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Hey all, I’m back again with another installment of EENR for Progress. This edition was inspired by John and Elizabeth’s Edwards recent announcement of the Iraq Recession Campaign. Tonight I’m going to focus on the interconnectedness of our failing economy and the Iraq war. Follow me below the fold……
Oil and Eggs
Bush dismisses the notion that there is a recession, let alone that the Iraq War is directly connected to our economic woes. There is one resource that has seen its prices rise considerably since we invaded Iraq, and that’s oil. In just five years, oil prices have risen from $25 a barrel to $100 a barrel. Aida Edemariam journalist from The Guardian wrote about this in her piece about the cost of the Iraq War:
Whatever the much argued reasons for bombing Baghdad, cheap oil has not been the result. In fact, the price of oil has climbed from $25 a barrel to $100 in the past five years – great for oil companies, and oil-producing countries, who, along with the contractors, are the only beneficiaries of this war, but not for anyone else.
I was in Iowa when oil reached $100 a barrel. I knew the day would come, but it still shocked me. Last night I was talking to a friend of mine from Seattle. She wanted to drive down from Seattle to visit me in Portland. The problem is gas is up to $3.50 a gallon and she can’t afford to drive three hours to Portland. Imagine the financial impact on a person who has to commute an hour to work every day? It’s not just the cost of gas that’s starting to hit Americans’ pocketbooks, it’s everything we’re buying.
When the cost of crude oil increases the cost of consumer goods follow suit. If it costs a company more to transport products across the country, then it’s going to cost us more at the grocery store when we purchase them. The cost of milk has jumped considerably as well as produce and other edibles. Companies use petroleum to create everything under the sun, plastics to insecticides to rubbers. Petroleum is even used to create your telephone and the lipstick you put on before you head out on a Friday night. Now that crude oil costs more, retailers are upping their prices, and we’re the ones who end up suffering.
Cutting Programs that would Stimulate the Economy
Bush released his budget proposal for the fiscal year of 2009 recently. Defense spending is up, and domestic spending…well…I’m sure you can guess. It’s not just that Bush wants to cut Medicare funding or housing assistance for the elderly, he’s cutting programs that would stimulate the economy. For years Bush has cut the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for Adults and the Employment Service. So, while we’re spending billions over in Iraq, we’re cutting funding for actual programs that not only help the poor, but aid our economy. Here’s a snippet from the Center for American Progress about funding being cut for yet another jobs training program:
The dislocated worker program is one such domestic program that has taken a bullet-to the tune of a $271 million budget reduction. The dislocated worker program provides grants to states to provide job training, career guidance, job placement, and other services for dislocated workers, including those who have lost their jobs due to trade. Yet if the President’s cut is adopted, nearly 65,000 fewer workers will receive job training and other services to help them find work.
FDR and Harry Hopkins proved that if you put Americans to work building the country’s infrastructure it will stimulate the economy. It’s common sense really, put a stable flow of money into peoples’ bank accounts, and they will be able to purchase more. There’s another area of importance that would not only create jobs but would make America the innovative leader of the 21st century. We need to invest in a green energy economy.
America is behind countries like Japan, Germany and Brazil in taking advantage of the blossoming green industries. If we stopped spending billions in Iraq and started spending that money in creating a green economy, the benefits are wide ranging. If we give strong enough incentives to automakers to go green, we could see the American car companies become leaders in the auto industry again by way of innovation. If we provide tax subsidies to green building companies, bio-fuel companies, and wind and solar companies, they’ll produce more which will lower the cost to consumers. Once the consumers buy more they’ll have to produce more, which will lead to an uptick in job creation. The green energy field is an area that could give back with the right investments, unlike Iraq which provides nothing but debt to America’s economy.
Imagine What We Could Have Done With the Money Spent in Iraq
I’ve heard many Presidential candidates talk about their policy proposals on energy, UHC, housing for the poor, fully funding education programs like Head Start and so on. It’s amazing how many programs could be funded by doing two things; rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and big corp. and ending the war.
