Trillions for War

Last weekend Sharon and I were wondering why no economist of the stature of John Kenneth Galbraith has spoken about the costs of the Iraq War as the U.S. economy goes south. Now deceased, Galbraith was a vocal critic of the cost of Vietnam War. He made clear how spending for weapons and bombs does not return the same value as money spent for infrastructure and services. His point, at its simplest, was that money spent on war doesn’t recycle through the economy in the same way other spending does.

While there are websites (see below) that illustrate the costs, it seemed to me there haven’t been voices with the influence of Galbraith making the point about Iraq. Yet the economic consequences seem at least as corrosive as the Vietnam conflict; no, make that at least as staggering.

Well, in fact, economists have spoken but they’ve had a hard time breaking through the clutter. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Steiglitz told the Joint Economic Committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer last Thursday the final cost of the war could be $3 trillion. We’re spending $6,000 a second. John Hormats, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, told the Committee we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next fifty years for a fraction of what we’re spending on the war.

For the amount spent each day 58,000 children could be enrolled in Head Start for a year. 160,000 low income students could receive a Pell grant for college tuition. War spending could fund a worldwide immunization program for children or treat every U.S. citizen going untreated for heart disease or diabetes according to David Leonhardt of the NY Times.

Blogger Phil Plait adds that forty minutes of spending would feed one million poor U.S. families for a month. One hour’s spending could supply over one hundred thousand computers for children in developing nations. And the list goes on.


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