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Make Jobs Not Wars

By Camille J. Gage

It’s fitting, if not just a little bit ironic, that President Obama will deliver his much anticipated jobs speech in a week bracketed with Labor Day and the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  As a nation we need to renew our respect for this nation’s workers and the labor movement that brought us child labor laws, minimum wage, reasonable working hours and so much more. We also need to acknowledge the role of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in creating the current recession and jobs crisis.

The United States has spent a combined total of nearly $1.3 trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That number does not include the ongoing military action and presence in Libya and Pakistan. It also does not include the longer term costs of these military engagements, things like ongoing care for injured veterans and the opportunity costs of not investing this money in other things. Like jobs.

According to the Eisenhower Project, a multi-university study that recently completed a comprehensive analysis of the cost of the wars (, approximately 8.3 jobs are created by every $1 million in military spending.  On the surface this seems like a good thing, but dig a little deeper and you discover how many jobs $1 million can buy in other essential areas. An investment of $1 million dollars would create 15.5 jobs in public education, or 14.3 jobs in the health care industry. A million dollars spent on construction creates approximately 11 direct and indirect jobs.

In essence, nearly twice as many jobs could be created if we brought our war dollars home and invested them wisely in domestic job creation.

War causes violence on many levels. There is the literal and devastating violence wrought in the communities that become a battlefield, and there is the economic violence that rains down here at home as our tax dollars are spent on the tools of destruction rather than invested in community essentials like schools, infrastructure, and public safety. We have successfully, and shamefully, turned a blind eye to the former – but the impact of war on the national economy is no longer so easily ignored.

Nearly 10 years has passed since we invaded Afghanistan, and shortly thereafter, Iraq. I’m an artist, not an economist, but I know this: when enlisting in the Army during wartime is the best employment option for our nation’s youth, we have a serious problem.


Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis artist ( and the national coordinator for 10 Years + Counting, an artist-led initiative to mark the 10 year anniversary of our nation at war. Visit to learn more.



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