Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 19 Blogswarm, Part Four

[This and the previous post were supposed to go up yesterday as part of my contribution to the March 19 Blogswarm. I got interrupted and they didn't make it. So consider today March 19 B-Day + 1.]

To wrap up this quadrilogy, beyond the political cost and the human cost, there is still the cost cost.

In the fall of 2002, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay said the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion.

He was fired.

That figure was outlandish, we were assured. In fact, the invasion would almost pay for itself. Defense Secretary Donald Rumplestiltskin insisted the cost would be more like $50 billion to $60 billion. Andrew Natsios, head of USAID, said reconstruction costs would run to just, oh, $1.7 billion.

Oh my.
The most conservative estimate of the war’s cost comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whose remit limits its analysis to US government spending. Up to September 30, the end of the 2007 fiscal year, it says $413bn was spent on Iraq. From then until the end of 2017, it calculates overall spending on Iraq and Afghanistan at $570bn-$1,055bn, depending on how quickly troop numbers are reduced. If three-quarters of the budget is spent on Iraq, the ratio of recent years, future direct budgetary costs would be a further $428bn to $788bn.
Include interest on the debt accumulated because of war spending, and the total cost by 2017 could reach $2 trillion.
The JEC [Joint Economic Committee], chaired by Democratic senator Charles Schumer of New York, attempts to add economic costs to the US, including the displacement of productive investment, interest paid to foreigners, and oil price increases, which add a further $700bn so far. Until 2017, assuming US troop numbers in Iraq fall to 55,000 by 2013 and stay at that level, the cost grows to $2,800bn in 2007 dollars.
That's three trillion dollars - and even that estimate may not be high enough.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning economist, and Linda Bilmes, authors of "The Three Trillion Dollar War", argue that the Iraq war will cost the US at least $3 trillion, possibly as much as $5 trillion.

Bilmes, a budget and public finance expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, told Al Jazeera that "both in a long term sense and a short term sense the United States is worse off economically speaking because of the war.

"In a long term sense, we have added already about $800 billion to our national debt as a result of the borrowing and the war," she says.

"In the short term sense we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq alone and that clearly limits the amount of money that we have to provide things like economic stimuli to improve the economy." ...

Bilmes says her study looked at the total cost of the war - including the total cost of the money that has been spent to date, the cost of taking care of veterans when they return, providing disability compensation to veterans, replenishing military equipment and the cost of borrowing
as well as the economic impact of quality of life impairments, the loss of the productive capacity of those killed or wounded, and higher oil prices.

Even so, despite the enormous costs,
it is virtually certain that the Democrats will provide tens of billions more when they vote next month on a military spending bill whose approval is a foregone conclusion. Many Democratic lawmakers now even say that the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, should not try to attach conditions, like a deadline for withdrawal, because the tactic is certain to fail as it has in the past.
I'd like to know which "Democratic lawmakers" are saying that because the deserve a good smack upside the head. Not try because you failed before? What kind of idiocy is that? "If at first you don't succeed, try, try - oh the hell with it?" I said a long time ago that one thing the left could learn from the right is sheer stubbornness. The right wing has an idea shot down, what do they do? Propose it again! If it gets rejected again with the complaint "we already dealt with that," they bring it up a third time! And a fourth and a fifth and however many damn times it takes.

So if I could tell Nancy Pelosi what to do, I'd tell her to make sure there are votes on conditions, votes on timetables, votes on withdrawals, votes to cut off funds. Even if you know they're going to fail, schedule them anyway. And if someone asks you why since you know they're going to lose, you say "I know they are. But we're going to make you go on record. We're going to make you state on the record that you're against ending the war, that you want US troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely, that you want to keep throwing money and lives down that pit. Poll after poll after poll reveal that anywhere from three-fifths to two-thirds of Americans are against the war, think it was a mistake to get in, that it's not worth the cost, and that troops should be withdrawn within a few months of a new administration and in any event in no more than two years from now. If you want to stand against that at the beginning of your re-election campaign, you can - but you're going to do it on the record."

All that, of course, is assuming Pelosi really does want to end the war like she says she does.

Footnote Once: Shrub, of course, drops another happy pill and gins up his smirk.
President Bush argues that war critics are rounding on the cost of the war because of the very success of the "surge."

"War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq - so now they argue the war costs too much. In recent months we have heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war."
Actually, it's very easy to argue we're losing in Iraq. And I hardly think anyone in the Bush gang is in a position to criticize anyone else's cost estimates.

Footnote Twice: Just to illustrate how seriously everyone involved is taking the drmatic costs of the war in their actions rather than in just their words, consider that both houses of Congress are working on their budget outlines for Fiscal 2009.
While both bills, as well as Bush's February budget request, claim to balance the budget by 2012, none provide the long-term funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that likely will be needed.
So it will continue to be funded with budget-busting "emergency supplementals" and we'll continue to pretend there is no economic impact. As the war drags on.

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