Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE COST OF THE WAR....Milton Friedman said that borrowing and taxing were the same thing. With that in mind, here's the tax bill bequeathed to all of us by George Bush:

The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion, according to a new study by congressional Democrats....[The] report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

Are we getting our money's worth?

Kevin Drum 2:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Comments

No.

Thank you for asking. You may all disperse now.

Posted by: MFB on November 13, 2007 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Borrowing isn't quite the same as taxing, but I see why he said that. When you borrow heavily, you commit the future generation to paying off the interest, and that general means raising taxes to do so. But under our current political ground rules, taxes can never again be raised, so it is more correct to say that borrowing is the same as forcing huge future government spending cuts. And oh, by the way? Do you think that's a coincidence?

Posted by: jprichva on November 13, 2007 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

equally interesting question... are you getting what you deserve?

Posted by: billy on November 13, 2007 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Damn it's late...I meant "generally means" not "general means"

Posted by: jprichva on November 13, 2007 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

I know it was painful at the time, but I almost long for the Ross Perot charts ... You remember the ones where he explained why borrowing money never makes sense. Where are the Democrats that should be hammering home the themes of fiscal responsibility and stewardship? This current bunch make me want to vomit, they are so weak and mealy-mouthed.

Posted by: MplsKen on November 13, 2007 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Spending on disposables currently, that the future will have to pay for.

It is the same as levying a tax, and particularly a tax without the representation of those that are taxed.

It is sickly ironic that that became the virtue of conservative economic policy.

There are some words in the conservative lexicon that are useful, words like "responsibility", in contrast to "irresponsibility".

Posted by: Richard Witty on November 13, 2007 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

Billions have disappeared, squandered without accountability, inflated costs, contractor fraud. Witness the Pentatgon's contracting officer and whistle-blower Bunny Greenhouse telling the Congress about "blatant and improper contracting abuse," only to be demoted. Many other contract managers have come forward to detail corruption and fraud.
Too little, too late. An un-recouped loss of treasure, many tragic deaths.
Bush contradicted a National Intelligence Estimate Report in January, 2002 when he claimed Iraq was a "grave and growing danger."
Truth is, the worst administration in history is responsible for countless deaths, zillions of our dollars lining their cronies' pockets, and Congress marched in lock-step.
Look at the falling dollar, the enormous debt, massive trade deficits, jobs lost, growing heath costs--this country is in crisis.
This administration has the nerve to say health care for poor children will cost too much.
I fear what other damage this wretched GOP will do in the year left to them.

Posted by: consider wisely always on November 13, 2007 at 4:33 AM | PERMALINK

Not that I believe in throwing money at poverty but another way to look at this figure is U.S. $225 for every man, woman and child in Africa. To put it in further perspective, here are the per capita GNP figures for some of these countries:

Burundi $90
Liberia $110
Malawi $160

Almost seven hundred million lives, a continent, could have been transformed...

We're a frightened little ape with very weird priorities.

Posted by: snicker-snack on November 13, 2007 at 4:44 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, but Bush managed to land on an aircraft carrier and say "Mission Accomplished". Surely that was worth 1.5 trillion dollars. Well, since the war was one of choice rather than necessity, and part of Bush/Rovian/Cheney party politics, perhaps the bill should be sent to the Republican National Committee.

Posted by: wab on November 13, 2007 at 4:44 AM | PERMALINK

Snicker, I think you're off by a decimal place. Multiply your result by 10.

Posted by: JS on November 13, 2007 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

U.S. $225

Yikes, that was meant to be US $2250 to each man, woman and child in Africa.

Or US $300,000 to each Iraqi family of four. I gotta say, they seem pretty ungrateful for all this largess being showered upon them. Must be something about the manner in which it's being delivered.

Posted by: snicker-snack on November 13, 2007 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, JS. You beat me to it!

Posted by: snicker-snack on November 13, 2007 at 5:10 AM | PERMALINK

I've been wondering for months why the Democrats don't attack the Iraq war on the basis of the fact that every nickel to "fund" it is borrowed money. Contrary to Dick Cheney's beliefs, debt DOES matter, because someone must pay this money back, with interest. And it's going to be our children and grandchildren.

