By Tom Quiner
The “Supercommittee” meets. Their vision on why America’s fiscal house is such a mess varies wildly. The USA Today reports that Democrats on the committee blame the two wars this decade as one of the major reasons for our crisis, along with Bush-era tax cuts.
I am re-running a Quiner’s Diner post from last year which addresses the Iraq/Afghanistan War allegations:
Voices on the left are clear: our fiscal problems are the result of an unnecessary war on Iraq forced on the country by former President Bush.
Democratic Party strategist, James Carville, is blunt:
“It was under Mr Bush that the deficit spiralled out of control as we fought an unnecessary and endless $3,000bn war in Iraq…”
Writing in the Washington Post, Linda Bilmes (a member of Harvard’s faculty) and economist Joseph Stiglitz were even blunter:
“The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”
Writing in The Nation, Christopher Hayes is bluntest:
“First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars…”
The Iraq War certainly makes voices from the political Left emotional. Fortunately, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has weighed in with a detailed financial analysis of the war’s cost. It turns out the folks above were just plain misinformed.
It is certainly fair to argue if the fruits of our efforts were worth the tremendous cost to our nation.
Reasonable voices can debate if the removal of a mass-murdering dictator and the establishment of a democratically-elected government were worth it.
Reasonable voices can argue if the piece of mind knowing that the country truly is free of weapons of mass destruction are worth it.
The jury is still out on Iraq, and a healthy debate should continue on whether the price was worth it.
However, when it comes to deficits, the debate is over. The CBO spells it out. The war accounted for just 3.2% of federal government spending while it lasted.
Look at defense spending under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the 60s when it accounted for 46% of all federal spending. Contrast that with Bush II when defense spending was less than 20% of federal outlays.
The chart above really lays it on the line. The last year Republicans were in charge of the budget was 2007. Deficits exploded after Democrats took over. The biggest culprit is Obama’s stimulus package which will cost far more than the Iraq War ever did.
And for the record, we went to war with Iraq on the basis of bipartisan Congressional Iraq War Resolution (H.J. Res 114). In the House, 82 Democrats voted to go to war; in the Senate, 29 Democrats voted to go to war.
The next time you hear an angry voice blaming our deficits on the Iraq War, tell them to talk to the non-partisan CBO.