Economix: What $1.2 Trillion for War Could Buy Instead

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By: E&P Staff

For his “Economix” column in today’s New York Times, Dave Leonhardt estimates a total monetary cost so far for the Iraq war — not counting the price of a human life — at $1.2 trillion dollars. He notes this is a “conservative” estimate with some other guesses in the $2 million range. He also admits that these are tough numbers to wrap your noodle around, so he calculates what that same amount of money could pay for instead.

Here is part of his analysis.

For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign ? a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children?s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn?t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.

The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place ? better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation ? could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban?s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.

All that would be one way to spend $1.2 trillion.

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