The "cost" figures cited in news reports are always suspect.
The true cost of any action is the value of whatever you have to give up in order to take that action.
We hardly ever know, when a government agency or news media source "reports" that such and such an event has "cost" the taxpayers such and such an amount, whether it's accurate.
We have to understand the difference between variable costing and absorption costing. These are accounting concepts. In variable costing of an event, the only relevant costs are those that are incurred with respect to that event -- the costs that would NOT have been incurred had the event not taken place. Variable costing is the correct method of accounting when you're talking about what it cost the taxpayers for the IRS to produce a Star Trek video, or what it cost the taxpayers for [redacted].
By contrast, absorption costing includes a pro-rata share of the non-variable costs, the fixed costs if you will. For example, if the IRS employees who particiated in the video were paid their regular salaries for the time they spent working on the videos, and they would have been paid those salaries whether working on the videos or working on "regular stuff" at their desks, etc., then such costs are non-variable costs. These costs are not costs of producing the video -- they're not variable costs. Similarly, the costs to operate [redacted] -- if they would have been incurred anyway during the specific, same time period in which [redacted] took place -- are not costs of the "show."
Now, the benefits (whatever they might have been) of the real work that didn't get done by the IRS personnel while making the Star Trek video -- those would have been some costs of producing the video. [Sentence redacted]
You don't use a hammer to do the job of a saw. Both are tools, but each is "valid" as a tool only in the context of the task for which it is designed and intended. Accounting and economic concepts (such as absorption costing and variable costing) are also tools. Absorption costing is the correct tool when you're talking about how much it costs an enterprise or agency to operate over a period of time -- including both variable and fixed costs. Variable (or "direct") costing is the correct tool when you're talking about how much a particular event or operation costs.
The truth is, when the news media issues theses reports, we often don't know whether the "cost" figures they are using really reflect the proper amounts.
Edit: Famspear's formulation of the opportunity cost theory of value:
The cost of any action or forebearance is the value of the best alternative in the set of mutually exclusive alternatives applicable thereto.
[Moderator: As fine and technical as Famspear's response was, unfortunately it made references to a controversial political event. In order to preserve the answer as much as possible, since I believe that it has a worthwhile explanation, I redacted the political references. Famspear, you are welcome to re-edit your post to reflect what you were trying to convey, as long as you don't make any reference to a specific event or politico. - The Observer]
Edit: Hmmm. I know we aren't supposed to be having political debates or discussions in this forum, but I was unaware that we're not even supposed to "make any reference to a specific [controversial political] event". My references were not intended as "political" references -- I was using the example posted by fortinbras and the Star Trek video example. Maybe we need to have some more discussion about what is or is not the rule here in Quatloos. -- Famspear
...why is anyone in this [losthorizons] community paying the least attention to...'Larry Williams' [Famspear], or other purveyors of disinformation from...quatloos? – Pete Hendrickson, former inmate 15406-039, Fed’l Bureau of Prisons