The True Cost of the Iraq War

The Iraq War has cost Americans well over $1 trillion. According to a study by the Democratic Staff of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, entitled “The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War,” “The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion… That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008.” The report also calculates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost the typical family of four more than $20,000. As the report notes, “The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported.” Unlike previous assessments, these estimates look at the conflicts; “‘hidden costs’– including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.” [Washington Post, 11/13/07]

Staying the course in Iraq could cost an additional $2 trillion. While the war in Iraq has already incurred a tremendous cost on American taxpayers and the American economy, staying the course in Iraq is a choice that would have huge additional costs. It is estimated that staying the course in Iraq could cost an additional $2 trillion in total economic costs, including interest payments for war-related debt payments. [Joint Economic Committee, Majority Staff, 11/07]

War in Iraq comes at significant cost to our economy. The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that the impact of funding the war on the U.S. economy occurs “at the loss of 500,000 jobs after ten years of war spending, and crimping overall economic output by $60 billion a year.” Dean Baker, co-director at Center for Economic and Policy Research explained that funding the war in Iraq is “draining resources away from productive sectors of the economy… It will be more of a drag over time.” Gus Faucher at Moody’s explains that while interest rates are low, “they would be even lower were it now for the war.” Faucher concludes that paying for the war is “going to have an impact on long-term growth, especially if this continues.” Additionally, the war is diverting billions from more “productive investment(s) by American businesses in the United States.” The war is also creating disruptions to the economy by pulling Guard and Reservists out of their jobs at an estimated cost of $1 to $2 billion. [CNN-Money, 10/23/07. Washington Post, 11/13/07]

War in Iraq has contributed to rising gas prices. David Kirsch, a former State Department energy analyst who now manages oil market intelligence for PFC Energy consultants in Washington, “Without this disaster, oil prices would be much lower today.” The Dallas Morning News writes that, “The crippling of Iraq’s oil production since the start of the war amounts to one of the biggest disruptions in world oil supplies since World War II, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy.” A study by the Democratic Staff of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimates that declining Iraqi production “has likely raised oil prices in the U.S. by between $4 and $5 a barrel.” [Dallas Morning News, 11/12/07. Washington Post, 11/13/07]

War in Iraq financed by debt – America facing huge future interest costs. Reuters reported that the “wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money, according to a study released on Wednesday.” The Congressional Budget Office “estimated that interest costs alone from 2001-2017 could total more than $700 billion.” [Reuters, 10/24/07]

Veterans care costs will grow “putting historic strains on the Veterans Administration.” Advances in modern medicine have meant that U.S. military personnel in Iraq that have been wounded are surviving at an unprecedented rate due to advances in modern medicine. Greg Bruno at CFR notes that, “costs associated with treating the wounded are skyrocketing, putting historic strains on the VA. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the agency’s medical expenditures could top $9 billion by 2017, with an additional $4 billion in survivors’ benefits.” One expert, Linda Bilmes at Harvard, “estimates disability compensation and medical care costs could reach $700 billion over the lifetime of these soldiers.” [CFR, 11/09/07]

Country must brace for a “tsunami” like surge in number of homeless vets. More and more veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning up homeless. The Veterans Affairs Department puts the number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at more than 400 and they are bracing for many more in the years ahead. Phil Landis the chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, explained that, “We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters… But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.” [NY Times, 11/08/07]