Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Fall of the Soviet Union and Iraq

What do these two subjects have to do with one another? Let's first talk briefly about the Soviet Union. It fell not because of the strength of America but because of the weakness of its own economy which was overburdened by a military budget that bled everything else dry. Military spending is not productive spending. It doesn't provide infrastructure or goods to the public. Instead it is just a little better than throwing the money away. It is the epitome of the disposable product. So all of this wasteful spending as they tried to keep up with us in an arms race while sustaining a war in Afghanistan was more than they could afford. When their economy collapsed, as was inevitable because of the percentage of non-productive sending, the nation crumbled.

Last Thursday Joseph Stigletz, a Nobel Prize winning economist, and Robert Hormatz, vice chairman of Goldman-Sachs International, testified before the Joint Economic Committee of congress. Stigletz said that he believes the overall cost of the Iraq war will be around 3 trillion dollars with the direct cost to US taxpayers being at least $2 trillion.

Both men testified about the opportunities to make this country better that are rendered impossible because of this war. Stigletz said that for a fraction of the cost, Social Security and Medicare could have been kept easily solvent for at least 50 more years. Each day's spending could put 58,000 children in Head Start, make college affordable for 160,000 students, pay the annual salaries of 11,000 border patrol agents or 14,000 police officers. And that is one day's costs. Watch this little film from the American Friends Service Committee to see more of what could be done with just 1 day's expenditure for this war.

Stigletz also noted that 40% of the vets from the first Gulf War are eligible for disability benefits which will go on for decades. Imagine, he asked, what the numbers will be for this war which will involve 2 million troops and go on for at least the 5 years we already have under our belt? Imagine with me the social costs when the safety net for them fails as it did for the Viet Nam vets - remember how many of them ended up homeless on the streets? How many of these young men and women will end up discarded? And what will happen to their families?

And finally they testified that because of tax cuts during war and what was an already growing deficit, this war is financed almost entirely by deficit spending. Bush has worked to try to hide the costs of the war by bypassing the normal budget process and using emergency appropriations for the funds. The costs will be hanging around our necks like an albatross for decades to come.

And John McCain says we should expect to stay there another 100 year!

Let me make a prediction. If we do, we will fall just like the Soviet Union did and for essentially the same reasons. It will have nothing to do with the strength of our ideals or the beautiful vision upon which this nation was founded. It will be because of a poorly planned and completely unnecessary war that strangled our economy.

A vote for McCain will virtually insure that end. Actually, I think a vote for Hillary will too. It is only Obama who is talking about seeing security in a new way - of building coalitions and negotiating before dropping bombs.

1 comment:

Dave Miller said...

Nice post Roy. I too read the article and thought about the possibilities.

I linked your post to one of mine on Iraq.