Paying for Our Wars
…. conducting what the Bush administration labeled the war on terror, which has involved sending some two million men and women into combat in Iraq and Afghanistan … the men and women in our armed services, especially the ground forces, have had to serve multiple tours in the war zones without sufficient time at home to recover from the strains of combat and some 200,000 volunteers have had their terms of enlistment extended involuntarily.
Moreover, while about 5,000 service personnel have been killed and another 50,000 have suffered physical wounds, another 400,000 have developed mental problems. Moreover, to get enough volunteers to fight these endless wars, the Army has had to lower its standards and increase its baseline pay and benefits substantially. Finally, suicide rates, divorce, and spousal abuse among the veterans returning from multiple combat tours have skyrocketed.
The direct costs of funding these conflicts now totals about $1 trillion while the indirect costs will probably amount to $5 trillion when one adds in veterans benefits, long-term care of the physically and mentally wounded, and interest on the national debt. President Bush, who inherited a budget surplus from President Clinton, not only did not raise taxes, he cut them, and squandered the surplus while accumulating more debt that all of his 42 predecessors combined, almost all of which was borrowed from countries like China.
Not drafting people or raising taxes to pay for these conflicts is both a moral and a security failure. Not only is the current policy of not activating the selective service system unfair to today’s volunteers, but running the wars on a credit card saddles future generations with the cost of paying for wars they had no part in deciding. Moreover, by borrowing money from a rising power like China, we have undermined our ability to balance its influence in the Middle East, Africa and East Asia.
Finally, because most Americans did not have to make any sacrifices to undertake these conflicts, they failed to ask the right questions or hold their leaders fully accountable for waging these wars. If, for example, before invading Iraq, President Bush had reinstituted conscription and levied a 10 percent income surtax, would 60 percent of Americans have supported the conflict without UN authorization and would only a handful of senators have read the whole National Intelligence Estimate, which showed that the case for invading Iraq was dubious at best?
When America goes to war it should not just be the military but the American people. Never again should we go to Wal-Mart while the soldiers go to battle. Paying for the increased force level in Afghanistan will be a step in the right direction.
Republicans have been characterized by two principal positions: They like starting wars and don’t like paying for them.
Republicans resolved to fight our wars on the cheap and with deceptive cost estimates.
Bush and his party, which controlled Congress from 2001 to 2006, never asked for sacrifices from anyone except those in our nation’s military and their families.
All Americans, not just the military, should feel the cost of war. A huge gap has grown between the majority of the American people and the small proportion that serves in the military. So much sacrifice has been asked of them and their families, yet so little of the rest of us.
The financial cost of war should be clear, not hidden.
It takes the threat of a tax increase to get people to think seriously about whether it’s worth continuing to fight wars far from home–wars that have only the most tenuous connection to the national interest.
Overseas Contingency Operations: The Pentagon Slush Fund
The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund – sometimes referred to as war funds – is a separate pot of funding operated by the Department of Defense and the State Department … the OCO fund has very little oversight … it represents 11% of the Discressionary defense spending for 2015 ( $ 598 Billion)