When I was more youthful, less cynical, and thought that some of the world's most severe problems could be solved if every American just gave a dime, or a quarter, or a dollar, I had no idea how expensive fixing some of the world's problems could be.
George W. Bush has just asked Congress for another $82 billion to fund our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If approved, our total direct spending on these wars, according to the Congressional Research Service, will be $275 billion. (If you count opportunity costs because of the dramatic damage to the mystique of American power, the costs may be incalculable).
The U.S. population is slightly more than 275 million, so the cost for the wars in the Middle East and the continued occupation of Iraq is about $1,000 per person. That's a lot of money -- particularly when roughly one-third of the American population is either not yet working or retired. If we exclude them, the burden of these operations on working-age Americans is about $1,500 per person.
From Iraq's perspective, we have spent about $11,500 for each Iraqi citizen, if focusing just on Iraq-related costs.
Iraq's purchasing power parity GDP per capita is only $1,500. And if one is honest, this figure vastly overstates the real per capita GDP in a country where doctors were making $90 to $100 a month before the war.
This may sound crass, but enticing the citizens of Iraq with other instruments than those we chose might have been more effective and less costly in finances and lives lost on both sides of the conflict.
Larry Lindsey, President Bush's first national economic adviser, proved to be wrong after all. He seems to have seriously underestimated the costs of the war -- even though the White House fired him in 2002 (in part) for pushing out the $200 billion figure to the press.
It is interesting that the White House seems never to have removed Lindsey's bio from its Web site. Might they welcome him back?
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