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Wildly Misplaced Priorities


Bush has just vetoed another spending bill that would have provided funding for health and education programs:

President Bush vetoed legislation Tuesday funding federal health and education programs, marking the latest turn in an ongoing budget fight with the Democratic-led Congress.

"The bill is nearly $10 billion over the president's request and is filled with 2,000 earmarks. He will call on Congress to take out the pork and reduce the overall spending level and return it to him quickly," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush traveled to Indiana to deliver a speech on the budget.

Democrats said Bush lacks credibility on budget issues. The $606 billion bill -- which would provide funding for the departments of labor, health and human services, and education -- passed the House of Representatives just three votes short of a veto-proof majority.

While the Republicans are saying no to our kids they continue to say yes to pouring more borrowed money into the endless sinkhole of Iraq. A report by the Joint Economic Committee has the bad news:

The US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing nearly double the amount previously thought, according to a report by Democrats in the US Congress.

The future economic costs of a prolonged military presence in Iraq would be massive.
Even assuming a considerable drawdown in troop levels, total economic costs of the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with the vast majority of costs a result of in the war
Iraq) would amount to $3.5 trillion between 2003 and 2017
. This is over $1 trillion
higher than the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Federal cost forecast for
the same scenario, which counted only direct spending and interest paid on war-related
debt resulting from that spending.

The total economic cost of the war in Iraq to a family of four is a shocking $16,500
from 2002 to 2008. When the war in Afghanistan is included, the burden to the American
family rises to $20,900. The future impact on a family of four skyrockets to
$36,900 for Iraq and $46,400 for Iraq and Afghanistan when all potential costs from
2002 to 2017 are included

These numbers are based on the assumption that 66% of the forces in Iraq and 33% of the forces in Afghanistan have been withdrawn by 2013. This could be an optimistic assumption especially if the Kurds attempt to break away from Iraq which many analysts believe could incite a civil war pitting them against the Sunnis. Remember what one of the geniuses of the Iraq invasion, Paul Wolfowitz, said in congressional testimony before the war began:

"The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but ... We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."

Yeah right. And we all know what has happened to the price of oil since we invaded Iraq:

Iraq is a significant oil producer, and is also located in a strategically vital region which is the center of world oil production. Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, the price of oil has increased,from $37 per barrel (in the week prior to the war) to a recent peak of well over $90 per barrel in November 2007 (EIAa). This price increase has likely affected U.S. economic growth, and has transferred many hundreds of billions of dollars from U.S. consumers to foreign oil producers.

As the report points out, while the war in Iraq isn't responsible for all the oil price increase it certainly must shoulder a large share of the blame.

There's also considerable uncertainty about the future costs of caring for the tens of thousands of soldiers who have been injured or suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder:

The types of injuries and disabilities sustained in the war add to the uncertainty about future medical costs. As battlefield medical care has advanced, the number of seriously injured soldiers who survive their wounds has increased. Iraq therefore has a higher ratio of wounded to fatalities than previous wars, and the severity of wounds has correspondingly increased (CBO 2007d). For example, about 800 wounded soldiers have been injured severely enough to require amputations. In addition, the widespread use of improvised explosive devices by insurgents has led to a high incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among both wounded troops and those soldiers who survive explosions without other injuries. A recent estimate is that 10 to 20 percent of returning soldiers who believed themselves to be healthy had in fact experienced mild to moderate TBI (Shalala Commission 2007). The future potential health impacts and costs of TBI (especially in its mild to moderate form) are not yet well understood. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another important health issue related to the Iraq conflict.

This psychological reaction to traumatic stress appears to affect a substantial number of returning soldiers. Estimates indicate that between 10 and 20 percent of returning soldiers show at least some symptoms of the disorder (Hoge et. al 2007; PCCWW 2007). Some 40,000 returning soldiers have already received an official diagnosis (CBO 2007d). Research on the economic effects of PTSD indicates that it can lead to substantial reductions in earnings and employment capacity (Veterans Commission 2007; Savoca and Rosenheck 2000). Advances in treatment have been made, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the future economic impacts of this disorder and the number of veterans who will eventually be affected.

At some point, the American people have to stand up and say enough is enough for Iraq. We freed the Iraqis from an evil dictator and given them a chance for a better life. It should be up to them to take this opportunity and run with it. Why should American taxpayers continue to foot the bill for rebuilding and securing Iraq while denying critical needs of our own people here at home?

Support the troops. Bring them home.

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Comments (1)

Steve Crickmore[TypeKey Profile Page]:
At the same time, the president signed a $471 billion Defense Department spending bill that funds regular Pentagon operations other than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.. the whining over earmarks is misleading -- the Pentagon bill also included "pork," but Bush didn't hesitate to sign it.

Bush's presidency is what happens when you give someone with a small mind and big weapons and a big budget to play with. The last person to seriously talk about the waste of the defense budget was Ike. For everyone else, it is off the table, because all our 'major' politicians especially the self declared ' war president' are intimidated by generals and the insidious power of the 'military industrial' complex that Ike warned us of.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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