Write your Congressperson today and tell them "STOP STEALING FROM OUR CHILDREN!!!".

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 13, 2007 at 5:49 AM | PERMALINK

iraq land area = 432,162 sq km (cia world factbook)
or 166,855 sq mi
or 106,786,959 acres
$1.5T / 106786959 = $14,046.66 per acre

for you non-farmers, an acre is about 208.71 feet on a side if square.

Posted by: supersaurus on November 13, 2007 at 7:00 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats should always refer to the budget deficit at "The George W. Bush War Tax".

Or maybe "The Republican Tax on Grandkids".

Posted by: Oberon on November 13, 2007 at 7:21 AM | PERMALINK

Write your Congressperson today and tell them "STOP STEALING FROM OUR CHILDREN!!!".


!!!!!

Posted by: Richard Witty on November 13, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

exactly the sort of criminal administration we
retarded and complacent Americans deserve. voted
for him twice, didn't we?

Posted by: kumar bajaj on November 13, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Giant Rat Hole

Posted by: bakho on November 13, 2007 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

"we" who?

"The Institute for Policy Studies calculated last year that the top 34 CEOs of the defense industry have earned a combined billion dollars since 9/11; ; they should give bin Laden his cut." - Cashing In on Terror_By Robert Scheer
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20071030
_scheer_column_cashing_in

Posted by: MsNThrope on November 13, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Cost of the war? You need to ask Bush that question and see what kind of lie he throws back at us as for as numbers and tell him to add what he and Cheney and Haliburton stuck in thier pockets out of all this money for a war that Bush started.

Posted by: Al on November 13, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Taxing and borrowing the same?

What a maroooon.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 13, 2007 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's the perfect Rovian plan: funnel a trillion or so through the Pentagon to Republican cronies, then when the Democrat elected to clean up the mess has to raise taxes to keep the country from bankruptcy, paint them as the Antichrist, ensuring corrupt Republican rule for another generation. Wake up, America. You've been had.

Posted by: dalloway on November 13, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Taxes are to borrowing like fish are to bicycles. Why should anyone who voted for Gore or Kerry be suprised that Amerika has a racist, imperialist, economic policy? All non Native Americans should be imprisoned as war criminals.

Posted by: Pat/ Steve on November 13, 2007 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Congratulations to Brojo on the most bizarre non sequitur of the day (actually, there may be three in that small post, one in each sentence). Time to up the medication, dude.

Posted by: Crusty Dem on November 13, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Are we getting our money's worth?

No, but the the GOP is.

Total cost, approximately $1.5 trillion,

The opportunity, in a 'wartime' 'emergency', to write the tax law, appoint the judges, craft the regulatory environment for labor, the environment and the securities industry, and construe the Constitution for the best part of a decade, and in the case of the judiciary, deep into the new century: Priceless.

It's not a war -- it's the world's most expensive campaign commercial.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on November 13, 2007 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Are we getting our money's worth?

The neocons and Bush Cultists sure seem to think so, and seem pretty smug about the fact that they aren't paying any of the costs.

Posted by: Gregory on November 13, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

borrowing is the same as forcing huge future government spending cuts.

But when you take out the military budget, interest on the debt and social security, there isn't enough government spending left to cut to cover all of Bush's borrowing. Cut the whole government? Sure, Ron Paul would be happy but...

Posted by: tomeck on November 13, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

So what's the chances Democrats can frame the message that borrowing and taxing are the same? And that Bush's wars are taxing a family of four $20,000? Slim and none are the chances. Democrats can't even get bills passed to force hedge fund managers pay more than 15% of their income in taxes which is about half of the what typical family of four pays.

Posted by: jerseymissouri on November 13, 2007 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

>All non Native Americans should be imprisoned as war criminals.
Posted by: Brojo

Hmmm...well, with one Choushata grandparent would that mean I'd still have to go to a concentration camp but I'd like get a day pass occasionally or what?

What an moron.

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
- Albert Einstein

Posted by: MsNThrope on November 13, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

If we cut our War Department to $100 billion a year, we will have a perfectly adequate Defense Department and we will be able to afford other services.

