Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The cost of the wars: a duet

Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times yesterday defined the cost of this country's military adventures as opportunities lost, as defined by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist, and Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

"For a fraction of the cost of this war, said Mr. Stiglitz, "we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more."

Hormats cited the committee's own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the ware each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.

If that isn't enough even to make even the most rock-ribbed Republican wonder about the fiscal sanity of these couple o' wars, never mind the moral and geo-political implications, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a new report today showing just how much available money the military is gobbling up.

Funding for devense and related programs has exploded. Since 2001, it has jumped at an annual average of 8 percent, after adjusting for inflation and population -- four times faster than the average rate of growth for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (2 percent) and 27 times faster than the average rate for growth for domestic discretionary programs (0.3 percent).

It's not just the wars spurring military spending, either.

Even excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on terror, funding for defense and related programs has grown at an average annual rate of 4.8 percent per year since 2001, after adjusting for inflation -- substantially faster than the growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

This isn't any way to run an economy. Or a country.

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