The NYT’s Bob Herbert had an important column on a recent congressional hearing that barely generated any attention at all. The focus was on the cost of the war in Iraq, which is likely to reach $2 trillion, if not more.
On Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Schumer, conducted a public examination of the costs of the war. The witnesses included the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz (who believes the overall costs of the war — not just the cost to taxpayers — will reach $3 trillion), and Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.
Both men talked about large opportunities lost because of the money poured into the war. “For a fraction of the cost of this war,” said Mr. Stiglitz, “we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more.”
Mr. Hormats mentioned Social Security and Medicare, saying that both could have been put “on a more sustainable basis.” And he cited the committee’s own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the war each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.
What we’re getting instead is the stuff of nightmares.
Noting this, Matt Yglesias added, “Few people seem to appreciate it, but it’s quite literally true that al-Qaeda’s strategy is to cripple the U.S. economy by dragging us into quagmires abroad. Osama bin Laden himself has said this, and it’s the only strategy that makes sense. A smallish number of people with no base of resources can’t possibly defeat us unless we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly as Bush and McCain propose.”