Tie the cost of everything to the cost of Iraq

Well, not everything – but at this point, it is about time that even the most timid of Democrats can use the out of control amount of money being dumped into Iraq as a sledgehammer for just how much of a trade off Americans have had to (or will have to) make with respect to Iraq

Since there is such a low percentage of people in this country who are actually making a sacrifice for this failed ploy at world domination, unless Americans see the stark numbers of where their tax dollars (and their children’s tax dollars) are going to, and all of the much needed and neglected services they are no longer getting, all of the opinion polls about the growing percentage of people who want funding for Iraq cut or want our troops out of Iraq won’t matter at all.

And this leads to an excellent framing opportunity that frankly, should have been used a long time ago.  The change here is that finally, FINALLY, an increasing number of Congressional Democrats are realizing just how much their constituents are very (passively) against continuing this disastrous Iraq policy, and how much those who are dictating this policy are (1) clueless and (2) ignoring other more pressing issues.

On last night’s 60 Minutes, the head of Interpol talked about the international law enforcement agency and the trouble it is having when it can’t monitor terrorist activities or respond to threats that it may be aware of:

Security isn’t the only reason that countries don’t cooperate with Interpol. Sometimes they’re just embarrassed. Last year, when 23 people escaped from a prison in Yemen, including the mastermind of the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Interpol found out about it by monitoring Arab television.

“Worldwide in the last two years, we’ve had 43 countries where escapes have occurred. And zero of those countries — zero of those countries notified Interpol. That can’t happen. That shouldn’t happen. People wouldn’t believe it’s happening, but it’s happening,” Noble says.

Not only is Interpol underutilized, Noble says it is also hopelessly under-funded. The U.S. contributes $5.5 million to the organization’s $50 million budget, a pittance compared to big city police departments.


“And we know that terrorist activities are being planned,” Noble says, wiping a tear. “And we know that if we don’t respond, people will die. And I know I’m a smart guy. I know I work hard and I know I can persuade people to do things. I know. But I can’t get the U.S. and other governments to understand that the problem’s a billion-dollar-a-year problem. You know, not a million-dollar-a-year problem. But I know that it’s gonna change. It’s gonna happen one day.”

OK, granted, many countries don’t respect Interpol, but if the US is so concerned with Homeland Security and “monitoring terrorists”, then why not provide some funding for the entity that has the world’s largest database of known terrorists?  By the way, the amount of funding provided by the US for Interpol is the same as it spends for 10 minutes in Iraq.

House Speaker Pelosi is starting to get it as well.  Yesterday, she equated the SCHIP funding that Mister Bush just vetoed as being equal to the cost of 40 days in Iraq.  Say what you will about her leadership or some of her actions or words, but this is a brilliant move on her part.  It shows just how out of control the spending is on Iraq (regardless of how poorly many Congressional Democrats are handling the funding issues), how little Bush and the republicans who side with him on SCHIP care about the problems facing millions of families here in the US, and also the sacrifices that these people are willing to make in pursuit of their priorities.

This is a winning formula.  Just take a look at the 2007 Budget proposed by Bush and take your pick of program cuts.  Environment.  Education.  Medicare.  $300 million cut to the EPA.  Over $3 billion cut for education.  Over $45 billion in cuts to various Medicare programs.  With a low ball estimate of $200 million per day, the education and EPA cuts amount to just over 2 weeks in Iraq, while the Medicare cuts would be equal to around 7 months in Iraq. 

Medicare gets sacrificed.  Tax cuts for the middle class get sacrificed.  Screening cargo at our ports gets sacrificed.  Education funding gets sacrificed.  SCHIP gets sacrificed.  But untold billions for Iraq never get sacrificed.

Most Americans aren’t even aware of these program cuts, let alone how they compare to the amounts being spent every day in Iraq.  By not only highlighting each and every thing that the republicans in Congress filibuster (or default filibuster),or that Mister Bush vetoes but also contrasting the cost of Iraq as compared to these programs, it will compound the defense into not only why it is so necessary to cut, vote against or veto so many of these vital programs, but also to defend why needlessly sending all of this same money to Iraq is more important.

And regardless of whether Bush or the Congressional republicans think, the vast majority of American people would rather have their money spent here than in Iraq.


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    • clammyc on October 8, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    in orange

    • srkp23 on October 8, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    A little while back I wrote about a vigil I went to and included a photo of a woman with a powerful sign:

    Memorize this woman’s sign: “The war in Iraq costs $456,100,000,000.000. Instead we could have provided 21,925,000 students with four-year scholarships to Universities.” … and repeat it over and over to everyone you meet. It’s a statistic that really hits home. Let’s translate the cost of the Iraq War into other tangible equivalents and use that approach to talk to people who aren’t yet actively against the war.

    • KrisC on October 8, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    at National Priorities Project

    For my town, we could have built 4,125,729 additional housing units with the money we’ve contributed.

    Or, we could have hired 7,940,796 additional public school teachers for one year with the
    money we contributed in tax dollars.

    Or, we could have paid for 60,689,791 children to attend a year of Head Start.

    Or,  we could have insured 274,376,095
    children for one year.

    Or, we could have provided 22,212,923
    students four-year scholarships at public universities.

    What a shame….

    • snud on October 9, 2007 at 12:17 am

    that if after every news report that’s war-related, they’d put on the screen: “Approximate cost to taxpayers: $X,XXX,XXX”, that might raise an eyebrow or two after a while.

    Every vehicle that gets blown up, every helicopter shot down, every battle fought, etc. etc… It adds up, big-time.

    Dubya just says “Go shopping!” What a wanker.

    Great essay, clammyc!

      • CA Nana on October 8, 2007 at 11:26 pm

      The price of everything we buy has gone up because oil prices have quadrupled since the beginning of the war.  All you have to do is remember what the stuff you buy at the grocery store used to cost and realize that prices have inched up, little by little, and are getting higher every day.

    • xaxado on October 9, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Points well taken, but new questions arise:

    1.  The cost of war is breaking the US economy.  Is this an unintended consequence of dumb management, or does it represent a deliberate attempt to make the US into a failed state?  If the latter, why, and who would wish us such a fate?

    2.  It is often said that war has powerful friends who benefit from it.  All of these beneficiaries are backed by lobbying groups and we know, at least in a hazy level of awareness, who these lobbying organizations are.  But money is money.  To say that politicians are bought and paid for tells us nothing.  Why do some buyers gain control?  Why, for example, does the environmental lobby, or the public health lobby, lose out to the military/oil lobbies?  Is it just a matter of the size of the bribe?  Willingness to engage in kickbacks?

    In any case there seems to be a disconnect between public sentiment and political consequence.  At one point last summer public support for impeachment was strong and we all spent a lot of time contacting congress.  It went nowhere.  Public support for ending the war in Iraq is strong, yet the Democrats continue to make unnecessary concessions that enable the war’s continuation.

    Yes, it would be good to let people know the true cost of the war in terms that they can understand, along with the high economic risk of carrying this set of budget priorities forward.

    But believing that could be effective requires a related belief that the will of the public figures into the political calculus.  What we are all struggling with, after sharing the last six months of hope and disappointment, is the gnawing fear that we really don’t understand how this all works now.

    Democracy may be dead, and all of our talk may be about which way to push the corpse toward an open trench that we will then be required to jump into.

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