Thursday, October 25, 2007

The cost of war

Back in 2003, the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels estimated that the war in Iraq could cost between $50 and $60 billion dollars. That prediction followed an earlier estimate from Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey that the war could cost $200 billion dollars; Lindsey was soon thereafter out of the White House, which dismissed his estimate as "the upper end of a hypothetical."

Five years later President Bush is now asking Congress to approve another $196 billion dollars to continue the war through 2008. And in a new report, the Congressional Budget Office now says that the total cost of the war in Iraq over the next 10 years could be as high as $2.4 trillion dollars. That study was the focus of a House Budget Committee hearing yesterday that I covered for Capitol News Connection -- you may read and/or listen to the piece by going here.

What I found particularly interesting is that the Committee's Ranking Republican, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, gave an opening statement that sounded an awful lot like something antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan might say:
"[Since Democrats took over Congress] we’ve heard comparisons about how much we are spending on the war as opposed to children’s health insurance or education programs, or what have you. But nothing has really changed. The President continues to send his war funding requests to the Hill, and in the end, he continues to get what he asks for.”
Ryan also noted that none of the Democratic frontrunners for president would pledge to remove all troops from Iraq by the end of their first term in 2013. Congressman Ryan's purpose was not to point out the Democratic Party's complete unwillingness to oppose the war in Iraq in anything but a rhetorical sense, but to highlight the need for Congress to be aware of the long-term costs of the war. That said, it's easy to see how some, particularly those opposed to the war, might see his statement differently.

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