Friday, October 30, 2009

Opportunity Cost- What it looks like

Many of us have learned what opportunity cost is in our economics class-- it is what we give up in order to get something else. Even though I know that opportunity cost could apply to small or large-scale situations, I tend to get caught up with the small-scale. For instance, this morning I woke up half-an-hour earlier so that I could eat breakfast and the opportunity cost of that was half-an-hour of sleep. For some reason when I think about opportunity cost, my mind immediately goes to my personal day-to-day utilization of time and money.

I went into work today and my supervisor told me to research the costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars and subsequently find what the US could have spent the same amount of money on. Essentially-- opportunity cost. This is what I found from

Taxpayers in the United States will pay $915.1 billion for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
  • 269,705,508 People with Health Care for One Year OR
  • 947,364,311 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year OR
  • 19,764,579 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
  • 15,693,033 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
  • 141,481,138 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
  • 171,046,729 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
  • 7,118,476 Affordable Housing Units OR
  • 403,332,085 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
  • 125,579,800 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
  • 15,032,444 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
  • 13,221,600 Port Container Inspectors for One year
In 2001, I was in seventh grade and had no idea what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan-- it was almost a mental tune-out whenever I heard the names of these two countries. Now, being a college student, I'm experiencing over a 30% rise in tuition costs in one year with fewer instruction days and fewer scholarship opportunities. Recent graduates across all college campuses are having trouble finding employment, which is often coupled with a lack of adequate health insurance. These numbers clearly illustrate the ways in which the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cut a plethora of resources domestically whether it be jobs, education, healthcare, etc. This is definitely not what I originally had in mind when I thought about opportunity cost.