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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Government Shutdown -- Opportunity Costs

As I watch many Republican elected officials deflect responsibility for the harm the Tea Party faction inflicted upon the nation, I find myself reflecting in a wistful manner to my undergraduate experience. Warm memories of a simpler time, a time that seems so near, yet so distant swirl around and clarifies with "Opportunity Costs."

While not an economist, I share with most educated people an exposure to Econ courses in which professors harangued students with those immutable laws we would do well to remember. It was drilled into us that everything has a cost, every policy, action, product, service...and then there was the opportunity costs; those costs which reflect choices not made, opportunities not pursued in favor of choices actually made. Heady stuff this, yet germane to what we've just experienced with the Tea Party GOP Shutdown of the federal government.

It is being reported that the shutdown has cost the national economy $24 Billion. What does that mean? What opportunity costs were born to pursue this strategy of government shutdown?

A Nimitz Class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier has a construction cost of $4.5 Billion. The cost of government shutdown has cost us not just the lost $24 Billion, but also the opportunity to build five of these carriers.  Carriers are just one example. Consider how many college students could be afforded a college education if those funds were appropriated towards programs to help them, rather than to pay for shutting government infrastructure down. How could $24 Billion be used to further research into cancer treatments, Alzheimer's research, and a host of other economic policy choices that can improve the lives of Americans.

Indeed, we have paid a high price to the narcissism and political extortion by a minority of GOP elected officials called the Tea Party Caucus by some. These people say they are about protecting the hard working average American, but in fact they are using the prejudices of low information voters to push their own agendas which cover a wide range from Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism to Libertarian Philosophies espoused by a number of billionaires who resent government regulations exerting any say in how they operate. No matter what motivation underlies the extortion of the American people, there is no doubt that the opportunity costs are huge and shall be born by our people for years to come.

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