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War costs pass $1 trillion mark

Posted by Peace Action West on June 9th, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

The total cost of wars since 2001 has passed the trillion dollar mark, according to the National Priorities Project, which has been tracking this kind of spending since 1983. It is important for us to understand the staggering proportions of this spending and consider whether we should continue these wars which have not made us any safer.

U.S. spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has blown away the Bush administration’s initial projections. In 2002, Lawrence Lindsey, who served as the Director of the National Economic Council during the Bush administration, projected the costs of the war would be around $100 – $200 billion. However, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels, called the estimate “very, very high,” and offered a lower estimate, which was between $50 – $60 billion. Those projections now look ridiculously naïve.

The National Priorities Project has a state-by-state war costs trade-off calculator. For instance, taxpayers in California will pay $132.6 billion for both wars since 2001. Here’s a list of items that could have been provided, had this money been spent in other ways:

$39,391,600 People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
$1,420,335 Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officers for One Year OR
$1,740,679 Firefighters for One Year OR
$15,868,878 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
$23,883,376 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550 OR
$69,985,605 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
$15,090,196 Head Start Slots for Children for One Year OR
$47,044,554 Households with Renewable Electricity – Solar Photovoltaic for One Year OR
$1,721,744 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
$125,452,144 Households with Renewable Electricity-Wind Power for One Year
More information on the National Priorities Project’s method of calculating the costs of war here.

Our friends at Rethink Afghanistan created a Facebook application which presents us with 17 different ways of spending the 1 trillion dollars. Some of the ideas include funding the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill, providing healthcare for millions of children, supplying affordable housing units and even buying Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn many times over.

The one trillion dollars that we have wasted on wars could have been used to create jobs here, build homes, invest further in research and education, invent or develop new technologies — help our economy get back on track.

Now think about the money we will spend on war in the coming years. If we were to shift just a fraction of what we spend on war to more effective, peaceful alternatives, we would make a real difference in Afghanistan and Iraq and have plenty of money left over to invest here at home. And the U.S. could still do so much more to truly make the world a safer, better place for all of us, with smartly targeted small investments. John Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia, writes in an article:

The lives of millions of children, who die from nothing more serious than measles, tetanus, respiratory infections and diarrhea, could be saved, since these illnesses can be prevented by $2 vaccines, $1 worth of antibiotics, or a 10-cent dose of oral rehydration salts as well as the main but still very far from prohibitive cost of people to administer the programs.

People need to wake up and help end these wars. After all, it’s your hard earned money, spend it wisely.

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