This article is worth reading in its entirety. It's about Joseph Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics and has now written a book estimating the cost to the US of the war in Iraq:
"Appetites whetted, Stiglitz and Bilmes dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush's Iraqi adventure will cost America - just America - a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again. And in doing so they have achieved something much greater than arriving at an unimaginable figure: by describing the process, by detailing individual costs, by soberly listing the consequences of short-sighted budget decisions, they have produced a picture of comprehensive obfuscation and bad faith whose power comes from its roots in bald fact. Some of their discoveries we have heard before, others we may have had a hunch about, but others are completely new - and together, placed in context, their impact is staggering."
I tried to figure out which bits to excerpt, but I couldn't; it's just one appalling revelation after another. Here, though, is one I have to quote:
"Then there was the discovery that sign-up bonuses come with conditions: a soldier injured in the first month, for example, has to pay it back. Or the fact that "the troops, for understandable reasons, are made responsible for their equipment. You lose your helmet, you have to pay. If you get blown up and you lose your helmet, they still bill you." One soldier was sued for $12,000 even though he had suffered massive brain damage."
Think about what we could have done with that money:
"By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America's social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: "Five billion is roughly 10 days' fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything.""
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it will cost us $1.6 trillion to repair our aging infrastructure. This would make us more productive and competitive as a nation, it would provide good jobs, and by preventing bridge collapses, levee failures, and the like, it would save lives. No one can figure out how we are going to come up with all that money, even though investing in our infrastructure is obviously a good investment. Yet somehow we managed to embark on an ill-conceived war without bothering to think seriously about the cost. Because, as we know, while every nickel spent on the health of children counts as wasteful government spending and must be fought for tooth and nail, defense spending doesn't count as spending at all.