It’s all relative

Context: The Cost of War

The USA Today noted that the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (they’re really separate campaigns in the same war, but never mind that for now) combined cost nearly as much per month as the Vietnam war did per month, when adjusted for inflation.

In Vietnam, the last sustained war the nation fought, the United States spent $111 billion during the eight years of the war, from 1964 to 1972. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more than $494 billion, an average of $61.8 billion per year, or $5.15 billion per month.

President Bush announced Sunday that he will ask Congress for $87 billion for U.S. operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — $66 billion for military and intelligence efforts, $21 billion for reconstruction.

That comes to about $5.5 billion per month for operations. The story (to its credit) does mention

Then [in Vietnam], war costs amounted to about 12% of the size of the economy, while now, the costs are equal to only about 0.5% of the economy, according to Steve Kosiak, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

HobbsOnline notes that this means we’re currently spending 1/24th of what we were in Vietnam when you adjust for inflation AND take the economy into account. And this is during a “recession” and after “massive” tax cuts.

Is that a crazy way of looking at the numbers? Maybe. But I say let’s spend another 11.5% of our economy on the war. Finance it by cutting 11.5% from elsewhere (anywhere, really) in the government budget. Bush wants $66 billion for the next year? I say give him $1.5 trillion. Cut that much in other spending to buy more bombs and hire more boots on the ground.

Well, that’s maybe a little reckless. Our budget for 2003 is only about $2.1 trillion.

Give him, say, just $1 trillion. Still cut $1.5 trillion in other spending and (more than) balance the budget. I’m kidding, but not by much.

Is $66 billion (or even $87 billion) a lot of money? Hell, yes. That’s more than $225 for every man, woman, and child in the nation. When looking at our federal budget and our nation’s economic output, is that a lot of money? Not as much as it sounds like.

According to this, the United States consumed over 156 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel in 1999. Since the Hummer was just barely catching on by then, I imagine it’s up some by now. I vote we add an additional 50 cent tax to each gallon of fuel. Spend 40 cents of it on the war (since it’s all about oil, after all) and 10 cents of it on getting us off our oil fix. That would be another $62 billion dollars per year for wanton destruction PLUS $15 billion per year for research and development of alternate energy sources.