cost of war

The Iraq War has cost the United States almost 457 billion dollars as of today, not to mention untold military and civilian lives. The price this nation will pay may be enormous for future generations. Whether the war was justified or not will be a question for the historians, most likely, and I will steer clear of that debate – this is not a political blog. But consider this: the average American’s life expectancy is 77.9 years. The average median household income is $48,200 per year. Most Americans are aiming for retirement at age 65 and expect to live off of 80% of their pre-retirement income. So for the cost of the war to date, 918,000 Americans could have 80% of the median US wage paid to them every year from their retirement at age 65 to age 78 (some would die sooner, some later). By the time President Bush leaves office, assuming the war is not over by then (and there is no reason as of today to assume it will be), that number will grow to 1.2 million Americans.

I will leave it to others to argue about whether the cause of fighting a war on terror should have been brought to Iraq or not. But while that war continues, every 36 hours more Americans die of heart disease than died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Cancer, while treatable, still cannot be “cured.” More than 11% of the children in the US have no health insurance. Every day we spend enough money on the war in Iraq to provide full health insurance for 200,000 of those kids for a year. Yet we are told that the greatest risk facing our nation is terrorism. In the long run it may be as terrorists acquire more deadly weapons, but there are far greater threats to our lives than terrorism today such as heart disease and cancer. The US ranks last in the industrial world in infant mortality. The value of the dollar continues to decline. Education in America is becoming less and less effective. Even great ideas like a “baby trust” are pipe dreams due to our nation’s pinched wallet. The money spent on this war could have funded 91 million such trusts – approximately the next 18 years of births in the US. Or it could have provided free public day care for all children from 3 years old to kindergarten age.

You have to wonder how soon the long-term health of our society will be affected by its spending priorities. To have a strong and growing society you need healthy, well-educated citizens who can expect to be able to stay out of poverty as long as they work hard. If you have a society filled with sickly citizens who have fewer and fewer skills to compete with highly-educated Europeans and Chinese and Indians, and who live in fear of approaching old age without adequate health insurance or retirement savings, what exactly are we defending?