Newsweek, in a staple journalistic feature, lists “other uses” for the $87 billion Iraq spending bill including:

  • More than double the Department of Homeland Security’s 2004 budget
  • Hire more than 2 million new teachers
  • Triple the 2004 budget for the National Institutes of Health
  • Spend $5.4 million on each of the 16,000 Afghan women who die in childbirth each year
  • Spend $26,363 on every immigrant who arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2002
  • These lists are always rather amusing but rather silly. For one thing, it’s doubtful that Congress would have appropriated $87 billion for any of these programs. For another, the same game can be played with virtually any large expenditure. And, of course, “the taxpayers could have been allowed to keep X dollars to spend as they please” never seems to be listed. Plus, as Larry Lindsey points out, $87B isn’t really that big a deal in the grand scheme of the federal budget.

    The cost to defeat Saddam was less than half a percent of America’s annual income (measured as gross domestic product). If spending continues at the current pace, our involvement could cost us 0.4% of our income for the rest of this year. If President Bush’s request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is approved, the cost of these two fronts will amount to about 0.8% of our income next year.


    Each year American households spend about 1% of their income on alcoholic beverages and another 1% on tobacco products. We spend about 0.7% of our money on cosmetic products. In other words, our combined operations to combat terror in the Middle East cost a bit more than we spend on makeup and shampoo and a bit less than we spend on booze or tobacco.


    (Hat tips: Kristopher Vilamaa and Steven Taylor)

    FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Middle East, US Politics, , , , , ,
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Anonymous says:

      Actually, a better comparison would be how much we spend on foreign aid each year since this is essentially what this money is. We send $10 Billion a year to Israel, $2 Billion a year to Egypt, etc. Somehow I don’t see any democrats yelling to turn off this spigot to other countries. Also, if the Mid East is actually stablized, could some of the expeditures to this region actually decline in the long run??

    2. Norbizness says:

      Well, of course, that’s on top of what we’ve already spent. It’s pushing $200 billion for this fiscal year, how much for the next?