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10/25/2007

War

THE COST OF WAR
Government spending is all about priorities

 

On Oct. 23, President Bush asked Congress for an additional $46 billion in war-related funding. That’s on top of the $147 billion the Department of Defense has already asked for, and the $3.7 billion other war-related agencies want. All totaled, you’re looking at $193 billion in defense-related spending in fiscal year 2008.

Of that, $154.7 billion would go toward the civil war in Mesopotamia. If Bush gets his way, the total cost of the Iraq War will be $611 billion by the end of fiscal year 2008, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), which monitors government spending.

Governing is, at its simplest level, about prioritizing. Every dollar spent over there could be spent here. Here’s a look at what some of that war money could buy.

NATIONAL

With $154 billion we could …

• Pay down the national debt, which is now over $9 trillion and rising $1.44 billion a day. The United States pays $430 billion a year in interest on that debt, which is part of the reason we run annual deficits into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Ending the war would get us close to breaking even, and with a little luck and sane economic policy, we could even start paying down the debt (your share of which, citizen, is $29,852 as of Oct. 12).

• Establish national health care. Hillary Clinton’s proposed health-care plan would cost $110 billion per year. Barack Obama’s proposal would cost between $50 billion and $65 billion per year. The children’s health insurance expansion that President Bush recently vetoed would have cost $60 billion over the next five years.

• Hire more cops. The median salary for a patrol officer nationwide is about $46,000. That means $154 billion could put about 3.34 million additional cops on American streets. Or we could hire more than 3.2 million new FBI agents (starting salary about $48,000), and probably a similar number of CIA agents (salaries aren’t public information) to aid in fighting terrorism.

• Fix New Orleans. According to the Washington Post, the cost of fixing the levees that protect New Orleans from a hurricane is $10 billion as of 2006. That means we could repair the levees 15 times over with the money we’re spending in Iraq.

• Buy an LCD flat-screen television – for about $1,000 each – for 154 million families.

STATE

To date, Florida taxpayers’ contribution to the Iraq war amounts to about $25 billion. (If President Bush gets his way, that number will increase by $4.3 billion in 2008.) According to the NPP, that $25 billion could provide:

• More than 8 million Floridians with health care

• More than 595,000 additional public safety officers

• About 432,555 music and arts teachers

• Some 8 million university scholarships

• Nearly 4,000 new elementary schools

• More than 300,000 port container inspectors

• Enough money to restore the Everglades twice over (the current 30-year project, a state and federal partnership, is budgeted at $10.9 billion)

• Enough money to pay for all of the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise’s planned construction projects, and still have about $24.3 billion left over; or

• Enough money to give every Floridian $1,381 cash.

LOCAL

According to the NPP, the Iraq War has cost the congressional districts of Rep. Ric Keller, Rep. Tom Feeney, Rep. John Mica, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and Rep. Corrine Brown, whose districts cover most of Central Florida, a combined $4.9 billion. With that money, NPP says, we could have:

• Provided health care to almost 618,000 children

• Built more than 36,000 affordable housing units

• Built 769 new elementary schools

• Built Rich DeVos 10 arenas

• Paid every Orange County homeowner’s property taxes for more than two years (Orange’s general fund budget is over $2 billion per year)

• Paid for the entirety of city government for more than five years (Orlando’s general fund tallies about $350 million a year; its total budget for this year is about $820 million); or

• Completely retired the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority’s debt, taken down the tollbooths and still had about $2.5 billion left over.

jbillman@orlandoweekly.com
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