Sunday, March 18, 2007
Conflict a small piece of overall budget, but it’s being paid for with debt
Image: U.S. soldiers in Baghdad
U.S. soldiers from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion conduct a foot patrol in the Dora neighbourhood of southern Baghdad on Saturday.
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David Furst / AFP - Getty Images
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Updated: 9:52 p.m. CT March 17, 2007
NEW YORK - After four years, America’s cost for the war in Iraq has reached nearly $500 billion — more than the total for the Korean War and nearly as much as 12 years in Vietnam, adjusting for inflation. The ultimate cost could reach $1 trillion or more.
A lot of money? No question.
But even though the war has turned out to be much more expensive than Bush administration officials predicted on the eve of the March 2003 invasion, it is relatively affordable — at least in historical terms.
The problem, he and other budget analysts argue, isn’t so much the overall cost of the Iraq war. It’s the way the government has chosen to pay for it.
Unusual payment method
For one thing, war funding for both Iraq and Afghanistan has come in the form of supplemental appropriations outside the normal federal budget process. Typically these “supplementals” are used to pay for unexpected emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, and they receive much less scrutiny from Congress.
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But after four years the Iraq war is still being funded with supplementals. In December, congressional budget leaders from both parties sent a letter to President Bush asking him to start paying for Iraq through the traditional budget process. The administration has done that in its 2008 budget year request — but not before asking for another $100 billion supplemental to keep the war going through the end of this year.
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“This war we had no reassessment of fiscal policy, no alteration of fiscal policy to make room in the budget to pay for the war.”
Instead, the war is being paid for with debt.