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May 16, 2005


Here's an idea: a special 'Bush support' tax. Everyone who contributed after June 2002 to the RNC, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, the RSenateCC, the Bush-Cheney 2004 committee, or the 2005 inaugural "festivities" must pay a one-time fee to fund the Iraq war expenditures already incurred but not paid for (which is all of them). All those donors were voting for the Iraq war; let them put their money where their votes/mouths are. Most are well able to afford even a five-figure fee; let those who feel they're not apply for a hardship exemption.

A historical reminder: the first testimony about war costs under oath to the U.S. Congress came on March 24, 2003, by Wolfowitz, after the invasion was already underway.

Unsurprisingly, I agree completely.

One minor friendly amendment: you write: "That's $300 billion dollars the invasion of Iraq is going to cost US taxpayers. Some day. Maybe more." -- It will certainly be more. Since, as you note, this will just be added to the deficit, we will have to pay debt service on it. And anyone who has ever taken out a mortgage and looked at the total amount they will pay by the end of the 30 year term, and seen how very much more it is than the original price of the house (even at what my spam keeps assuring me are Today's Low Rates!), knows that the debt service on $300 billion will be a lot of money.

Then there's the costs to productivity of adding to the deficit, etc. And, besides all that, the probability (which I'm guessing you were originally alluding to) that there will be further appropriations to pay for the war.

I really, really wish that it were also seen as dishonorable to run structural deficits, and for politicians to mortgage our future this way. I wish that everyone had shared my response to Bush saying, in one of His State of the Union speeches, that "we will not pass on our problems to our children", which was amazement at the baldfaced dishonesty of these words coming from someone who has saddled our children with the biggest deficits in recent memory. Oh well.

GOP = Got Our Pony

The invasion and occupation of Iraq costs $1 billion dollars a week, at a minimum. That's billion with a B. It would not be worth that price even if not a single person had died.

At the barest minimum, 27,000 persons have been killed (coalition troops, contractors, Iraqi civilians, and I'm not even counting Iraqi military losses in the invasion). Given that close to half of Iraqis do not have clean water now, the real figure is almost certainly a significant multiple of that number, and will rise rapidly with a particular vengeance in the case of children.

It's going to cost at least $500 billion. Maybe a trillion if we stay there a long time. Staggering.

Anyone know what, say, Vietnam cost? Or WWII?

I keep seeing numbers like $140 billion, which if it's in present-day dollars inflates to nearly $700 billion. Someone with more Googlepower can probably do better, though.

Oh, this site has WWII at about 6x Vietnam cost.

Oh, but Edward, you can't put a price on freedom.

(Unless, of course, you propose to buy your freedom with taxes on upper-class Americans.)

This really gives lie to the "War is Humanitarian!" arguments (that are pretty much the only arguments in support of the war left). War is about the most cost-ineffecient way to make people's lives better imaginable from a utilitarian standpoint, particularly when you count how many lives you have to screw up along the way. 300 billion applied toward, say, treatment of disease would have given us a radically different and better world. Instead we can still argue about whether we're winning years later. To paraphrase GYWO, for this cost the Iraqis should have been so free they can fly.

Interesting stats Slarti...thanks.

World War I (1917-1918) $196.5*
World War II (1941-1945) 2,091.3
Korea (1950-1953) 263.9
Vietnam (1964-1972) 346.7
Gulf War (1990-1991) 61.1

*in 1990s USD$ billion.

So we've already passed Korea costs and are heading into Vietnam territory, but have a long to go to even approach WWI costs.

Now the question is, what steps did the presidents during those wars take to pay for them, so as not to pass the costs along to future generations?

Edward: A Summary of WWII financing. The Gov't borrowed heavily to pay for that one, too.

Love this line from that explanation, notyou

The Roosevelt Administration, fresh from the complexities of creating the New Deal, paid the bill through an equally complex mix of taxation and borrowing.

[...]Paying your taxes became patriotic....

That's how you do it, IMO. Borrowing makes sense given the total costs, but taxation also makes sense. Not the "I want to keep MY money" mantra we hear from far too many of the war's supporters today.

The Federal Government has the power to print money and to tax citizens to pay for its expenditures.

Since today's Republican Party wishes to spend $300 billion and upwards on the war, while at the same time demonizing the government's taxation powers and taking that option off the table and repeating the mantra that printing money leads to inflation, can we conclude there was further motivation for the war in Iraq besides all of the stated, unstated, and misstated reasons?

I realize most folks vote for outrageous foolishness as the motivating factor. But, heck, let's live a little and let paranoia flap its dark wings around the room.

I say Bush and company are intelligent people and have a plan. What is it? McManus should go first. It's an easy answer but I'm hoping Bob makes its more interesting.

"Who Is Going to Pay for This War?"

Japan, China, East Asia.

Nah. Our kids.

I've just reread my original post and this jumped out at me:

On Friday, October 11, 2002, Congress voted to authorize Bush to attack Iraq if Hussein refused to give up WMD as required by U.N. resolutions.

If, as we now have good reason to believe via the Downing Street memo, the President knew at this time that Hussein did not have the WMD Bush was telling Congress Hussein had, did Bush actually have the authorization he needed to invade Iraq? Was the invasion constutional and legal?

In other words, can he be impeached?

O.K. I get to vote, too. All other government programs will pay for it, but especially Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Unless we're lucky and Japan, China, and east Asia and our kids agree to pay for all of it. Are we lucky?

