by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
March 7, 2008
ENOUGH FOR A WAR, NOT FOR A PEOPLE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Last week, the National Governors Assn. met in Washington, D.C. One of the tasks the NGA had on its agenda was to ask President Bush to increase federal spending on roads, bridges and other public works projects as a way to stimulate the economy. He rejected their pleas out of hand, claiming that infrastructure projects wouldn't offer any short-term economic boost.
"There is no short-term stimulus to the economy for some of these projects," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. She said Mr. Bush will not accept any bill that raises taxes to pay for public works projects.
Transportation Department spokesman Brian Turmail echoed Perino's remarks, saying that highway spending was not an effective way to boost the economy because "it takes too long to get the money into projects." He suggested that the governors seek additional money from the private sector to pay for infrastructure repairs.
The attitude of the Bush Administration on public works is no different than its attitude toward any other function of government that doesn't involve bombing other countries or enriching supporters. His anti-government, anti-public interest stance ensures we will see crumbling roads and collapsing bridges for years to come.
There's no money to fix public infrastructure, but the money keeps flowing to the Pentagon to pay for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we close in on the end of our fifth year in Iraq, the U.S. occupation is costing about $12.5 billion a month. Operations in Afghanistan cost about $3.5 billion a month.
The price tag of a war that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cheerfully predicted wouldn't cost more than $50 billion to wage is more than $600 billion and counting. And that doesn't include other costs, such as caring for tens of thousands of wounded veterans.
You could fix a lot of bridges and repave a lot of roads with $600 billion. According to some recent figuring by The Boston Globe, you could pay for 40 "Big Digs," Boston's now-infamous highway project. Or you could provide free gasoline for every American driver for nearly 18 months. By using one-ninth of that money, you could convert every American car and truck to run on ethanol. Or you could pay for 14 million students to have a free year of tuition, room and board at Harvard. Or you could pay everyone's Medicare benefits for more than a year.
And the bill for Iraq is going to keep rising. Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the final cost of the Iraq war - budgetary, economic and societal - to the United States will ultimately be more than $3 trillion, and possibly as high as $5 trillion.
That is an obscene amount of money to fight a war that didn't need to happen in the first place. But the insatiable demands of the military-industrial complex that have sopped up so much of our money and our resources never go away. The sheer waste that our invasion and occupation of Iraq has been for the last five years means that a simple thing like spending more money on public works projects is out of reach.
The Bush Administration has no problem with this. But we believe there is no reason at all for the United States to spend more on its military than every other nation on the planet combined while our country's infrastructure crumbles from neglect.
AR Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.