Paying the price for war

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and co-editor of Because People Matter

Whether you own or rent in the six-county Sacramento region, you are footing the bill for the ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq. As an American taxpayer, do you know how much you are paying?

Economist Doug Henwood estimates it at $3,415 per U.S. household. That amount represents past and projected costs for the operations in Iraq as well as its occupation and reconstruction. The high-end estimated cost is $5,186 per household. Both estimates are based on having a U.S. presence in Iraq through 2007.

Our local chambers of commerce might consider the effects of such federal spending on their members. Between $3,415 and $5,186 per household is a big chunk of change flowing away from potential sales. All that plus state and local government budget cuts. Shhh. Listen. Do you hear a big sucking sound? It is more money leaving our capital region.

What the federal government is spending on Iraq is not being spent on us.

According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, “The $151.1 billion expenditure for the war through this year could have paid for: close to 23 million housing vouchers; health care for over 27 million uninsured Americans; salaries for nearly 3 million elementary school teachers; 678,200 new fire engines; over 20 million Head Start slots for children; or health care coverage for 82 million children.” (For more details, visit

Speaking of health care, it is in crisis. About every third American under the age of 65 lacked health insurance for a month or more during the past two years, according to a study by Washington, D.C.-based Families USA. Around 85 percent of these 82 million Americans work for a living. They are you and your family, friends and co-workers: real people doing without health care, putting themselves and other folks at risk.

Now think back to last year. Do you recall the Bush administration’s early estimate of $60 billion to $90 billion for the war on Iraq to keep us safe?

That was the price tag from the White House for a preventive attack on a nation that had not harmed us.