Ignore all the sanctimony in political oratory. The most reliable guide to the real priorities of our elected officials is where they spend our money. Talk is cheap.
War, however, is very expensive.
A new study says the Iraq War has cost the United States $2 trillion. By the time all the veterans’ bills are paid, it will likely cost us up to $6 trillion.
Let that sink in for a moment. Per National Priorities, here’s an estimate of how much money is allocated for various programs in President Obama’s 2015 federal fiscal year budget:
Education: ~ $70 billion
Health: ~ $58 billion
Unemployment and labor: ~ $58 billion
Energy and Environment: ~ $35 billion
International Affairs: ~ $35 billion
Science: ~ $35 billion
Transportation: ~ $23 billion
Food and Agriculture: ~$11 billion
Think about what we could have done with $6 trillion. With a “t”. As in, one thousand billions.
Almost eight years ago David Leonhardt wrote about what $1.2 trillion could have bought, which was the estimated cost of the Iraq War at the time:
For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.
Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.
From City Hall to Washington, D.C., our elected officials have made it very clear where their priorities lie. And it isn’t with veterans’ health care, or education, or public safety or the many admittedly dull public services that virtually all citizens believe government should provide.
Instead, too many of our lawmakers think they’ve been elected to tell everyone else how to live. At home, that means trying to control women, marginalize gay people and impose their narrow religious beliefs on others. Abroad, it means showing “strength” –which for people like Dick Cheney means spending trillions of dollars on wars of choice, and opting for military “solutions” to any and all problems.
I guess it’s more fun to play soldier than it is to make sure that our children are fed and our bridges don’t fail.