By Edward Flattau
President Bush gave a stark performance in tunnel vision with his recent declaration that the cost of the Iraq War was relatively “modest”.
Maybe as he claims, “the defense budget accounts for just over four percent of our total economy” compared to as much as 13 percent during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. But even assuming Bush’s statistics are correct, that simply means everyone who has been making a bundle, especially in corporate America, still is. What about the average Joe?
Using official data, the Northampton, Mass.-based national Priorities Project (NPP) computed that the Iraq War is costing our country $341 million a day. It is a fiscal burden that is drastically diverting our tax dollars away from vital domestic programs. Indeed, NPP calculates that past and present military spending accounts for more than 40 cents of every federal tax dollar we pay. That doesn’t leave a heck of a lot for the myriad of needs associated with public health, environmental protection, affordable energy, and providing a decent daily quality of life in general for all Americans.
Take the residents of the District of Columbia as an example. Their median federal income tax bill in 2007 was $2836 of which $1196 went for military purposes. A mere $75 was allocated to the environment, energy and science, according to the NPP.
To give you some idea of President Bush’s priorities during an enormously costly and unpopular war, the 2009 tax cuts he proposes for the richest 10 percent of Americans would deprive the Treasury of $116 .6 billion in revenue. That might help explain why Bush is asking for a relatively paltry $1.3 billion for renewable energy and conservation, causes that arguably are more crucial to our national security in the long run than the Iraq War. Public transit, also essential to weaning us off Middle East oil imports, would receive $11.2 billion in the president’s 2009 budget , a 14 percent reduction from the start
of our march on Baghdad.
Bush labels the proposed $139 billion cost of the Iraq War for 2009 “a modest fraction of the nation’s wealth”. Perhaps so, but its impact on many Americans is anything but modest. NPP notes that the program to better insulate low income families’ homes against the elements would be eliminated next year for lack of cash while total military spending is higher than at any point since World War Two.
To further illustrate the enormity of the nation’s domestic sacrifice, the NPP has computed what each state could purchase with the tax dollars its citizens contribute to the Iraq conflict.
In President Bush’s home state of Texas, for example, taxpayers are projected to pay $11.4 billion for the war in fiscal 2009. That sum would be enough to provide more than 8.6 million homes with renewable electricity, or 2.6 million people with health care in a state where more than twice as many are currently uninsured.
President Bush contends that the Iraq War is “a burden worth bearing”. That is easy for him to say.
@Copyright 2008, Edward Flattau