Houdini, in his straitjacket below the ice, was skilled and lucky. I think today's Republican Party is standing on the shore of the frozen river gleefully counting the ever fewer bubbles.

Well, according to Charles the Democrats have no ideas. Maybe the Republicans are waiting for us to figure out how to pay for it......since they have no idea. I like Nell's plan.

In other words, can he be impeached?

Ask that question again in about 18 months. Right now, I sorta have a feeling an impeachment proceeding wouldn't get very far.

And, he hastened to add, I kind of think it would be a bad idea to impeach the guy no matter how badly he deserves it, simply because impeaching two presidents in a row could tend to lower the bar for future impeachments. Give us a Democratic Congress in 2006 and we can survive the remainder of Bush's term.

Nah. Our kids.

I knew there was a reason my wife and I weren't having any kids. Take that, Uncle Sam!

Er . . . sorry the rest of your kids' taxes are going to be higher. Dreadfully sorry.

Edward: I've really wanted to use the Iraq War Resolution as a blunt club, too, but I think, unfortunately, that Sections 3 A.2 and B.1.b ("enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq") probably give the administration all the room they need.

Worse, others have argued, somewhat convincingly, that all the Whereases about freedom and human rights and etc, delivered as a prelude to the binding bits of law itself, are often used by judges subsequently to devine Congress' intent.

Of course, IANAL. (And perhaps the Downing Street Memo introduces new angles.)

Remember who the government borrowed a good deal of the money from to finance World War II--the very citizens fighting the war. People were encouraged to "Buy war bonds", it was an act of patriotism to invest in the defense of the country. By the end of the war 8 out of 13 Americans had bought bonds that had a total value of $185.3 billion (almost 10% of the cost of the war).

What does George Bush ask us to do? Go shopping. What a pathetic little man.

I say Bush and company are intelligent people and have a plan. What is it?

what did that British memo say about the timing of the war? something about "30 days before the US elections" ? yeah - just long enough to get some Osama-laden attack ads up and running against the treasonous Dems.

I'm sorry, I was comparing the War Bonds bought to the cost of the war in 1990 dollars. In 1945 dollars the war cost 288 billion dollars, so War Bonds financed 2/3 of the cost of the war.

"Who's going to pay for this war?"

More broadly, who's going to pay for the next one?

We have a foreign policy that is disdainful of international cooperation, and relies ever more heavily on maintaining overwhelming military strength.

That costs money.

At the same time we have a fiscal policy that is utterly unconcerned with deficits, and a President who seeks ever more tax cuts.

It seems to me that these policies are incompatible, and that the supposed "hard-headed realism" of our current foreign policy is, in the long term, a sham, since there is a serious lack of realism about its financial requirements.

I was just reading about the abstract opacity of huge numbers a couple of weeks ago, in Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas:

To people whose minds go blank when they hear something ending in "illion," all big numbers are the same, so that exponential explosions make no difference. Such an inability to relate to large numbers is clearly bad for society. It leads people to ignore big issues on the grounds that they are incomprehensible.

What follows is a kind of pop science "Powers of ten," an attempt to give tools for training oneself to differentiate scale. The article appeared in the early 1980s, so this "Number Numbness" (D.H.'s term) is not new. What might be particular to our time is the obstinacy of people who should and might know better.

Yeah, the differences between millions, billions & trillions are incomprehensible to a lot of people.

Here's my pet idea. To aid understanding, all federal government spending should be converted (by newspapers, bloggers, whoever) into $PAF, which is "dollars per American family." (I use "family" to make it easier on the ear, but I mean "household.") Roundest of numbers, say there are 100 million American households. So divide every number by 100 million (simple to do) and throw it out there in the new form.

So, $300 billion for the war ==> $ 3,000 PAF.

Federal budget deficit per year ==> $4,000+ PAF.

$78 million for the NEA (or whatever it is) ==> 78 cents PAF

Total federal budget, IIRC, is around $2 trillion, or $20,000 PAF.

These are numbers that would make sense to people. They might even get interested in the details of the budgeting process if you could break everything down to a fraction of the PAF $20,000 per year.

I don't know, it's just a meme I've thought about trying to start. Anybody like it?

(And I know none of the numbers above are quite right. It's the general idea I'm interested in....)

Kent: That's the best idea I've heard in quite a while. I had to explain large numbers to students last year -- trying to explain why my union was striking and, in particular, the amount of money we were asking for relative to the size of the budget in total -- and I was struck by how many of them had no conception of an order of magnitude, let alone four of them.

Kent, you're absolutely right. Some people have already taken that approach:

The American Friends Service Committee's most recent mailing says on the envelope "Your family's Iraq war bill inside". If I recall, it was $3300 and change, so you were very close.

And I'm more than half serious about the 'Bush supporter fee.' Their team lied, they helped spread the lies, they're the ones making out from Bush's tax cuts and other corporate favors, and they're denying the lies even now in the teeth of the British meeting minutes.

Heck, Rice is still spreading the Saddam-September 11 lie (on her visit to Iraq: "This war came to us, not the other way around" ... followed closely by references to "them" flying planes into buildings.) And no RNC major donors are uttering a peep. They're spending their energy trying to kick the truth off public television. So let them divide up the tab for the war; it's not as if their sons and daughters are signing up to fight it.

Lambert on Lancet - he says another study strengthens the Lancet estimate of deaths due to the war. See also subsequent posts.

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