Friday, July 03, 2009

They're Back ...

Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have an excellent opinion piece in today's Los Angeles Times reminding us of the true cost of war, especially one that is fought "off-budget" as the war in Iraq has been and now the one in Afghanistan apparently will be if the $80 billion "emergency" supplemental appropriations measure recently rammed through Congress is any indication.

...the U.S. has barely begun to face the enormous financial bill for the war. By our accounting, the U.S. has already spent $1 trillion on operations and related defense spending, with more to come -- and it will cost perhaps $2 trillion more to repay the war debt, replenish military equipment and provide care and treatment for U.S. veterans back home. Many of the wounded will require indefinite care for brain and spinal injuries. Disability payments are ramping up and will grow higher for decades. The stress of extended, multiple tours to Iraq means that a whole generation of U.S. military men and women may now be suffering from long-term mental health issues. The suicide rate in the Army is at its highest level since record-keeping began.

This wartime spending has undoubtedly been a major contributor to our present economic collapse. The U.S. has waged an expensive war as if it required little or no economic sacrifice, funding the conflict by massive borrowing. As we've observed in the past, you can't spend $3 trillion on a reckless foreign war and not feel the pain at home. ...

Early this year, President Obama committed 20,000 troops to a "surge" in Afghanistan. That, combined with a large, ongoing presence in Iraq and continued reliance on private contractors for virtually every aspect of military support, remains a recipe for staggering out-of-control expenditures -- now and in the future. Surely we can draw some lessons from the Iraq debacle and set aside money to care for our veterans, crack down on fraud and profiteering, and account for the true costs of the war in the budget so the American taxpayer can see what we are paying for.
[Emphasis added]

At a time when our congressional leaders keep telling us that we can't have true universal health care access because it would be too expensive (OMG! a trillion dollars!), the White House and Congress continue to shovel money in the direction of the war machine with no real oversight of how it is spent. Because these "emergency" supplemental appropriations don't go through the normal budgetary process which requires that the figures be carefully examined in relation to other necessary budgetary items, members of Congress (and their constituents) can't possibly know if the money requested is either reasonable or necessary. As a result, for example, private contractors gouging the Pentagon can safely continue to do so because the office that is supposed to keep track of their bills is woefully underfunded and understaffed. That office has its funds determined by the usual process.

There are all sorts of reasons that this process stinks, but right now the strongest odor comes from the fact that after eight years, it's considered "business as usual."

That's not the kind of change we were promised.

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Anonymous larry, dfh said...

So true all, Diane. And some of our
friends who talk a good line, aren't up to the task to which they were elected. I think primary challenges are in order, even if only to hold our friends' feet to the fire, in a gentle way, of course.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

See what you seem not to get, Diane, is that wars kill brown people, and so are worth any amount of money necessary.

If we had universal health care, it would save the lives of Negroes, Mexicans, and all manner of disreputable 'colored' characters.

Much better to kill 'em than to save 'em...

I thought you knew that...

8:39 AM  
Anonymous elbrucce said...

BO has delivered on everything he promised: hope. That's the only thing he committed to.

And we'll have hope for the rest of his administration:

"I hope we'll get decent health care."

"I hope they don't give ALL the $$$ to the bankers that fucked it all up."

"I hope we'll bring our troops home."

"I hope we'll close Guantanamo."

"I hope someday we'll restore the Constitution."

Hope is the gift that keeps on giving.

10:57 AM  
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2:34 AM  

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