Reagan, Bush and Bush are the biggest spendthrifts ever in the White House. Democrats need to make it clear to the voters how bad they were for the US.

Posted by: freelunch on November 13, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Are we getting our money's worth?
----------

When the war started oil was $29/barrel, now it is close to $100. Commodity analysts say that oil is overpriced about $30/barrel (the "terror premium"). Saber-rattling can be profitable. *Somebody* is definitely getting their money's worth.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 13, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Alas that Cheney won't be on the ballot next year. I think it'd be fun to do a campaign ad of his standard speech for the war... and then pan to a room full of kids, who are going to have to pay for it. Then you could have the actor playing Cheney go and take their lunch money, the jar of pennies (which cost two-thirds more than they're worth, btw) from the teacher's desk with the "donations for a new classroom globe" sticker on it, then he could go into some kids room at home and smash the piggybank, and finally go running down the street with coins falling out of his pocket shouting about Iran....

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Actually 1.5 trillion seems to be a worthwhile investment in our safety When you consider that the democrats and LBJ wasted 5.4 trillion on their so called "war on poverty".

Posted by: TruthPolitik on November 13, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Good effort TruthPolitik, but Brojo is still far ahead in the nutty department. Although you earn style points for wingnut regurgitation, your inane post is really more stupid than crazy. Keep trying.

Posted by: Crusty Dem on November 13, 2007 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Are we getting our money's worth? Well, I think eliminating the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam's rule in Iraq made the world a much better place. If democracy actually survives in either of those countries, that will be a remarkable achievement. From what I've read, the US and our allies have also done a fine job of weakening al Qaeda nationwide. Our defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq must be a blow to that organization.

The biggest beneficiaries are the people these two countries and their progeny. E.g., a recent AP story reported that medical care in Afghanistan has improved such that nearly 90,000 children who would have died before age 5 in 2001 will survive this year.

Ultimately, the value of these wars depends on what would have happened had we not acted. Would Saddam have reconstituted his nuclear program and again invaded Kuwait? Would al Qaeda have become far stronger? Or, would these potential threats have not amounted to much? So, the value will always be a matter of debate.

I do think it's unfair that the US bore so much of the cost, both in money and in blood. Overthrowing these evil regimes helps the entire world. In particular, Europe benefited at least as much as the US, because they're closer, thus more easily attacked. If Saddam had remained in power, he might have reconstituted his WMD programs and been able to threaten European cities.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 13, 2007 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hostile , er Brojo, must have picked up the vapors when he stumbled into a Veterans Day parade in Phoenix, yesterday. All of those "war criminals", eh, Hostile?

And Feinstein has spent the money of others soooo well in supporting those defense industry CEOs, has she not? Plus, they do not have to stop by the Presidio for tea while picking up their checks from her craven hands.

Posted by: bert on November 13, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

From what I've read, the US and our allies have also done a fine job of weakening al Qaeda nationwide.

National Intelligence Estimate: Al Qaeda stronger and a threat to US homeland:
Report points to war in Iraq and Pakistan's tribal areas as allowing Al Qaeda to regroup.

Christian Science Monitor
By Tom A. Peter
from the July 19, 2007 edition

The release of a new report Tuesday that says Al Qaeda has reorganized to pre-9/11 strength and is preparing for a major US strike has sparked debate among government officials and observers about the Bush administration's foreign policy and counterterrorism efforts. The National Intelligence Estimate assessment indicates that the Islamic terrorist organization's rise has been bolstered by the Iraq war and the failure to counter extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland" report focuses on the next three years and is the first report to review the potential for terrorist attacks exclusively in the United States, reports The Boston Globe. The nation's 16 intelligence agencies began compiling the report last October and completed their assessment in June.....the majority of the report focused on the "rejuvenating effect the Iraq war has had on Al Qaeda."

...."This clearly says Al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer , who formerly headed up the CIA's bin Laden search team.


Posted by: Stefan on November 13, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Would Saddam have reconstituted his nuclear and again invaded Kuwait?

No. Did you really think that this was a danger in 2002? If so, war supporters are more clueless and ignorant than I thought.

