 races:

Austin City Council District 6 race:

Austin City Council Districts 7 and 10 races:

Austin Community College Board of Trustee races:

Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees races:


And of course, you can get full election coverage here: Statesman Elections 2016


Share your favorite dad story with us

Gissela SantaCruz and her dad.

Dads. They don’t get the level of attention mom’s get, but it’s not because we don’t love them. It’s just, well, they’re dads.

But this year, we want to give fathers of Central Texas all the attention they deserve. So, we’re asking you, our readers, to send us your favorite story and photos of dad to

Yes, we really do want to hear all about your most memorable moments with the man who you call ‘pops’, ‘big guy’, ‘old man’, ‘daddy’, ‘sir’ or just plain ‘dad’.

Share your colorful anecdote about your father (uncle, grandfather or other father-figure) with us, and we will select the best to run online and in print for Father’s Day.

Please send your submissions and photos to

Submissions should be no more than 150 words and received by June 13.

We can’t wait to read your stories.

What happens when a reader gets riled up about female coaches?

A few days ago, I wrote a piece for our Insight section about why women are shut out of head coaching positions in men’s sports — even as men are routinely hired to coach women’s sports.

“The dusty arguments hurried out against promoting women to marquee coaching positions — that they lack the requisite experience, or the bearing or psychology, or the backbone to handle a male environment — amount to the same kind of hokum once used to keep women out of the boardroom.”

San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon celebrates with her team after they defeated the Phoenix Suns in an NBA summer league championship basketball game Monday, July 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Hammon is the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports leagues. (AP Photo/John Locher)
San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon celebrates with her team after they defeated the Phoenix Suns in an NBA summer league championship basketball game Monday, July 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Hammon is the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports leagues. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(The essay was a follow-up in a way, to a book I wrote last year that got at cultural expectations involving sports, race and gender in America — the book, called “Year of the Dunk: A Modest Defiance of Gravity,” tracked my own, sometimes-comic efforts as a middle-aged white dude trying to dunk.)

Apparently not all readers were sympathetic to the piece. Evidently confused about my gender, one reader who wrote me about it wasn’t so keen on my trying to ask him a few questions. (You might want to read from the bottom up.)

women coaching

Read the full essay at

After Reggae Fest rainout, Capital Area Food Bank needs your help

lhs Sustainable food bank 07
Last year the Capital Area Food Bank provided 28 million meals. According to president and CEO Hank Perret, the growth in the food insecure population is two times the general population growth in Austin. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

How much did you spend on your lunch today?

I spent $11. That $11 could have provided 44 meals for Austin families through the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

Why the guilt trip? For the second year in a row The Capital Area Food Bank has had to cancel the last day of Reggae Fest, the non-profit’s biggest fundraiser. Heavy weekend  rains forced the cancellation leaving the organization about $100,000 short, which officials say is the equivalent to about 400,000 meals for the area’s families. So, now food bank officials are asking Central Texans to help to fill the gap.

Food insecurity is an unfortunate fact of life in Central Texas. More than 477, 000 Central Texans 21-county area served by the food bank could not afford adequate food at all times in 2015, according to Map the Meal Gap, a study on food insecurity conducted by Feeding America.

According to the study, in Travis County the rate of food insecurity is 17.6 percent, and in some of the further flung counties like Bell, Lee, Milam and McLennan, that rate is closer to 20 percent.

In Austin, we like to talk about our food scene almost as much as we like talking about our music scene. We have a bounty of choices: Farm-to-table, fusion, sushi, Mexican, Thai and Ethiopian. We can have our meals delivered to our homes and offices in less than five minutes. We have the choice to add a dessert, a high-protein smoothie or a craft cocktail.

The Capital Area Food Bank serves 46,000 people a week, according to spokesman Dave Shaw. So if you break the numbers down another way, that is nearly four weeks of meals. That’s a long time to be hungry.

We’ve written before that most of the people helped by the food bank are not homeless and most of the families have at least one working adult. These are people earning minimum wage or on fixed incomes whose monthly budgets are overwhelmed by the cost of housing, childcare, medical bills, transportation and utilities. Their reality is one of skipping meals and empty cupboards.

So, give to the food bank. They’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Just think, if you give $25, that’s 100 men, women and children who will not go to bed hungry. That’s two lunches and a coffee. It’s not quite the miracle of the loaves and fishes, but it is awfully close.