Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tea Partiers don't mind a little war spending; it's spending on others that really hurts

The Iraq War's cost is way beyond their original estimate of $3 trillion, say economist Joseph Stiglitz and public policy academic Linda Bilmes in the WaPo today.
This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration's 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.

That means the war cost 50 to 60 times as much as Bush said it would.

Where were the Tea Partiers? Perhaps waving flags somewhere. If I'm right about Tea Partiers' Us-versus-Them outlook, war spending feels acceptable, while social spending -- which helps another category of "Them" -- is just an outrage. Here's an April NYT/CBS poll comparing Tea Partiers' views with those of average Americans on spending on the poor:

Tea Partiers also choose against the government directly helping others when it comes to spending on "jobs" versus the "federal budget deficit":

But ask them to choose between money for themselves or the deficit, and priorities change:

Who did they blame for the deficit in April, despite the war?

Of course. Not Bush.

Where did the deficit really come from? The NYT's David Leonhardt counted it up last year, concluding:
There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years.

The first is that President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. The second is that Mr. Obama does not have a realistic plan for eliminating the deficit, despite what his advisers have suggested.

Here's a graph Matt Yglesias made from that research (note the date on all this is June 9, 2010).

But we'll be hearing a lot more about all that awful health care reform than we did about the war. That money is for helping Our side or hurting Their side, and that's final.

Oh, and here's Stiglitz and Bilmes on the war's effect on the debt. When you're ideologically committed to more and more tax cuts, stuff like this is easy to forget.
There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn't include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt.

As a result of two costly wars funded by debt, our fiscal house was in dismal shape even before the financial crisis -- and those fiscal woes compounded the downturn.

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