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Kucinich: What Will We Sacrifice for These Wars?
Kucinich Brings the Cost of War to Budget Debate
Washington D.C. (January 24, 2011) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today opened up the debate on efforts to cut the federal budget by pointing out that more than half of our discretionary spending is consumed by the budget for the Pentagon and asking what Americans are willing to sacrifice for war.
“As we begin this great debate over what our priorities are, it is worth reflecting on an article that was written nearly three years ago in the Sunday Times of London by Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and his associate, Linda Bilmes.
“Here is what they write: ‘The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war -’ They are talking about the Iraq war. ‘- and was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.’
“‘The cost of direct U.S. military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.’
“‘And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion.’
“They go on to write that ‘with virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.’
“‘Most Americans have yet to feel these costs.’ This was written almost three years ago. ‘The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.’
“That from Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes almost three years ago…
“One of the biggest causes of our soaring debt and the economic insecurity ends up being Pentagon spending. The budget for the Pentagon consumes more than half of our discretionary spending. We have seen countless stories of U.S. taxpayer dollars going unaccounted for in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have had countless high-profile hearings on contractor fraud and the lack of oversight at the Department of Defense. According to Friends Committee on National Legislation, 39% of our income tax dollars last year went to Pentagon spending on past and current wars.
“Stieglitz, again, has said that the Iraq war ‘didn’t just contribute to the severity of the financial crisis…it kept us from responding to it effectively. Increased indebtedness meant that the government had far less room to maneuver than it otherwise would have.’ So, what we have is the U.S. was financing war on borrowed money.
“We must examine our connection between soaring debt and these two wars; the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. Between 2003 and 2008, the U.S. debt increased by almost $4 trillion. A quarter of that debt is directly attributable to the war in Iraq. The cost of the war in Afghanistan has been over $455 billion to date, and the deadline for that keeps sliding past 2014.
“Now at NationalPriorities.org, they talk about a sustainable defense. One report says that there are options for reducing military spending, saving nearly $1 trillion over the next decade without adversely impacting U.S. national security interests. We can have a strong defense, but we are spending so much money that we are undermining our ability to be able to provide for the American people here at home.
“We have to start taking care things here at home. What will we sacrifice? Will we sacrifice the education of our children for these wars? Will we sacrifice Social Security for these wars? Will we sacrifice Medicare or Medicaid for these wars? Will we sacrifice our infrastructure for these wars? Or will we say that the war in Iraq was based on lies, let’s bring these troops home? Will we say that Afghanistan is a hopeless, corrupt mess and its time to bring our troops home? And then begin to use the resources of our country, those resources that are hard-earned taxpayer dollars, use that money for things here at home. Let’s have that debate as we talk about cutting the budget,” said Kucinich.
 2010 Budget as Enacted