Note: This is a slightly revised version of the second part of an article that I had posted on January 15. The first part of the article, which discusses the legitimacy and effectiveness of Brian Kolfage's GoFundMe campaign to build the Wall, is posted here.
Let's put reservations about the legitimacy of Brian Kolfage's campaign and its effectiveness in raising money from conservatives who want the Wall aside. Let's assume that the campaign will be able to prove its legitimacy and that it will become a fund-raising juggernaut among conservatives who want the Wall. The biggest obstacle preventing Kolfage's campaign from being as effective as it could be is that its appeal is limited to the roughly 1/3 of the population who see the wall as a priority. They will contribute to the wall while liberals will contribute nothing while enjoying the benefits of the Wall (such as they are). FEAR NOT, CONSERVATIVES--there IS a way to get liberals to not only contribute to the Wall, but to contribute willingly and eagerly. How? Imagine this.
Suppose the government set up its own GoFundMe type web site to raise money for the Wall. This site would not be competing with Kolfage's campaign because it will have a twist that will appeal to liberals but not to conservatives. Here is the twist: Whatever money the site raises will be spent on the wall ONLY IF DONALD TRUMP, HIS COMPANY, OR HIS FAMILY DONATED $50 MILLION TO THE GOVERNMENT'S CAMPAIGN WITHIN A YEAR OF THE START OF THE CAMPAIGN. This is something that Trump should find fairly easy to do since he boasted that he was worth $10 billion in 2015. Certainly it should not be hard for someone worth $10 billion to contribute $50 million to solve a problem that he thought was so dire that he was considering fixing it by calling a national state of emergency.
Trump may protest that it is harder for him to contribute $50 million than I think. In March 2018, Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.1 billion, down $400 million from the year before. (Forbes estimated that Trump had been really worth only $4.5 billion in 2015, not the $10 billion that he claimed to be worth.) And Trump recently said that he has lost a lot of money during his Presidency. Still, even if Trump is worth only $2.5 billion, $50 million represents only 2% of his wealth. Surely, if we are facing a true national emergency, Trump could easily contribute this much to save the nation.
And what would happen to the money raised if Trump doesn't cough up $50 million for the Wall within the year? This is where it gets interesting. The answer to this question is what will entice liberals to donate willingly to the campaign. For here, unlike with a traditional GoFundMe campaign, donors will be given an option of what should happen with their money IF Trump doesn't pay for his share of the wall. The site I am proposing will have a form with five options that donors can choose from to designate where their money should go if it is not used to build the Wall. I suggest the following five options, but different options could be selected by Congress when writing up the bill necessary to establish the site.
- A fund to rebuild the water system in Flint Michigan so that its residents have access to clean water. (There is a GoFundMe campaign that describes the history of the Flint Michigan water crisis and raises money to distribute bottled water, but massive funding will be needed for a permanent fix to the problem.)
- A fund designated to protect immigrant rights.
- A fund designated to help veterans, especially those needing medical help.
- A fund to pay down the national debt.
- A fund to pay for medical research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
Donors will know that by checking a box their money will go where they want it to go if Trump doesn't cough up $50 million. So what will make liberals want to donate to this site? Why wouldn't they just donate directly to the charity of their choice? Many will donate because they will see the site as a way to force Donald Trump to put his money where his mouth is. Many will see it as a way of saying, "Put up or shut up" to Trump. Many believe that Trump would not actually cough up the money because he isn't worth nearly as much as he has claimed he is worth or because he is just too much of a cheapskate. And if he doesn't cough up the money then, liberals believe, this will erode his popularity among his base. His base will then be forced to admit that either Trump is not nearly the successful businessman that he has claimed to be or that he has wildly exaggerated the threat at the border and that he does not really believe it is a national emergency. And there are few things liberals want more than to see his base have to face reality.
How To End The Budget Impasse
This is all very nice, and it will undoubtedly raise a substantial amount of money to supplement the money that Kolfage will raise. But it is still unlikely to get us anywhere near Trump's $5 billion. Is there a way to tweak this so that Trump can save face by having Congress pass a bill that would designate billions to the Wall while simultaneously fulfilling Nancy Pelosi's demand that not $1 be designated for the Wall? Impossible, you say? No, not really. All we need to do is adopt a Schrodinger's Cat approach to fundraising.
The government-established GoFundMe-like campaign outlined above should have THREE potential sources of income. If Trump, his family, or his business donates $50 million to the fund then the millions of dollars donated by liberals will be unleashed to fund the wall. That's TWO sources of income. The third source of income will come directly from the government and could add BILLIONS to the fund.
WHAT??? The whole point of the fund is to get liberals to VOLUNTARILY help pay for the wall--not to get the U.S. government to do it. Why should the U.S. taxpayer be forced to pay for the wall when Donald Trump was elected on the PROMISE that MEXICO would pay for it? Nancy Pelosi has said there is NO WAY to convince her to give in and pay for te wall. So how can we get Pelosi to change her mind and allocate billions for the wall?
Simple. By passing a bill that authorizes the government to contribute $5 or $10 to the Wall Fund for every $1 Donald Trump, Trump's family, or Trump's business contributes to the fund above $50 million. As you can see from the table below, such a law would give Trump the power to force the government to contribute billions to the fund.
Thus, this bill imitates Schrodinger's cat by simultaneously providing $0 in funding and billions of dollars in funding. The amount of funding will not be determined until either Trump makes a donation over $50 million or until the end of the year, at which point Trump's window of opportunity to get the government to contribute money to his wall will close.
I think there is a good chance Pelosi and the Democrats would agree to this funding scheme. They will bet that Trump will wimp out on this opportunity to get the government to fund the Wall. After all, he has built a solid reputation of being a charity cheapskate. In fact, Forbes has reported that Trump pilfered money that had been donated to help children with cancer and diverted it to his business or to organizations with close ties to Trump's business. If Pelosi does agree to this plan she will undermine the already feeble Republican attempts to blame the Democrats for the shut down by supporting a bill that provides a mechanism to fund the Wall.
And how can President Trump complain after Pelosi hands him a bill that gives him the power to compel the funding of billions of dollars to the Wall? This is a win-win for everybody--unless President Trump is too cheap or insincere about the need to fund the Wall, in which case the bill will prove to the nation that the Emperor has no clothes. In that case it still is a win for everybody--except for Donald Trump.