Last week Joseph Stiglitz, an Nobel Prize winning economist and former economic adviser to Clinton, and Linda Bilmes former Asst. Sec. at the Dept. of Commerce from 19992001 published a piece in the UK Times about the true cost of the Iraq War. Stiglitz is released a book titled, “The Three Trillion Dollar War” about his findings since he started researching the issue back in 2005. If you haven’t read the book yet, the article in the Guardian last Thursday describing Stiglitz’s findings is quite a read. What was so troubling about this piece wasn’t just the raw numbers, it was that it is a conservative estimate. Here’s a snippet from the piece comparing the cost of the Iraq War and past wars:
Daily military operations (not counting, for example, future care of wounded) have already cost more than 12 years in Vietnam, and twice as much as the Korean war. America is spending $16bn a month on running costs alone (ie on top of the regular expenses of the Department of Defence) in Iraq and Afghanistan; that is the entire annual budget of the UN. Large amounts of cash go missing – the well-publicised $8.8bn Development Fund for Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority, for example; and the less-publicised millions that fall between the cracks at the Department of Defence, which has failed every official audit of the past 10 years.
What saddens me the most when it comes to our spending on the Iraq War, it’s the thoughts about what we could have done with that money. We could have funded UHC for all Americans, we could have jump started a green economy. The Guardian touches on the possibilities lost:
By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America’s social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: “Five billion is roughly 10 days’ fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything.”
3 Trillion Dollars for Nothing
In Thom Hartmann’s book“Screwed: the Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – and What We Can Do About It” he talks about how money being put into wars does not do anything but harm our economy and cast aside the real needs of Americans. Here’s a quote from the book on this very subject:
Military spending is the least effective way to help, stimulate, or sustain an economy for a very simple reason: military products are used once and destroyed.
When a government uses taxpayer money to build a bridge or highway or hospital, that investment will be used for decades, perhaps centuries, and will continue to fuel economic activity throughout its lifetime. But when taxpayer dollars are used to build a bomb or a bullet, that military hardware will be used once and then vanish. As it vanishes, so does the wealth it represented, never to be recovered.
As Eisenhower said in an April 1953 speech:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
It was a brilliant articulation of human needs in a world increasingly dominated by the nonbreathing entities called corporations whose values are profit and growth-not the human values of fresh air, clean water, pure food, freedom, and happiness. But it was a call unheeded and, today, it is nearly totally forgotten.
Bush is bankrupting our country and producing nothing in return. Bush’s recent budget proposal would increase Pentagon spending by 8.1%, which will bring the total to 518.3 billion. That’s not including 70 billion more to fight terrorism. We have invested hundreds of billions of dollars into something that produces no byproducts except death and debt. We’re cutting spending in programs that could produce something beneficial for America’s economic security. Our country is in a recession and is dependent upon other countries to harbor our debt. We need a major turnaround in America, and that turnaround needs to start in Iraq.
The Iraq Recession Campaign
John and Elizabeth Edwards along with MoveOn, VoteVets, SEIU, Center for American Progress and many others announced launching the Iraq Recession Campaign. It’s intended to bring awareness to the cost of the war in Iraq and what that has done to our economy. Votevets have released an ad and MoveOn is encouraging members to write to the local press to spread the word. Elizabeth chimed in with one sentence that embodies the whole point of the campaign:
“If the economy is your number one issue when you’re voting, the war is, too.”
My thanks and appreciation to all the folks who are working on the Iraq Recession Campaign. It’s a message that every single American needs to hear.
EENR Sends its Condolences to the Edwards Family
Many of you have probably already heard, Elizabeth Edwards father Vincent Anania passed away this past Saturday. Vincent was a naval pilot who served on the USS Quincy which took FDR to meet Churchill and Stalin at the Yalta Conference. Anania served in North Korea and Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. My heart goes out to the Edwards family, may you find solace in the good memories you shared with Vincent.