Monday, May 6, 2013

Hidden Costs

As some of the kids we know began to graduate from college and high school, and some personal events of staff members drive up their budgetary expenses this month, we've all started to look a bit deeper at the costs of our American life, both obvious and hidden.

Sadly, as we've been counting the two basic types of costs, we've realized many Americans today only see one of those expenses. The garment factory collapse in Bangladesh nearly two weeks ago is a perfect example of the blindness of Americans to the category of indirect costs.

The building collapse, which killed over 600 people, was at a factory producing clothes for American and Western corporations. Since the collapse, many ugly facts have come out about the building and its owners - not the least of which is that the building which contained the factory had three extra, unlicensed stories added to it. What's worse, the architect for the building that held the factories now says they were never designed for use as factories, only for shops and offices.

Those 600-plus dead workers aren't something most Americans think of when they look at the tag on that new designer blouse, or those new boots.

Unfortunately, a large group of Americans do not appear to be any more savvy about the costs of war, either - even after the misadventures of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

This past weekend, some of the less ethical Western news media, the right-wing political chickenhawks, and the government of Israel all seemed desperate to push the U.S. to join in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Israeli forces attacked inside Syria, reportedly targeting Iranian missiles controlled by the current Syrian government. Not surprisingly, that government's leader, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, saw Israel's attack as an act of war - which the U.S. right-wing neo-cons seem all-too-inclined to support.

For all the bluster of the chickenhawks to insist the U.S. immediately jump into another pointless land war in the Middle East, President Obama quite obviously isn't taking their bait. His graying hair and the deepening lines on his face are obvious enough signs that Obama understands the full costs of war. The President also may have already had intelligence that it wasn't the Assad regime that used chemical weapons recently - it was the rebels instead.

Either way, you can also see Obama understands by his actions that leaping to conclusions as Senators Graham and McCain have on Syria have a high price.

That's why Obama's agenda this weekend wasn't focused on Syria. The President finished his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica,  gave a positive and hope filled commencement address at Ohio State, and today, his plan is to keep the focus on the item Americans care about most - jobs - even after Friday's positive jobs numbers were released.

Meanwhile, some of the same chicken hawks in Congress who can always find their way in front of television cameras, are only now finally making their way back to Capitol Hill, to do the jobs the American people elected them to do.

There are direct and indirect costs to most things each of us do, and - like the deaths of over 600 souls in Bangladesh - as Americans, we don't always seem to check the label for the total cost.

Thankfully, when it comes to the idea of sending troops into Syria, President Obama seems well aware of the full cost, and - so far - he seems to understand the American people simply aren't willing to pay the hidden costs this time around.