If Every American Just Gave a Dollar. . . Comments on Bush’s Supplemental Budget Request for the Afghan and Iraq Conflicts


When I was more youthful, less cynical, and thought that some of the world’s most severe problems could be solved if every American just gave a dime, or a quarter, or a dollar, I had no idea how expensive fixing some of the world’s problems could be.
George W. Bush has just asked Congress — as of late last night — for another $82 billion to fund our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If approved, our total direct spending on these wars — according to the Congressional Research Service — will be $275 billion. (If you count opportunity costs because of the dramatic damage to the mystique of American power — the costs may be incalculable).
The American population is slightly larger than 275 million people — but the cost per person, in this country is about $1,000.00 a head for the Afghan and Iraqi Wars and Iraq Occupation. That’s a lot of money — particularly when roughly a third of the American population are not yet working or are retired. If we adjust out those at the young and old range, the burden of these wars on working age Americans is about $1,500.00 per person.
If one computes how this looks from Iraq’s perspective, we have spent about $11,500.00 on each Iraqi citizen, if focusing just on Iraq.
If one computes the per capita expenditures of this war given the number of “working age” Iraqi citizens, then the cost to America has been $19,643.00 a person.
Iraq’s purchasing power parity GDP per capita is only $1,500.00. And if one is honest, these figures vastly overstate the real per capita GDP in a country where doctors were, on average, making $90-100 a month before the war.
This may sound crass, but enticing the citizens of Iraq with other instruments than those we chose might have been more effective and less costly in finances and lives lost on both sides of the conflict.
Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s first National Economic Advisor, proved to be wrong after all. He seems to have seriously underestimated the costs of the war — even though the White House fired him (in part) for pushing out the $200 billion figure to the press.
It is interesting that the White House seems never to have removed Lindsey’s bio from its website. Might they welcome him back?
— Steve Clemons