Marco Gutierrez, the founder of "Latinos for Trump," meant it as a dire warning when suggested in an appearance on MSNBC on Thursday that a Hillary Clinton presidency could eventually lead to floods of newly arrived immigrants staffing up "taco trucks on every corner."
But, as anyone with half a brain knows, having a taco truck on every corner would be a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Mr. Gutierrez is a dreamer, but I'm a doer. So let's do some back-of-the-envelope math and see what numbers and policies we would need to make this utopia into a reality.
This plan requires three basic elements: knowing how many corners will need to be staffed, getting the people to staff them and finding the capital to get things going.
Let's do this.
STEP 1: THE CORNERS
First things first, we can't have a taco truck on every corner until we know how many corners we're dealing with. This turned out to be a harder number to acquire than I thought. Attempting to find the answer answer on the Internet mostly led to a lot of Quora pages, none with an authoritative response.
An artist trying to catalog all of New York City's street corners in 2010 found that there were about 3,000 intersections in the borough of Manhattan. Using Manhattan's population of 1.6 million, we can guess a ratio of about one intersection for every 550 people. This number isn't perfect due to Manhattan's population density being so much higher than the average—we'd need a special census to nail this down once we actually implemented the plan. But if we extrapolate the Manhattan ratio for the U.S. population of 318.9 million, we get a total of 580,000 street corners in need of good Mexican food.
Here is my math, for you math people out there.
STEP 2: EMPLOYEES
Industry research firm IBISWorld estimates that 78 percent of street food businesses have four or fewer employees. Let's split the difference and say that, to start, we're going to need two entrepreneur-chefs per truck for a total of about 1.15 million people to get this program off the ground.
Despite Gutierrez's claims, it would be impossible to staff up the Taco Truck Restauranteur Corps from existing immigration. It would also be extremely racist to assume everyone immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico is a good chef, let alone cut out for the demanding food truck business. So we need to look at ten percent of any of the numbers we see, as that is the percentage of the population the National Restaurant Association estimates is in the food service industry.
Even without the ten percent cut, the immigration numbers don't even come close. The Department of Homeland Security reported 134,052 permanent residents immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico in 2014. Undocumented immigration is harder to estimate as it's, well, undocumented, but the Pew Research Center said there were only 5.6 million undocumented migrants from Mexico living in the U.S. in 2014, and that number has been going down since a peak of 6.9 million in 2007.
Let's get serious here. We're never going to get on-demand, down-the-block taco service from an immigrant workforce without Congress taking action on two necessary programs.
- A special visa class allowing permanent residence to open a taco truck.
- A government-backed loan program to mitigate the startup costs.
STEP 3: FINDING THE MONEY
I haven't talked at all about the costs yet, but they are significant. The website FoodTruckEmpire estimates startup costs can be between $281,000 and $1.1 million, and that's before the estimated monthly costs of supplies, repairs, gas, etc. We also will need some sort of subsidy to keep the operation going, as having a truck on every corner is going to completely kill supply and demand.
If we set aside about $500,000 for each truck, the loan program is going to need to be able to dish out $290 billion in capital. That may sound pricey, but remember that the government is expected to spend $1.5 trillion funding the F-35 fighter jet. We need to re-evaluate what's more important for America. Unless the Air Force has some secret taco delivery service planned, I think the answer is simple.
There you have it: A simple, actionable blueprint toward putting a taco truck on every corner. You're welcome, America.