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So This Economist Walks into a War…

It may sound like a joke but it’s not very funny. You probably know about Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his book on the estimated cost of the war in Iraq, which comes in just under $3 trillion, and could end up being as much as five. Trillion.

Iraq War TaxesThe argument is summarized nicely in the authors’ Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post. Remember that this war is being financed through debt. It’s all borrowed money. Bush cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans at the same time his administration was decimating our economic future and being enormously disingenuous (one could call it “lying”) about the war’s costs.

You can add in the brutal oil prices as a direct result of the War, too (so much for those winks about cheap gas, remember them?). $100/barrel is three times higher than it would have been without the War. Think of that the next time you fork over fifty bucks to fill your minivan.

Three trillion dollars is – to be blunt – a shit-load of money. We can think about what we could have done with this money (education, health care, Social Security, mass transit, green energy – take your pick). But instead of enriching our lives, the money will go to a war whose impact may create “an economic downturn that’s likely to be the worst in more than a quarter-century.” We’ll feel it for decades.

In one sense we can never put a dollar value on war. The real impact transcends petty economics. I have no idea what it’s like to get one of those telegrams or nightmare phone calls, nor can I begin to imagine coming home and restarting my life (the real number of injured has been kept from public knowledge, as well, which is a disgrace). Most of us see this war through a hazy, disconnected perspective, as if it was being fought by some other country, and not our own.

At the same time it’s clear that my generation is the first perhaps ever in US history which can’t claim to be “better off than our parents were.” There’s been a sizable, tangible shift in wealth going on right before our eyes, which had started even before the Iraq War came along. But now it appears that this historic blunder’s impact is going to be felt in ways that haven’t yet sunk in. And my kids’ generation is going to be paying the price most of their lives.

When I think back to those maddening days leading up to the war, the frustration which I had managed to contain in recent years starts rushing back. I marched against the war with half a million people in DC and in NYC because we KNEW – even then – that there were no WMDs. We knew this because we heard the weapons inspectors who’d just gotten back from Iraq, we listened to Scott Ritter, we listened to those in a position to know, and so we knew. Now I ask you, how was it that I knew this – just some marketing writer sitting at a PC – while people like Hillary Clinton – a US Senator for God’s sake – claim that they didn’t?

I’d like Clinton’s supporters to answer this one for me. And then prove to me that Hillary’s hawk-like stances are only “political posturing” and “calculation”. To be fair I don’t expect a Clinton administration to out-Bush Bush on Iraq from this point forward. But we don’t have to try and imagine where she stands on war in general; we have her vote to make up our minds.

Anyway, back to the economics: The reaction from the White House, according to Democracy Now!, has been to say: “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing…One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”

Man oh man. What does one say to such nonsense? I was going to come up with a clever and erudite response myself but then I stumbled onto Tom Tomorrow who – like aways – puts it best. Check it out here.

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March 13, 2008   |  Filed Under Political   |    Permalink


1 richard r burton { 05.19.09 at 10:02 pm }

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! For 8 years I’ve been fighting to explain where georgie-boy and his criminal cabal were taking our country, as opposed to where we could be headed. I’ve used quotes from all the progressive thinkers I could find. Like those of you who have been involved in this battle, I’ve had varying degrees of success, liberals and moderates just seem to be afraid of the right-wings rhetoric, and are too swayed by their dishonest labeling. So far, everything I’ve read here, just 4 articles so far, is just about the answers to my prayers! Congradulations, you have done the best job I’ve seen in redefining just what has been going on. I’d go so far as to say you are doing for the left what the right pretends ronnie raygun did for the right! I pray that this site grows to the readership it deserves, we so need it. God bless you, Richard R. Burton

2 Eric { 05.20.09 at 3:55 am }

Why, thank you Richard. That’s the nicest comment this blog’s ever gotten. Hope you visit again!


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