Defensive budget

Running up a tab in Iraq
By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ AND LINDA J. BILMES  |  April 2, 2008

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This past month, the Phoenix ran an extensive interview with Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, co-author of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, a book that documents the staggering price the US is paying for prolonging the Iraq conflict. Apparently, Bush and Cheney like to do their own math. Below is a statement from Stiglitz and the book’s co-author, Linda J. Bilmes, responding to the administration’s dismissal of their findings.

President Bush, disregarding independent studies from other leading analysts, has rejected our estimate for the total eventual cost of the Iraq War as “exaggerated.”

Our study provided detailed estimates of the total cost of the war to our budget and economy. We continue to believe that our estimate is, in fact, conservative. Widely cited nonpartisan sources, such as the Congressional Budget Office, point out that the operational costs through 2017 are likely to be $1.5 to $2 trillion. The Joint Economic Committee, which takes economic costs into account, estimates that the conflict will cost $3.5 trillion.

Our study includes the cost of providing lifetime medical care and disability compensation for veterans, the cost of replacing military equipment and restoring our forces to pre-war strength, the cost of paying interest on the money borrowed to finance the war, and some of the direct economic costs of the conflict. By refusing to acknowledge these long-term costs, the administration continues to give the American public a misleading and inaccurate picture.

The president also ignores the fact that the war has been financed entirely by borrowing. For the first time in US history, we have waged a war while cutting taxes and increasing our deficits. Consequently, the war has already added more than $600 billion to our national debt, which will eventually have to be repaid (with interest) by our children and grandchildren.

The administration argues that the benefits of the Iraq War make it “worth” the sacrifice. But the only ones making that sacrifice are the 1.5 million US servicemen who have served in Iraq. In the past five years, 4000 of them have been killed; 60,000 injured; and 300,000 treated back home for medical conditions by the Veterans Administration.

Next month, the president will ask Congress for $70 billion to pay for continued monthly combat operations in Iraq. The request will be yet another “emergency supplemental” funding, designed to circumvent the normal budget process and avoid the usual congressional oversight designed to avoid corruption and profiteering.

Despite challenging our cost calculations, the administration consistently refuses to present estimates of its own. It declined an invitation by the Joint Economic Committee to testify to Congress on the subject. We urge the administration and Congress to acknowledge the full economic burden and to engage in an open discussion with the American public about the true costs of continuing to deploy our troops in Iraq.

Related: Iraq: Five years later, Iraq: Five years later and time to go, Soldiers committing suicide, More more >
  Topics: News Features , U.S. Government, Politics, U.S. Politics,  More more >
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