True Costs of War: Economic


The administration's budget for 2012 for the War Department -- euphemistically known since World War II as the Department of Defense -- is about $707,000,000,000. However, that leaves out $20 billion for nuclear weapons research, development and clean up; $117 billion for ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the various military outlays the government puts in other departmental budgets, like the FBI and NASA. Add it all up without Washington's thumb on the scale and this year's total for the military is more like $869 billion.

BUT! to that $869 billion for current military spending we must add $123 billion for this year's Department of Veterans Affairs budget and $380 billion for debt payments on past wars which comes to a grand total of just under $1.4 trillion, or 48% of everything the federal government proposes to spend this year!

That is just one of the true costs of war. We pay much more than dollars to live in a militarized society or as some call it, a "war economy." To use the War Department's own language, what about the "collateral damage" here in our own country...the shuttered libraries, closed swimming pools, public transit cutbacks, teacher layoffs, inadequate police and fire departments and miserable postal service?

It is difficult to comprehend dollar amounts when they are counted in the billions and trillions, so let's look at some documented comparisons that may make the DoW (Department of War) $869,000,000,000 budget for 2012 seem a little less surreal.

  • Every college student in the U.S. -- public and private, for the 2008-09 academic year -- could have had all tuition and fees paid for with less than six weeks of the military's 2012 budget or for what three months of war cost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Every elementary and middle school in the U.S. could cut its class size by 50% and remove the "teacher's salaries" expense line from its budget! We could hire more than twice the number of elementary and middle school teachers we currently have in the U.S. and pay for every one of them with the War Department's budget for 2012. Think of it...

  • To erase all the 2011 state budget deficits? Less than two months...two months(!) of the War Department's budget for 2012! According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state government deficits were $130 Billion in 2011. Some 46 states imposed cuts falling hardest on the most vulnerable -- those who depend on services for the disabled and elderly, health care for the poor, funding for education from kindergarten to college.
  • And just for a wild comparison, the 2012 DoW budget would pay for 29 times the number of municipal firefighters we have in the country today and remove the "Fire and Rescue" expense line from every city budget in the nation!