During his polarizing presidential campaign, President Donald Trump mobilized support around an unlikely cause: building a wall between the United States and Mexico. On the campaign trail, Trump himself estimated the cost of the wall at around $10 billion — this was based off numbers given to him by the National Precast Concrete Association.
Even as a low-end estimate, $15 billion is a lot of money — money that, directed toward certain communities and projects, could lead to impressive accomplishments.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” allocated $250 billion, in today’s terms, toward large-scale infrastructural projects and jobs programs that helped the US kick the Great Depression.
An investment of $15 billion, just a fraction of the money spent on the “New Deal,” could still have a tremendous impact on the US economy, or on the many development projects the US supports around the world.
President Trump might be well-served by considering investing in the future. So, we’re politely suggesting 15 ways the US could invest $15 billion that are not building a wall.
1. Invest in girls’ education around the world.
The United States Agency for International Development has invested about 1/25th of a wall (or $600 million) in the Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to break down barriers to education for 98 million girls around the world who are not enrolled in school. Imagine what 25 initiatives like that could do for girls’ education around the world.
2. Bring green energy to the United States.
With an investment of $15 billion in renewable energy, about 400,000 individual American homes could install a solar panel (at $35,000 per 5kW panel), a 40% increase over the current total countrywide, or the US could double the current investment in wind-power projects through the Clean Power Plan.
3. Double spending on education in emergencies.
Sixty-five million children around the world have their educations disrupted because of political conflicts, environmental disasters, and other dislocations, each year. It takes just $8 billion to continue to provide an education to these children — about half of the amount of money it would take to build a 2,000 mile border wall.
4. Build wells, not walls.
The price of building a well varies from country to country — ranging anywhere from $1,000-15,000 — but assuming an average cost of $10,000 per well, the US could build 1.5 million wells around the world. About 800 million people around the world lack access to clean water, according to the UN, which can lead to water-related diseases that kill 6-8 million per year.
Learn more: What You Need to Know About Water and Sanitation
5. Solve half of the global food crisis.
The New York Times has estimated that it would take around $30 billion a year to solve the global food crisis. With an investment of $15 billion, the United States could provide critical food aid to the world’s poorest inhabitants, seeds and fertilizers for farmers, and research on crop yields.
6. Help end open defecation in India.
India hopes to build 12 million toilets across rural India to prevent the practice of open defecation, which poses serious public health challenges for the rapidly developing country. The total investment in this project is $30 billion, or the equivalent of about two border walls.
7. Provide more than two thirds of the emergency funds for humanitarian crises for all of 2017.
A UN report released in December of last year revealed that it would only take $22.2 billion to provide life-saving aid to 92.8 million people in 2017, affecting people in 33 countries.
8. Eradicate polio.
The United States is uniquely positioned to initiate a final push to eradicate polio, a curable illness that has decreased by over 99% since 1988. The world would need a $1.3 billion investment to end polio for good, which would cost just a fraction of Trump’s proposed border wall.
Take action: Vaccines Should Be Accessible and Affordable For All
9. Make solar-powered planes a reality.
The first-ever solar-powered plane took 13 years and $170 million to develop, which seems like a lot until you take into account the fact that for the price of one border wall, you could invest in a fleet of 90 solar-powered planes instead. This could have the potential to drastically reduce carbon emissions from planes, which currently run at about 2-3 tons of CO2 per person for a round trip flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
10. Insure 1.5 million Americans.
The Affordable Care Act has been in the news alot lately, as Trump and Congressional Republicans look to repeal and replace the legislation. At a cost of around $10,000 per person, the US could insure well over 1.5 million more Americans with an investment of $15 billion, driving down an already historically-low uninsured rate.
11. Increase global funding for family planning and contraceptive care.
The United States is the largest international donor in the world when it comes to providing family planning and contraceptive resources to developing countries — investing $600 million in these programs. This $600 million investment, the Guttmacher institute reports, provides care to 27 million women and couples around the world. A $15 billion investment could provide care to 600 million people.
12. Relieve 1% of all US student debt.
US debt is at a staggering $1.3 trillion, which means a $15 billion investment in loan forgiveness would only relieve about 1% of student debt. Maybe we should look into free public college?
13. Bike share bikes on every corner.
At a cost of $4,000-$5,000 per bike, the US could provide over 3 million bike share vehicles across the country. For context, Citibike — the New York City bike share system — has a grand total of 6,000 vehicles. #BikeShareBikesOnEveryCorner
14. Increase foreign aid spending on HIV/AIDS.
The United States is planning on spending a grand total of $34 billion on foreign aid in 2017, or the equivalent of about two border walls. In 2014, the US spent $3.1 billion on HIV/AIDS projects, which could be quintupled if the funds for the border wall were redirected to humanitarian healthcare assistance.
15. A taco truck on every third corner.
The average startup cost for a food truck generally runs around $80,000, Forbes reports, which means a $15 billion investment in mobile kitchens could produce 200,000 taco trucks. Fusion has further estimated that the United States has about 600,000 corners in need of taco trucks, which means instead of a wall between the US and Mexico, we could literally have a taco truck on every third corner.