The Three Trillion Dollar War

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of economics at Columbia University, NY, has written the ultimate tome on the real cost of the war in Iraq.

Whether the US Congress likes it or not, he is the definitive authority on how much money is really getting burnt in the ongoing war.

Some time in 2005, Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, who also served as an economic adviser under Clinton, noted that the official Congressional Budget Office estimate for the cost of the war so far was of the order of $500bn. The figure was so low, they didn’t believe it, and decided to investigate. The paper they wrote together, and published in January 2006, revised the figure sharply upwards, to between $1 and $2 trillion. Even that, Stiglitz says now, was deliberately conservative: “We didn’t want to sound outlandish.”

[…]

By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America’s social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: “Five billion is roughly 10 days’ fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything.”

… and then there are the countless holes of cluelessness into which entire billions of dollars just vanish. Or ludicrously overpaid contractors who never get round to finishing what they were hired to do. What’s this fish stench?…

To put this ungraspable figure of 3 trillion (a 3 with 12 zeros) into perspective, here are some other figures:

$16bn
The amount the US spends on the monthly running costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – on top of regular defence spending.

$138
The amount paid by every US household every month towards the current operating costs of the war

$19.3bn
The amount Halliburton has received in single-source contracts for work in Iraq

$25bn
The annual cost to the US of the rising price of oil, itself a consequence of the war

$3 trillion
A conservative estimate of the true cost – to America alone – of Bush’s Iraq adventure. The rest of the world, including Britain, will shoulder about the same amount again

$5bn
Cost of 10 days’ fighting in Iraq

$1 trillion
The interest America will have paid by 2017 on the money borrowed to finance the war

3%
The average drop in income of 13 African countries – a direct result of the rise in oil prices. This drop has more than offset the recent increase in foreign aid to Africa

Read the entire, long but intriguing article here at the Guardian.

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