High Cost Solutions

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While congress struggles to agree on details of the biggest financial bailout of our history, I got to thinking about government spending in general. If we can find $700 billion dollars to save our economy from the brink of disaster - what other money is out there being infused into programs and priorities that garner so much less scrutiny, accumulating into large or inappropriately small sums over time?

About three years ago the Palm Center released a study of the financial costs of "don't ask, don' tell" in its first ten years, estimating the total cost of the program to be over $360 million dollars. Three years and an additional 2000 discharges later, the cost is likely closer to half a billion dollars. And while that doesn't even come close to the cost of subsidizing lending indiscretions on Wall Street, it constitutes a significant investment in eliminating openly gay servicemembers from the Armed Forces.

It would be interesting to compare the cost of this policy with, for example, the cost of implementing the 2004 Department of Defense policy to prevent and respond to sexual assault involving servicemembers A September 2008 study of the program released by the Government Accountability Office suggests that "actions are needed to strengthen implementation and oversight" of the program citing limited resources and limited access to mental health services as challenges.

Of course, all of these programs will suffer in the short term if the economy goes into a long recession reminiscent of the Great Depression. And perhaps they will suffer less with an infusion of billions of dollars into the banking industry. Either costly solution will be felt throughout our society and will inevitably cause us to rethink our priorities.

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