Interesting that you conflate Iraq with Afghanistan. Afghanistan, despite our many missteps (there's a resurgent Taliban, you know), has been a far less expensive operation and by any measure has been worthwhile. Iraq, not so much.

Posted by: Tyro on November 13, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

To answer ex-liberals questions.

No.
No.
Iraq no, Al Qaeda probably less so than it is today.

One can attempt to debate it, but any answer other than the above would have to come through very convoluted and illogical thinking.

Posted by: John on November 13, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Now ex-liberal here shows us some creative wingnuttery, I hope you're paying attention TruthPolitik, you could learn something. I particularly like the "reconstituted nuclear program" stuff, perhaps you should raise the ante with "the first warning is a mushroom cloud". And of course, the destruction of al queda in Iraq is a worthy goal for an invasion. We may, in time, destroy an organization that did not exist before our invasion. Kudos!

The re-invasion of Kuwait threat is a little off target, though, remember, if you want to use the fear of the American people, you have to make them fear for their own safety, not that of Kuwaitis they don't care about. Although throwing in the Europeans at the end is a nice touch...

Are these idiots paid by the word?

Posted by: Crusty Dem on November 13, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

There is no democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. Both countries are ruled by a foreign invader at this time.

While the death and destruction in both countries provides television viewing pleasure to some Americans, it is not an improvement.

The Taliban's rule of Afghanistan is probably the most popular rule that nation has ever had. Of course, it came about because of the US' intervention that created the warlords and destroyed much of the country's internal political institutions. The Taliban were the only political faction able to bring about stability to Afghanistan, and will probably be the ony one to do so in future. Although I do not like the Taliban's religious fundamentalism and their excercise of it as political power, they are the only political faction that was, and will probably be, able to stifle the war lords' rape of the Afghan people.

Iraq is much worse off now than during the dictatorship of Saddam. One million dead and another four millions displaced is America's only achievement in Iraq.

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Are we getting our money's worth?"

No. Next question?

"Well, I think eliminating the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam's rule in Iraq made the world a much better place."

Ah, so chaos and instability in Afghanistan, the return of the warlords, the meteoric rise of the drug trade, the resurgence of the Taliban was all good? So chaos and instability in Iraq, the rise of al Qaeda there, where it had never seriously functioned before, the instability in the entire region, the lack of any serious effort at reconciliation or national government, the rise in influence of Iran, the breaking of the U.S. military, reserve, and National Guard was all good?

Thanks for letting us know your priorities, dear.

"If democracy actually survives in either of those countries, that will be a remarkable achievement."

Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up first, dear.

"From what I've read, the US and our allies have also done a fine job of weakening al Qaeda nationwide."

ROFL.... Nationwide, dear? Which nation is that? As already noted above, al Qaeda has been strengthened by the Bush administration's efforts, not weakened.

"Our defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq must be a blow to that organization."

Sorry, dear, but you are, as usual, completely wrong. Thank you for playing. We have some lovely consolation prizes for you.

"The biggest beneficiaries are the people these two countries and their progeny."

Strange that they don't seem to be grateful, dear? Why is that, do you think? And no, dear, the "biggest beneficiaries" were the American oil companies, Halliburton, and so on, all of which benefited to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

"Ultimately, the value of these wars depends on what would have happened had we not acted."

Yup, and on that score, you lose, hands down.

"Would Saddam have reconstituted his nuclear program and again invaded Kuwait?"

No.

"Would al Qaeda have become far stronger?"

LOL.... Definitely, no.

"Or, would these potential threats have not amounted to much?"

Correct.

"So, the value will always be a matter of debate."

Not really, not to anyone who's paying attention and is not simply mindlessly regurgitating partisan drivel, like you.

"I do think it's unfair that the US bore so much of the cost, both in money and in blood."

Talk to the Bush administration, dear heart.

"Overthrowing these evil regimes helps the entire world."

Not in this case, dear, which is why the overwhelming majority of "the entire world" refuse to play along.

"In particular, Europe benefited at least as much as the US"

How about that? An actual true statement from our dear friend, faux-liberal. Alas, I fear he intended something different than reality, though, since I doubt he was referring to the fact that zero = zero.

"If Saddam had remained in power, he might have reconstituted his WMD programs and been able to threaten European cities."

