Guns and butter

As of May 30, 2010, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan passed the one-trillion dollar threshold, according to the National Priorities Project:

To date, the total cost of war that has been allocated by Congress is $1.05 trillion, with $747.3 to Iraq and $299 to Afghanistan. The numbers include both military and non-military spending such as reconstruction. Spending includes only incremental costs, those additional funds that are expended due to the war. For example, soldiers' regular pay is not included but combat pay is included. Potential future costs, such as future medical care for soldiers and veterans wounded in the war, are not included. These numbers do not account for the wars being deficit-financed or that taxpayers will need to make additional interest payments on the national debt due to these deficits.

In other words, this estimate might be a soft and forgiving one since it includes just a part of the cost of these wars to date. And, as of this moment, these wars look to be interminable.

In related news, the Associated Press recently reported that:

Laid off workers would lose subsidies to help buy health insurance and states would be denied billions in federal aid under a plan by House leaders Thursday to trim a bill extending jobless benefits.

Democrats struggled to extend jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for long stretches as lawmakers worried about the growing budget deficit balked at the price tag of the package.

The cuts would reduce the package by about $31 billion, to about $112 billion. Business tax increases would pay for some of the bill, which would still add more than $50 billion to the deficit.

For the reader to consider this information in its proper context, she would need to consider the current unemployment rate. Shadow Stats pegs it at 22%.

As of April, the official rate has sat at 9.9%.

The bill, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 (H.R.4213), did pass from the House to the Senate. However, as Donny Shaw notes in his comments on the bill:

But they [the House were] a day late. The Senate adjourned this afternoon and won't be back to vote on the bill until Monday, June 7. The current unemployment benefits extension that was approved by Congress in April is set to expire on June 2. According to the Department of Labor, more than 300,000 unemployed people will exhaust their current tier of benefits and be left without a lifeline by the time the Senate gets back to take up the bill.

So, the long-term unemployed were again made to wait on a Congress that could not enact clearly needed legislation and to pass it in a timely manner, that balked at the cost of the bill, cut its healthcare provisions and managed to ensure that the benefit-eligible unemployed must wait for the Senate to return from vacation before it votes on the bill.

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Fiscal conservatism has long been a part of America's Civil Religion — the prudent use of money and the keeping of a balanced ledger being parts of a single cardinal virtue since Colonial times. This ethos has been so deeply entrenched in the United States that its fiscal conservatives could even find a home within the "bastard Keynesian" (Joan Robinson) consensus which dominated economic policy throughout the postwar era. They were the keepers of the sound budget after the Second World War. They even had a place among the builders and maintainers of America's welfare state, including Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, the postwar Social Security system, Medicare and Medicaid. But bastard Keynesianism as a theory and practice crashed hard during the interregnum of the 1970s, which were given their economic identity by the Stagflation and Oil Shock episodes which marked the decade and beyond. Fiscal conservatism, though, survived the decade. The imperatives it sponsored intensified when they were coupled to the race and status resentments which defined the emerging reactionary right. Market fundamentalism quickly took bastard Keynesianism's place as America's guiding economic paradigm.

It should come as no surprise that today fiscal conservatism provides coverage for an eccentric and brutal form of capitalism. It most notably does not have a place for the reticent welfare state project which Johnson and, surprisingly, Richard Nixon pursued according to their inclinations and interests. This is the capitalism which grew from the grand political choice which defined the Right Turn among America's elite and the appearance of a reactionary core at the base of the Republican Party. This has been a predatory capitalism with a predatory state (Galbraith, 208, pp. 130-132), a system which could not tolerate the cross-class compromise that marked the New Deal. After it had taken the executive office in 1980, the right quickly and emphatically chose empire and war, finance capital and a declining standard of living. (One even could argue that Jimmy Carter had already selected these paths.) The victory of the right has meant that Uncle Sam would always spare a trillion or two to make mindless and vile war and accumulate ostentatious weapons while the coarser citizens of America would always have an opportunity to learn that only achieving would entail having.

It seems as though Reagan's baser instincts have been liberated by his successors as the years have passed.


Derrick Crowe affirms conclusions akin to mine:

One trillion dollars, gone. And we're just getting warmed up…there are trillions more in future direct and indirect costs coming.

These two wars mutilated our economy. There's no other way to say it. We've taken a huge amount of wealth and done things with it that damaged the economy. People are out of work and hurting today because we chose to launch two wars that aren't worth the cost.

Last updated on May 31, 2010 at 1:31PM

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