For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.
Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.
More after the jump…
Of course, just because the money could have funded these things doesn’t mean, if we’d had $1.2 trillion just sitting around, that it would have. Public health is difficult to get funding for, because when it’s working, it’s essentially invisible–it’s when it breaks down that it makes news. Education also can be a tough sell. But everybody likes security, right?
The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.
The focus of the article itself isn’t necessarily all these things that we could have done with the money spent on the war in Iraq, but on the underestimation of war costs at various points in history, and more of the specifics of the analysis and number-crunching. Interesting in its own right, but not my cup of tea–the money could have been better spent whether it was $1 trillion (the low end of the estimate) or $2 trillion (the higher end). As noted:
Whatever number you use for the war’s total cost, it will tower over costs that normally seem prohibitive. Right now, including everything, the war is costing about $200 billion a year.
Treating heart disease and diabetes, by contrast, would probably cost about $50 billion a year. The remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations — held up in Congress partly because of their cost — might cost somewhat less. Universal preschool would be $35 billion. In Afghanistan, $10 billion could make a real difference. At the National Cancer Institute, annual budget is about $6 billion.
And these are just some examples, of course–one could come up with worthy projects all day long that could have been funded for a pittance of what has been spent so far on the war, with arguably a bigger payback.