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News ::
24 Oct 2003

By Deirdre Griswold
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 30, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Deirdre Griswold

What's $87 billion? It's become more a symbol than a number. It's a
shortcut for saying that the government ignores people's needs here in the United States while spending huge sums on the conquest and
occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Will it be the last little straw that buckles the camel's back like a
ton of bricks?

You hear it mentioned when another piece of the infrastructure crumbles, or state workers are laid off or further inroads are made into vital services. When the news media ask people on the street for their comments, they angrily bring up the $87 billion.

It's a lot of money. It comes to $300 for every single person in the
United States. Any worker told that the government was not going to
spend that money and would give it back to them in a refund would
consider that a very special day.


But actually, that $87 billion is just the tip of the iceberg.

It refers to a "supplemental" appropriation passed by Congress on top of the already huge military budget for the coming year.

Here's the breakdown on military spending for fiscal years 2003 and

For FY2003, which covered the period of the massive assault on Iraq,
Congress approved a Pentagon budget of $364.4 billion. But in April of this year, it gave the war makers another $62.4 billion in a
"supplemental" bill to cover the Iraq war.

Now comes FY2004. It took all of 25 minutes on Sept. 17 for the
conference committee that reconciles the House and Senate versions of
the military spending bill to approve an even larger appropriation than last year: $368.2 billion.

Then, adding insult to injury, the Bush administration said that wasn't enough. They needed more for the occupation and "rebuilding" of Iraq and Afghanistan. So they got the generous guardians of the public treasury to slip them another "supplemental" $87 billion. Add the two together and you get $455.2 billion for FY2004.

If you add up the Pentagon budgets for both years, plus the
"supplementals," the total comes to $882 billion. Do the math on that
and you'll see that, over these two years, the average family of four is expected to pay about $12,160, or more than $3,041 per individual, for war.


The hard-working and increasingly low-paid people of this country have many other things they could do with that money. Like getting your teeth fixed, or paying on your student loans so your bank account isn't seized by the IRS, or paying down your credit card debt.

But instead, this government of, by and for the rich will be using it to build submarines, fighter jets and missiles.

Last January, before the war started, Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus predicted that a war with Iraq could cost the economy a total of $1.6 trillion over the next decade. (Washington Post, Jan. 8)

With growing resistance in Iraq to foreign domination, and the
reluctance of other countries to help pay for a war they never thought should have happened, this estimate will undoubtedly turn out to be conservative.


Talk about trillions and most people's eyes glaze over. It's hard to
wrap your head around such immense sums. So let's break them down.

Take the figure of $2 trillion. That's how much the Congressional Budget Office, in a report released last January, estimated the federal government would spend over the next five years on "national defense."

Think about this for a minute: Two trillion is enough money to build
brand-new $100,000 houses and apartments for 20 million families--more than a quarter of the population of the whole United States.

What a great tax "refund" that would be for lower-income people. Imagine wiping out homelessness and substandard housing in one fell swoop! And imagine how many millions of jobs that would create, not only in construction but also in manufacturing all the items needed to furnish an attractive and comfortable home.

Right now all but a few states are in crisis because their revenues are down and they can't print money like the federal government. Their budget cuts are affecting county and city governments, too. As a result, the biggest cutbacks in years have just begun in schools, libraries, fire stations, parks, medical programs, senior centers and scores of other vital services.

About 1 million people are losing Medicaid coverage this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Higher education has been cut in 13 states. Elementary and secondary education has been cut in nine. Subsidized childcare for low-income families has been cut in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Desperate parents have to choose between either risking their children's safety or risking their jobs.

With the cutbacks, the jobs of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of teachers, librarians, fire fighters, social workers, meat inspectors and other public workers are on the line.

As the layoffs kick in, the weakened economy will take another severe
hit in the one area--services--that was supposed to compensate for the shrinking industrial work force.


How big are the budget deficits that are driving all this pain?

In FY2003, state budget deficits added up to about $76 billion,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Just the
"supplemental" federal spending for the war in Iraq in the same year
would almost cover that.

For FY2004, the state deficits are expected to jump to as high as $85
billion. But that would still be covered by the $87 billion in the
newest "supplemental" appropriation for war and occupation.

If the working class controlled the destiny of this country, wouldn't
the welfare of the people be our priority--not an endless and expensive state of war that makes the U.S. more hated, not more secure?

U.S. soldiers are now dying every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, as
resistance to foreign occupation grows. The $87 billion not only pays
for this repression of the people but is also earmarked for building
puppet governments packed with former exiles like Ahmed Chalabi, a
convicted financial felon who hadn't been in Iraq for 40 years until he was installed as a leader by U.S. troops.

This money is also going to U.S. corporations close to the Bush
administration, like Halliburton. Its affiliate Kellogg Brown & Root got contracts to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq--not to help the people there but so other U.S. corporations can profitably take out the oil and natural gas. Vice President Dick Cheney, even as he sits in the White House, gets $1 million a year from Halliburton in "pension" money from his days as CEO of the company.

So that's it--the problem is the criminal corporate ruling class, not
how much wealth there is. There's plenty of wealth already to build a
harmonious society in which no one goes hungry, homeless or lacking in any basic human need. The problem is to get rid of this capitalist
economic system, which is uncontrollably addicted to profit and war.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) Support the
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