Wars’ ‘hidden costs’

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are even more expensive than Americans thought they were, it turns out. As the Washington Post reported this week, a new congressional study that estimates the conflicts’ “hidden costs”—including those of treating wounded veterans long into the future, the higher price of oil, and interest on the money borrowed to pay for the fighting—is nearly double the $804 billion the Bush administration has spent or sought from Congress to keep fighting through 2008.

The cost to an average American family of four: more than $20,000. The total cost: more than $1.5 trillion.

Because of all the money being spent on war funding, American businesses are diverting billions of dollars from “productive investments.” In addition, the wars are pulling reservists and National Guards away from their jobs, resulting in further disruption of the economy.

One of the most dangerous aspects of this is that, for the first time, the government is increasingly relying on foreign debt to finance the war, thereby weakening the dollar and leaving a burdensome obligation for future generations. By refusing to ask the American public to sacrifice and pay higher taxes for the wars, as we have done in previous conflicts, the Bush administration has chosen instead to borrow money while lowering taxes.

And if the wars continue, the report states, the costs will continue to mount, reaching $3.5 trillion and costing the average family $46,000 over the next 10 years.

Think of all the wonderful things that money could do for America if it were to go to schools, health care, the environment, public transportation, the environment or any of hundreds of other productive uses.