ROFL.... No, dear, he wouldn't. But you keep on pretending if it makes you feel any better.

Posted by: PaulB on November 13, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 9:13 AM

That was not me.

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

That was not me.

Either Pat, Steve or Lou Dobbs made that post. Cowards who do not post any thoughts of their own under their stalking names, they now resort to hijacking mine. Their cowardice is so Americans for Jobs-like.

Is bert thirdPaul's new comment name?

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Either Pat, Steve or Lou Dobbs made that post at 9:13 AM.

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Borrowing isn't quite the same as taxing, but I see why he said that. jprichva

Friedman meant government can only spend if they have the power to tax. The statement has nothing to do with deficits, per se, but KD used it as a nice hook for a Democratic study of imagined costs of the war. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by: TJM on November 13, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

But when you take out the military budget, interest on the debt and social security, there isn't enough government spending left to cut to cover all of Bush's borrowing.

Um, who says the Republicans don't want to cut Social Security?

Posted by: cmdicely on November 13, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

>s bert thirdPaul's new comment name?

Yup. No subterfuge here - he changed from msn to comcast.

Waves to Paul.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
- Edward Abbey

Posted by: MsNThrope on November 13, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

>And Feinstein has spent the money of others soooo well in supporting those defense industry CEOs, has she not?

Including, naturally, her husband...Did ya see that the CA Dems are talking about censuring her?

"Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters." - Isaac Asimov

Posted by: MsNThrope on November 13, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Relax everyone. The Bush administration has repeatedly stated the war is “off budget”. Therefore war spending doesn’t count.

Posted by: fafner1 on November 13, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Um, who says the Republicans don't want to cut Social Security?

I didn't say they don't want to, I did imply that they can't. Even with Bush when he was still popular and majorities in the House and Senate they couldn't go anywhere on that issue. Ending Social Security is a Republican wet dream, nothing more.

Posted by: tomeck on November 13, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam's big mistake was trying to shift from petro dollars to petro euros. They killed him for that. We've enjoyed 5 more years of cheap oil because of this 1.5 trillion dollar war. Was it worth it? Only if you drive a gas guzzler and haven't lost a son over there, it is supposed.

Posted by: slanted tom on November 13, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK


...........paying bills is for suckers

Posted by: RNC on November 13, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Brojo, don't blame me. I think you are ridiculous, but I didn't post under your name. But don't worry. It's pretty obvious that not even someone as famously ill-informed as you could post that crap at 11:29.

Posted by: Steve on November 13, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cowardice describes your behavior.

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry guys 'n' girls. Facts are that Frat Boy's done serious long term damage to the US economy- see Joseph Steiglitz' recent article in Vanity Fair for a good summary. So when Brojo, Ron Paul and the rest get antsy about how India and China are eating USA's lunch, and the rest of the world treats you with caution, remember who was giving the orders. Dubya's seriously in the running to replace Hoover as worst President ever.

Posted by: number6 on November 13, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Dubya's seriously in the running to replace Hoover as worst President ever.

You mean he's not there yet??

Posted by: pol on November 13, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Don't knock Hoover. Say rather Harding or Harrison.

Posted by: MFB on November 14, 2007 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

' ... according to a new study by congressional Democrats ..."

uh-huh. And what is the true figure?

Posted by: am on November 14, 2007 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

am: And what is the true figure?

"Bush Economic Aide Says Cost Of Iraq War May Top $100 Billion"

- Wall Street Journal in the September 16, 2002

how is that working out?


Posted by: mr. irony on November 14, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

--If the President's supplemental is approved, $804 billion just in direct costs through the end of 2008, for Iraq and Afghanistan. $607 billion for Iraq alone.

http://www.congress.gov/erp/rl/pdf/RL33110.pdf

--If all that stuff is borrowed, do you really think that Federal borrowing has no cost? Since you're a Republican, maybe you do.

--Plus, impacts on the oil markets, economic losses due to veterans care, etc.

A total of $1.5 trillion ($800 billion plus another $700 for costs of borrowing, other stuff, etc.) doesn't seem outrageous.

A whole hell of a lot more than $100 billion, any way you cut it.

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