Can We Get a "Cost of Invasion" Clock?
September 25, 2008, 12:25 AM
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Back when I lived in New York, I remember seeing the national debt clock in Times Square, with its constantly flipping numbers — and the vague feeling of helplessness they created.

I was reminded of it today. Court had me sitting in an administrative law judge`s office for the entire morning. The "pro-se", or do-it-yourself, litigant had burned up another morning a few months back by declaring, at the end of the proceedings, that she wanted an interpreter for her particular Middle Eastern language.

So, we were back again today. The interpreter was there, on the taxpayer dime. Only this time, toward the beginning of the proceedings, the litigant declared that she wanted a lawyer. The judge wasn`t pleased, but allowed for another hearing. The judge asked why lawyer-hiring couldn`t have been attended to earlier, and litigant explained that she had been in her particular Middle Eastern country for most of the time.

So, two whole mornings of wasted time, all paid for by American consumers and taxpayers. This litigant`s citizenship status wasn`t clear, but even as a full citizen, she`s imposed on the rest of us a cost because of her inability to understand English (and demonstrated that she`s not exactly fully committed to living in the United States).

My experience won`t make the news. But things like this happen every day, all day, in many places across America. Maybe what we need, to drive home the point, is a clock that measures all these costs.