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But Who’s Counting?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

A recent analysis by two prominent economists pegs the eventual cost of our war in Iraq at a mind-boggling three trillion dollars. Only World War II topped that, at a current dollar cost of $3.2 trillion. For comparison, the Vietnam War cost us only $650 billion, less than one-third as much.

Opponents of the war argue that there are more important things to spend three trillion dollars on here at home. They tick off a universal health care system, education, transportation, renewable energy programs and other pressing needs. What they don’t acknowledge is that we don’t have the money in the first place. It’s being borrowed from China and elsewhere, and we’re assuming our kids eventually will pay it back, with interest, of course.

But even if we had the money, three trillion dollars is dwarfed by another budget item that too few seem serious about addressing. The Medicare and Social Security Trustees recently issued their annual report, pegging the future unfunded liabilities of these two federal programs at over $100 trillion. That’s thirty times more expensive than the war in Iraq, and it’s growing at more than the $3 trillion war figure every single year.

I’m waiting for some big government types to try and justify such a tremendous burden on future generations. But, I guess once you get over $3 trillion, who’s counting?

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Director of the Oregon Economic Opportunity Project and the Government Transparency Project at Cascade Policy Institute.

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