Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cost of the War

I was reading a good article in FastCompany (subscription required--sorry) entitled “Digging Out” by David Axe. The article looks at ways microfinance (making small loans to small businesses) can “win hearts and minds” by increasing employment which in turn leads to fewer unemployed prospective insurgents, provided that the deteriorating security situation is not past the point of no return. Ideally the micro-finance is a sub $1000 loan (not a grant--although in this instance/article I think they are grants) used to help an existing business grow or get a new business started. According to the article, the British army captain running the microfinance/microgrant operation is tapping an $80 million (per year--I presume) US State Department fund.

Here is what we should have been doing x 1000 for the last 4 years.

Instead we are spending $8 billion a month on (progressively less effective—or so it seems to me) military operations. On WHAT?

This figure is quite honestly mind-boggling. Let me boggle a bit. That is $266 million a DAY in a country with a population of 25 million and a prevailing daily wage of $10 or less (and unemployment in the 25% range in the stable provinces). Rather than increasing our troop levels, couldn’t we just start paying Iraqis (NOT Haliburton!) $1 billion a month to rebuild their country? I have to believe that a guy working a 12 hour shift in construction is not gonna have the energy to sit around all night planning ways to kill their fellow Iraqis.

Back to boggling…$8 billion/month adds up to $100 billion a year. Iraq is 1/12th the size of the US in terms of population, and yet for $100 billion a year we run a significant portion of our government including the (all the ones in blue below) US Departments of: Agriculture, Justice, NASA, Treasury, Labor, Interior, Commerce, Judicial Branch, NSF, Legislative Branch and the Army Corp of Engineers.
Figures are pulled from the wonderful site

Federal US Department 2007 Budget (Billions)

Transportation 68
Health and Human Serv.* 68
Education 54
Veteran Affairs 36
State 34
Housing and Urban Dev. 34
Energy 24
Agriculture 20
Justice 19
Treasury 12 (~90% IRS)
Labor 11
Interior 10
Commerce 6
Judicial Branch 6
National Science Found. 6
Legislative Branch 5
Army Corp of Eng. 5

*includes National Institute of Health ~28

I can’t help but feel we should be getting more for our tax dollar than we are in Iraq.

Edit 1/31: My table formatting did not take, so the numbers may be hard to read...but I think you get the general picture. Just to be clear the number following the department name is the budget in billions for 2007 (current).


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