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Springer Journal: $87 Billion For Iraq And Afghanistan!

Posted September 23, 2003

— President George W. Bush is asking the United States Congress – and, in reality, the American taxpayers – for $87 billion for our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for the reconstruction efforts in those two countries.

Not many folks I know can adequately comprehend just how much money $87 billion really is. Let me help put that dollar figure into some relative context. Doing so may help each of us decide if it is worth it to spend that kind of money abroad while we have so many domestic needs to attend to.

No one can put a dollar figure on the loss and suffering of those directly impacted by the terrorist attacks on America of two years ago. And I have been unable to get a single source for the overall dollar impact from the tragedy of September 11, 2001. However, a few statistics lifted from the

wall Street Journal


USA Today

help to place the $87 billion figure into perspective.

According to the


, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated that the New York casualties of 9/11 lost $7.8 billion in prospective earnings over their lifetime. They also reported an estimated $18 billion to clean up and restore the World Trade Center. There was another estimate of just under $4 billion for subway and utilities costs, as well as another $4 billion for a fund to aid the 9/11 victims in New York.

The same


column quoted a Milken Institute estimate of 1,300,000 jobs lost across the country as a result of 9/11 and a concomitant decrease of $150 billion in our annual income or Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

As a consequence of 9/11, the federal government and the states budgeted for nearly $40 billion in 2003 for anti-terror and security related items. Our non-governmental agencies and businesses are spending about $33 billion this year for added security measures. Had it not been for 9/11, I doubt that those dollars would have been spent.

In spite of a $15 billion government bailout, a couple of our nation's airlines went bankrupt and all of the carriers combined lost about $11 billion in large part due to a passenger fear of flying following 9/11.

I do not believe you can independently add up these numbers … most of which are estimated numbers … and directly correlate them to the $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan. I do believe however that we can all see the financial impact on our nation's economy from one single day of terror!

There are other things to consider when assessing the $87 billion request. Billions of those dollars will flow back into our economy. Consider the combat pay and special pays for such things as family separation that accrues to our military men and women. Billions more will be spent to pay the reservists and National Guard members who are activated for this war on terror. Virtually all of those monies will be spent back home in America. Replacing weapons, ammunition and such things as tank tracks are included in the budget request. Again that is money which will be spent here domestically.

As a consequence of the military victory in Iraq, we will no longer be spending about $2.5 billion each year to support the northern and southern "no-fly" zones over Iraq. The Air Force's land based aircrews and support functions along with the Navy's aircraft carriers have already returned to the United States.

Larry Lindsey, a former White House economic adviser, writing in

USA Today

made a comparison or two with which we can all identify: $87 billion equates to about 0.8% of America's total annual income for 2004 as measured in terms of the GDP. American households spend 25% more than that (about 1.0%) each year on alcohol … and spend another 1.0% on tobacco products. Americans spend about $75 billion each year on cosmetic products. I am not suggesting we give up alcohol, tobacco or cosmetics. I am simply trying to place the $87 billion anti-terror and reconstruction costs in perspective.

I am convinced we are a "safer" nation today than we were two years ago. However, we are not a terror free or totally "safe" nation. And we won't be for years to come. We must continue to take the World War on Terror (WWT) to the terrorists in their locations, and reduce the potential for terrorist attacks on our soil.

As Congress and the American people assess President Bush's request for such a large sum as $87 billion, I hope the discussion will be civil and thorough. We don't need any political bumper sticker slogans … we need reasoned debate.

When I reflect on the tragic loss of life on Sept. 11, 2001, and as I add up the associated costs enumerated above, I find the $87 billion request much easier to accept. If it will help bring democracy, sovereignty and humane treatment to the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be money well spent. It will also eliminate some terrorist support structures which could be used to launch further attacks on America and the free world.

We are all learning again that "freedom is not free!"


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