There are things more important than money

I’ve learned a lot of lessons about money, some easier than others, in the years since I pushed a lawnmower back and forth across Mrs. Carroll’s and Mrs. Greiner’s yards in Bloomfield long ago.

My start as a gainfully employed contributor to the U.S. economy was inauspicious in the grand scheme of things. But I felt like a regular John D. Rockefeller – in blue jeans and a ball cap, instead of a suit and top hat – when the ladies settled up by handing over a couple of dollar bills each week.

In those early years, my attitude toward money was pretty simple, mostly falling along the lines of “more is better.”

However, in the years since that sweaty introduction to free enterprise, I have come to realize that money is not the most important thing around. Sometimes, it creates more problems than it solves.

As one wag once remarked, money often costs too much.

We saw that cost/benefit analysis on display last week in Washington, D.C., although we’ve seen it before at troubling times in our nation’s history.

President Trump decided, in essence, to shrug off the gruesome murder and dismembering of a Washington Post journalist by agents of the Saudi Arabian government. The president said there is too much riding on the United States’ economic and strategic relations with the Mideast kingdom to do anything more.

He cited the oil we import from Saudi Arabia and the military weapons and equipment the kingdom buys from American businesses. He pointed to the jobs that exist in the United States because of American exports to Saudi Arabia.

This is where that saying comes to mind about money sometimes costing too much.

If the United States is willing to look the other way when a U.S. resident is deliberately slaughtered by a supposed ally of ours, does $14.5 billion in Saudi purchases of U.S.-made munitions, with the possibility of more purchases to come later, make that all OK?

How large would those Saudi imports have to be for President Trump to excuse the murder of a dozen U.S. residents by the Saudi government?

Or what if Saudi Arabia wants to purchase nuclear equipment and technology from the United States? Would all of that Saudi money, and all of those new American jobs, make it impossible for the U.S. to say “no”?

The president reminded Americans that his administration has imposed sanctions on 17 men involved in the killing and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He pointed to the U.S. government taking away their travel visas.

Yes, that’s true. But keeping these men from vacationing at Disney World or from seeing a Broadway musical is a meaningless form of punishment since they are in jail in Saudi Arabia and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The president would have us believe that there are no other options short of severing all ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. But that’s not true. There clearly are intermediate steps our government could take – if the president were so inclined.

The U.S. government could indefinitely postpone Saudi Arabia’s purchase of U.S. military equipment to send a clear message to the king and the crown prince that murdering a U.S. resident will not be tolerated.

Our government could embargo the sale of certain other goods and services to Saudi Arabia.

If the Trump administration can impose tariffs on some raw materials coming into the U.S. from Canada, why is it out of the question to directly penalize Saudi Arabia for the grotesque murder of Khashoggi? When was the last time agents of Canada’s prime minister chopped up a visitor from the United States?

Someone might remind the president that the United States imports three times more oil from Canada than from Saudi Arabia. And sales of everything from soup to nuts to Saudi Arabia are a blip compared with our exports to Canada.

So, we come back to money and American values.

Little will be gained, in the long run, by the United States’ shameful indifference to a brutal thug – even if that thug is a strategic friend of ours in the Middle East.

Can you get the U.S. to approve of your barbarism if you buy enough apartments and rent enough hotel rooms from Trump-owned businesses?

Is the almighty dollar more important than our nation’s commitment to human rights?


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Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and retired opinion editor at the Des Moines Register. He is a native of Bloomfield, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He can be reached at

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