copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Tax time is reason enough to reflect on our budgets, personal and national. How realistic are our expenditures? Do we spend more than we earn? Does our income allow for a few irrational indulgences? Do discretionary dollars exist? Might we consider our ample debt. Does this represent a temporary deficit, easily resolved, or an obligation that cannot be paid promptly. We may wish to rethink our reality. At home, families have taken scissors to credit cards. More than the minimum payment is made. The intention is to lessen liabilities and increase savings. In the month of April, after we pay Uncle Sam, most of us concluded, it is time to clean our own fiscal house. Next, we move to the nation’s ledger.
Much to the chagrin of those who do not favor debt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were paid for on credit. Taxes were not increased to pay for the two wars. Indeed, President Bush cut tariff obligations for the American people while he increased the number of dollars devoted to military operations.
The cash spent on what most would agree were and are protracted conflicts was not placed on the official ledger. Nor did it exist in American coffers. What were classified as “emergency supplemental” expenses were made available on loan. Other countries, rich in resources, furnished the dollars the United States desired. The currency would need to be re-paid, with interest! That concept alone could be considered a tax on terror, or an attack on Americans who disfavor debt.
The current Commander-In-Chief promised he would not engage in such tactics. The Obama Administration would be transparent. What would be spent on war would be visible in formal, administrative, concrete calculations. To that end, in February 2009, perhaps before most Americans filed a return, President Obama submitted his budget. Headlines screamed, Obama’s budget is the end of an era.
Cash and Change On Hand
Change had come. Obama re-thought Bush policies. More money would be officially allocated to military operations. The Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. The financial planned commitment to the Pentagon is an abundant $533.7 billion. This amount represents a 4 percent increase over the previous 2009 allocation. This total excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion in 2009 for “overseas contingency operations,” a reference to the battles still ablaze in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locales. Come 2010, $130 billion more will be available for combat.
Cautions presented six months ago, on October 15, 2008, by the Congressional Research Service apparently were not heeded by the new Administration. Citizens also did not realize, cash for these conflicts is not countless. It never was. Calculations were offered. However, then, as now, the numbers were ignored. Perhaps, all aspects of the ostensibly perpetual wars were not rethought.
Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan
The War in Afghanistan has cost U.S. Tax payers $172 billion to date, with a request for roughly $13.4 billion to fund the war through the remainder of Fiscal year 2009 expected in March or April. This brings the total cost through FY 2009 to $185.1 billion.
This figures reflect the budgetary cost alone. Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trillion dollars when future occupation and veteran’s benefits are taken into account. Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. (1) All told, this is more than the size of the recent bailout of Wall Street, and rivals the historic economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress.
Countries outside the United States have spent additional billions on the War in Afghanistan, with the UK contributing roughly £4.5billion (2) and the cost to Canada totaling $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion in Canadian dollars through 2008. (3).
Thus far, you and I, the American taxpayer, borrowed one hundred and eighty five billion dollars, or more, to fight a war thought futile in Afghanistan. In Iraq the dollars devoted to deploy each troop, one individual, was $500,000. That is five hundred thousand dollars! The money spent on a single soldier sent to Afghanistan is expected to be eight-hundred thousand greenbacks.
Financial Future in Doubt
Many Progressives may wish to wail, “George W. Bush is to blame.” However, people from the political Party that takes pride in the actions of this President might rethink that truth.
Days before American tax payments were due, Mister Obama asked Congress for an additional eighty three and four tenths billion dollars ($83.4) to fund the war just through the end of the year! After Mister Obama assured Americans supplemental expenditures to pay for wars would not be requested, the President rescinded the pledge. Excuses were made. Explanations given. Citizens were told the additional allotment would be the first and the last made by President Obama.
It seems circumstances caused the Chief Executive to rethink his stance on spending and Afghanistan. Perhaps, citizens will also rethink their position. In truth, only the people have the power to insist, it is time to cut the funds for war.
Rethinking Afghanistan Realities . . .
Footnote References . . .
1. The $3 Trillion War. By Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz. Vanity Fair. April 2008
2. Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, By Richard Norton-Taylor. The Guardian. Friday 13, 2009
3. Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan.
References and Resources . . .
- Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go? – Tax Day 2009. National Priorities Project.
- National Debt Clocks and Savings Clocks. ZFacts.
- Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. Economy,By Lee Hudson Teslik. Council on Foreign Relations. March 11, 2008
- Testimony on Estimated Costs of U.S. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Other Activities Related to the War on Terrorism. Congressional Budget Office. October 24, 2007
- Fiscal 2008 Department of Defense Budget Released. U.S. Department of Defense. February 5, 2007
- 110th Congress-Defense Spending Issue Looms, By Michael Moran. Council on Foreign Relations. January 4, 2007
- The American Defense Budget. Center for Defense Information. September 18, 2007
- Obama plans a more transparent budget, By Christi Parsons and Maura Reynolds. The Los Angeles Times. February 24, 2009
- Obama’s budget is the end of an era, By Janet Hook. The Los Angeles Times. February 27, 2009
- Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. By David Corn. Congressional Quarterly. February 26, 2009 11:45 AM
- The $3 Trillion War. By Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz. Vanity Fair. April 2008
- Linda Bilmes on Our ‘Three Trillion Dollar War’. Fresh Air, WHYY. March 3, 2008
- Joseph Stiglitz on Our ‘Three Trillion Dollar War’. By Dave Davies. Fresh Air, WHYY. March 3, 2008
- Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, By Richard Norton-Taylor. The Guardian. Friday 13, 2009
- Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan.
- Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs. United States Department of State.
- The Economic Cost of War, By James Glanz. The New York Times. February 28, 2009
- Obama requests $83.4 billion more for war spending, By Julian E. Barnes. Los Angeles Times. April 10, 2009
- War costs may total $2.4 trillion, By Ken Dilanian. USA Today. October 23, 2007
- Factors Driving Up Spending. By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Linda Bilmes. The three trillion dollar war.
- Obama: No More War Spending Tricks, By Nathan Hodge. Wired. February 25, 2009