February 11, 2010
How Could $1 Trillion Be Spent
(click on the chart above for a larger image that is easier to read, to see how the average annual funding allocated for the war, of $111 billion, could have been better spent each year for nine years to improve the lives of millions of Americans)
The US Congress has authorized $1 trillion in war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 through September 2010. That averages out to $111 billion a year. If we were to have spent that same amount of money on human needs, what could we have bought. What could we have gotten for that same amount of money other than thousands of dead civilians and two failed wars?
The amount spent on these two war efforts are a living example of our derailed priorities as a society. When it comes to addressing social issues or meeting real human needs we are told that we cannot afford it. But when we declare war on a country like Iraq, without provocation, we find the money immediately. The question of whether or not we could afford it is never asked.
It is estimated that each year 18,000 Americans die of preventable causes because they do not have access to affordable health care. That mans that there is a greater chance of each one of us dying form a preventable cause without heath insurance than dying form a terrorist act. But in spite of this we choose,as a society, to do nothing about this very real threat tot he lives of so many thousands of Americans year after year. The same legislators that will allocate billions of dollars a year to fight terrorism, stand before us and tell us that we cannot afford to provide universal health care, turning their backs on the thousands of citizens who will die each year as a result.
It is not about whether or not we can afford to address the very real human needs that we are facing such as rising homelessness, increasing hunger, unemployment, more and more people without access to health care, foreclosures, etc, etc.
To try to develop a deeper understanding of these confused priorities I did some simple math to see what $1 trillion dollars over nine years could have provided. I chose to look at seven specific areas that would make an immediate difference in the quality of life of millions of Americans. These included health care, affordable housing, elementary school teachers, child health care, Head Start, college scholarships and Pell grants.
The chart above, shows what could have been paid for each year for the nine years of war with the average annual costs of these wars. It is quite amazing to see what a mere $111 billion per year can buy, when it is not being squandered on war. For a larger image that is easier to read, click on the chart.