What Does It Cost?


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Republicans have once again been reborn as deficit hawks. It happens every time a Democrat is elected president. Republicans are hoping with a 50/50 senate they can stop some if not all of President Biden’s investment in America infrastructure and America’s future. Republicans run the country on an austerity program for all but the wealthy. Democrats invest in the country, our people and our future.

The one thing that Republicans seem to have little problem investing in these days is wars. Unless we steal mineral riches that we can ‘expropriate’ after the war ends, war usually do not have any return on investment and is usually money down the drain. For instance, in 2021 dollars the Viet Nam War cost about a trillion dollars, not to mention 58,000 American lives.

One can easily imagine that that trillion dollars could have been spent in much more productive ways. What is the lost opportunity of that trillion dollars? It could have built schools, rehabbed housing, been used as a downpayment on a national health care system for all.

And of course each of those lives lost represents a lost lifetime of earning, of creating products or contributing to society. Is there a dollar amount that can be placed on that?

I use Viet Nam only as an example for a broader thought. As Republicans once again climb their pulpit fiscal conservatism – we will be hearing a lot about conservatism from them as the infrastructure bill wends its way through congress – we will never hear of the cost of the sacred cows in their barns.

Let’s look at guns for a start. 30,000+ people die from guns yearly in the US, far more than any other country. Each has a cost in a broken family left behind and a loss of lifetime earnings. We hear about the death on the nightly news and that is all we ever hear. We never think beyond that.

But not everyone who is shot dies. Last I heard there were some 100,000 + victims of gunshots yearly in the US. We almost never hear about what happens to them unless you know them personally. While some no doubt escape with a scar or other minor problem, many are greatly injured for life, some fully incapacitated. 

It is not that unusual for a gun victim to be unable to perform their job thus losing their income. Often their income becomes social security which is in no way able to support a human being. In many cases there are medical problems, surgeries and medical devices that are not free. Homes often have to be remodeled to accommodate handicaps or new dwellings must be secured.

I think back to the shooting on the Iowa campus in November of 1991 when graduate student Gang Lu killed 5 people and injured 1. The one he injured, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, lived another 17 years paralyzed from the neck down. From that day forward she needed round the clock care. Who paid for that>

EverytownUSA states it this way: 

The United States is in a pandemic-induced recession, with large sectors of the economy closed and an austere fiscal environment for the foreseeable future. Every level of government is straining to maintain critical hospital, fire, police, and sanitation services as well as the needs of schools, public transportation and road systems, and other basic government services. At a moment when every dollar counts, our federal, state, and local governments are spending a combined average of $34.8 million each day to deal with the aftermath of gun violence across the country. The total annual bill for taxpayers, survivors, families, employers, and communities is $280 billion. 

Put simply, America cannot afford gun violence.   

What about the cavalier attitude Republicans have pushed toward the corona virus? It has already had trillions of dollars of cost world wide. The longer it hangs on the more it will cost and the better the chance it will mutate to nullify the current vaccines. Republican policy is pushing non-compliance with vaccinations as it did non-compliance with masks. These policies will have some cost that we can’t even estimate. 

We do know that the virus is no where near being contained. We also know that there are already a large number “long haulers” who may be having Covid related problems the rest of their lives. As the vulnerable population gets younger because of vaccines, the chances that someone 15 or younger will have a lifetime of medical problems due to Covid get higher.

Democrats want to invest in education, many wanting to make education through 4 years of college free like other Western democracies do. Republicans say we can’t afford it. Yet, will the upfront investment in education more than pay itself back in competitive economies years down the road? Or do we let other countries far surpass us in future technological achievements to save a buck today?

How about universal health care? We all know that there are billions on the books at hospitals and clinics across the country. With the Covid pandemic some people have been surprised to find that insurance is not nearly as robust as they were led to believe. Imagine getting health care without the bill. Imagine how much more productive our working population could be with proper healthcare without the worries of how to pay for it.

Republican austerity policy saves little money up front. Even that they usually find a way to give to their largest donor. Often what are small problems today are left to fester to the point where they become huge problems in the future that cost much more.

President Biden’s infrastructure proposal is looking to take on some of the worst neglected problems, yet at $2 Trillion it is really only a down payment on what has been neglected since the Reagan days.

The real costs show up in the long run. Eventually we must pay the piper.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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