Have we thanked our kids for picking up the $2 trillion tab for Iraq? If the $375 billion spent to date in Iraq had been used to fund education instead, we could have built over 33,000 new schools since 2001. Or paid 5,000,000 new teachers a decent salary and benefits package.
The Bush 41 administration spent $60 billion on the first Persian Gulf War. In January 2003, the Bush 43 team estimated the price tag for the new incursion in Iraq at about “$50 billion to $60 billion.” The Bush 43 team failed to take into account that Bush 41’s earlier Iraqi invasion turned back short of Baghdad, just after decimating Saddam’s elite frontline forces, among other salient differences.
In July 2006, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a Mid-Session Review on 2007 cost estimates. On page 6 in this report we read, “In 2007, to fund the anticipated additional costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, this Mid-Session Review assumes an additional $60 billion in budget authority will be needed later in the fiscal year, for a total allowance of $110 billion.”
In other words, George Bush’s initial 2007 estimate for the war was short by 60%—even though his bookies had 3 years of actual prior bills with which to build a their estimate.
Two days after the OMB review, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) sent the House and Senate Budget Committees a separate estimate for projected 2007 costs for the war in Iraq. The CBO projected steep increases would be needed to cover the Veteran’s Administration future health care costs.
Based partly on those numbers, the independent, federally funded Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a sobering 36 page report in late September. According to the nonpartisan CRS, the total bill for our presence in Kabul and Baghdad by the end of fiscal 2007 will exceed a stunning half trillion dollars.
Occupying Iraq accounts for 75% of this bill to date. The CRS report consolidates the money committed to date with a projection of what’s needed for next 10 years—another $368 billion.
The wild card is what health care will cost for the thousands of wounded troops and what an unstable Middle East does to oil prices. Respected economists, including the 2001 Nobel Laureate, Joe Stiglitz, and Harvard scholar Linda Bilmes, have just weighed on these costs.
I highly recommend their short, non-technical essay—only 8 pages—found on the 2006 paper “Encore: Iraq Hemorrhage,” from the Milken Institute Review.
Stiglitz and Bilmes estimate the cumulative price tag for Bush 43’s Persian Gulf II is projected a $2 trillion, including the cost to the US economy of higher, unstable oil prices and the long-range health care costs for the 16,000 US soldiers injured in Iraq so far.
The CRS reports that Iraq is currently costing about $6.4 billion per month, Afghanistan about $1.3 billion, and everything else about $180 million per month.
To put this in perspective, the OMB report cited above also tells us the federal education outlays for 2007 will fall 25% from 2006 levels (from $88 to $66 billion). So much for “No Child Left Behind.” The debt on our children will be much more than financial.
— Leo Wiegman
PS. In government lingo in the OMB, CBO, and CRS reports, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (OIF) covers Iraq, “Operation Enduring Freedom” (OEF) covers Afghanistan, and “Operation Noble Eagle” (ONE) provides enhanced security at military bases.