THE BLOG
11/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Subpriming of Iraq

One consolation to the eye-popping $700 billion price tag of the bailout package is that compared to the cost of the Iraq war, it's a bargain.

The American Friends Service Committee, following the research of Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard researcher Linda Bilmes, has calculated that the war is costing U.S. taxpayers $720 million per day. This cost includes the day-to-day operations, the interest on money borrowed to prosecute the war and the cost of medical treatment for returning wounded veterans. That total after over five years of war stands close to double the cost of the bailout or $1.4 trillion.

Just as many home buyers were led into risky subprime mortgages in an unregulated industry, so too were Americans sold a war under false pretenses. We were misled about the real costs and never given an opportunity to read the fine print. Not only were there no weapons of mass destruction or imminent threat from the Iraq regime, the Bush administration sold the war to the American people by saying we could afford it, just as mortgage bankers told Americans they could afford homes much larger than their incomes warranted.

According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the war would be days or weeks, not months or years. The Bush administration insisted that the war would only cost $60 billion, and that would be covered by Iraqi oil revenues. That is the exact process of the subprime mortgage debacle with introductory teaser rates, only to be followed by ballooning costs. We might call this the subpriming of the Iraq War.

This is a credit card war. With Congress passing emergency supplemental budgets that are not covered by tax revenues, we have yet to pay a penny out of our own pockets for the war. That means that each day those unpaid credit card bills accrue exorbitant interest costs, adding to the debt our children will have to bear. So if the bailout added $2,300 of debt to every person in America, the cost of the Iraq War will guarantee that the next baby born in the U.S. will owe $6,900 during their lifetime.

So we, the taxpayers, are confronted with two simultaneous bailouts -- one for Wall Street and one for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. While we cannot lower the costs of the war already incurred, we can stop the hemorrhaging of the war debt by ending the war and bringing the troops home. Hand-in-hand with the removal of U.S. troops and bases, we need to commit to help repair the damage we have caused in Iraq. This may stave off future costs of a destabilized Middle East. We cannot afford more ideological foreign adventures.

In addition, the money spent on war can be redirected toward mass transit, alternative energy, infrastructure construction, health care and education. Those investments will create tens of thousands more jobs than money spent on the military. Following the research on job creation by the Institute for Policy Studies, just one week of the cost of the war diverted to mass transit could have created nearly 100,000 new jobs. Those jobs, in turn, will not only provide needed services, but will also contribute to cleaning up the environment and lowering our dependence on fossil fuels. That type of targeted investment is the real path to economic recovery.

The Iraq War has spent financial capital we never had and squandered our moral capital that we had accrued after 9/11. The Iraq War has mortgaged our children's future with a subprime mortgage that should never have been signed. It's time to tear up the contract and move on.