Monday, March 10, 2008

War is the Whole Milk in America's refrigerator of shame

I know that fundamentally those "what else could we have done with the money" screeds about war spending are problematic in many ways. Most notably, no one ever really seems to write "what could those people have done with their lives" pieces about the over 1,000,000 dead as a result of this illegal, immoral, and unjust war. It's also a bit of a pointless exercise to ponder spending money that's already been spent.

But yet, there's still apart of me that thinks maybe someday we can see that nearly a third of all Americans lack proper healthcare (or even have any) and think that is a big enough threat to our nation that we drop everything to drop 10 billion dollars a month on it. So, in the interest of hippie-esque daydreaming, here are some things we could spend money on instead of murder:

Estimated cost of war $10 billion a month:

“In FY2007, DOD’s monthly obligations for contracts and pay averaged about $12.3 billion including about $10.3 billion for Iraq and $2.0 billion for Afghanistan.” [CRS Report, 2/22/08]

The total estimated cost of the war is somewhere in the neighborhood of three trillion fucking dollars (when any amount gets over 1,000,000,000,000 it's considered customary to insert an expletive in the middle of it). Here's what the authors of the above article found we could do with that money:

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."

Remember a few things about this quote: for one, the numbers are only for one trillion, so triple them in your head. You think 24 million new units of housing would help our homeless problem? Or those displaced by Katrina? Or how about 129 million scholarships. Would that possibly help our nation compete on the international stage? Help remedy some of our problems with poverty? Or what about another 150 years of social security? Seems like that couldn't hurt. But even more depressing is the final note on Africa. What we give the entire continent in aid is not even equivalent to half a month's spending on war. Perhaps this is why our international reputation is slightly sullied?

But as I said, the money is already spent, and we're already feeling it here. Or at least anyone who ever uses anything that is publicly funded is feeling it. You know, like when bridges collapse in the middle of major American cities. Or when hurricanes destroy entire cities and the National Guard is all busy somewhere else.

Really, the point of this is as simple as it is preachy: why is that we are only able to mobilize these massive outputs of resources for killing people? Why not try using all of it to help people? Just once, so we can see what happens?

It's like switching to 2% milk. Sure, at first it seems really weird and foreign, but eventually you don't even notice the difference. And it sure is a lot better for you. Maybe there will be a day when we try out the whole milk of war just for old time's sake, and find that it's become so thick and disgusting that we can't even rememeber why we thought it was good to begin with...


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Anonymous said...

i like milk