Trump Is the National Emergency

Is that $5.7 Billion in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Courtesy Photo

Trump finally got something right. We are in the midst of a national crisis. No, make that a national emergency.

Craft beer brewers, we are just now finding out, can no longer get their new concoctions to market because of the president’s decision to shut down the federal government over The Wall. That turned off the lights on a special branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives responsible for clearing new brews for takeoff.

IPAs will be especially hard-hit by the shutdown. That’s because IPAs are inherently undrinkable unless you happen to savor the flavor of a mildew-infused basement. The only thing that’s kept the IPA bubble from bursting ​— ​other than nitrogen, of course, for a smoother, more velvety feel ​— ​has been the perpetual quest for jarringly inventive new flavor combinations bestowed with insufferably clever names. This matters deeply because the economic stability of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone rests on the frothy bedrock of the IPA trade. Given that the Funk Zone has become the tail wagging the dog of Santa Barbara’s economic prosperity, we are all deeply affected.

Mr. Trump, you know this means war.

One might have thought we’d have been more outraged that the Federal Emergency Management Agency ​— ​which just spent $100 million hauling away the sand, mud, and boulders after last year’s Montecito nightmare ​— ​was forced to notify its armies of private contractors they would no longer be getting paid. Or perhaps because new stock offerings, the lifeblood of Santa Barbara’s investor class, would be curtailed because the Securities and Exchange Commission has gone indefinitely dark. Or because the Department of Housing and Urban Development found itself forced to send out letters to landlords renting to Section 8 housing voucher recipients, asking them to please not evict their tenants.

All this for a wall?

I don’t really get it. A crisis? The number of illegal entries into the United States from the southern border is as low as it’s been in 30 years. That’s an emergency? Yes, some criminals do cross the border illegally, but a very small number. Study after study continuously shows natural-born Americans are far more likely to break the law, violently or otherwise, than immigrants. Before the speech, administration spokespeople repeatedly argued the wall was necessary because 4,000 known terrorists had entered the United States illegally via the southern border. When news outlets effectively demonstrated the actual number was only six, even Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway conceded the point. She dismissed the matter as an “unfortunate misstatement” and no mention of it was made Tuesday night.

It’s worth noting that Trump obliquely referred to the brutal 2015 slaying of Santa Maria resident Marilyn Pharis in his national address on Tuesday night. That crime was indeed horrific, and one of Pharis’s assailants was, in fact, in this country illegally. Her other assailant happened to be a red-blooded American citizen. Trump was quick to note the former but conspicuously neglected to mention the latter.

There’s no shortage of real national emergencies for which an infusion of $5.7 billion might make a genuine difference. To state the obvious, 400,000 people have died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017. Imagine if Al-Qaeda had inflicted such damage; we’d have carpet-bombed the entire Middle East three times by now. Instead, we’ve talked the problem to death and the body count keeps going up. In 2017, the number of opioid deaths was six times higher than it was in 1999. Why don’t we build a giant wall around Purdue Pharmaceuticals?

For other emergencies, it’s not so obvious where we might build a wall. But they are really obvious emergencies. In 2008, there were 5.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s; back then, a new case developed every 71 seconds. Today, that’s accelerated to a new one every 65 seconds. By 2050, it will be every 33 seconds. Or try diabetes on for size: Right now, we have 30 million people with diabetes. Ten years ago, that number was 20 million. Right now, we’re spending $327 billion to “fight” diabetes. By 2030, that number is projected to be $622 billion. Diabetes isn’t just about daily insulin injections; too often it’s about getting your limbs amputated.

Or to get more obvious and closer to the bone, how about wildfires? In California alone, we had 8,527 wildfires last year. That’s 102 dead people and 1.8 million acres up in smoke. Ten years ago, it was four dead people and 452,000 acres. I don’t know where you build a wall to stop wildfires, but I can do the math well enough to understand that’s a big jump: $5.7 billion could go a long way making people safer.

And to belabor the obvious even further, who do you think is going to care for all the people with Alzheimer’s and diabetes? Who do you think does it now? Based with what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, a very large percentage of the people providing actual hands-on care come from other countries. I make it a point not to ask about their legal status. It’s an impossible job. I’m just grateful someone is doing it.

Trump has become to the body politic what an aneurysm is to the brain. In any number of countries, someone like that could be removed by a simple vote of no confidence. In the United States, we rely on the more difficult process of impeachment, normally reserved for high crimes, misdemeanors, and the occasional blow job. Maybe in the meantime Republican Senators will grow a pair. Or maybe the aneurysm will have an aneurysm. One has to have hope. Otherwise, there’s a whole lot of IPAs collecting dust down in the Funk Zone.

Editor's Note: This story was corrected on January 14 to state that Marilyn Pharis had lived in Santa Maria, not Lompoc.