Iraq is a domestic issue.

August 9, 2006 | By | 8 Replies More

The Nation explains that Ned Lamont was successful tonight because he was much more than an anti-war candidate.  Lamont continually pointed to the domestic losses caused by the diversion of big money to finance the Iraq occupation:

How did Lamont succeed where others – including 2004 presidential contender and current Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean — failed? Not by simply expressing opposition to the war, nor even by expressing frustration with Lieberman’s refusal to question even the most misguided of Bush administration foreign policies.

Lamont won by doing something most national Democrats have failed to do over the past several election cycles. He put the war in perspective, telling voters that the $250 million a day that is shifted from the U.S. Treasury into a failed fight in Iraq and the deep pockets of defense contractors like Halliburton could be better used to pay for education and health care at home and smart foreign aid programs abroad.

$250 million per day is an enormous amount of money.  Imagine injecting that kind of money to dramatically improve the infrastructure of a new American city every day.  Tap tap tap!  $250M  $250M $250M!  Imagine working your way across the country allowing hundreds of schools, hospitals, utility improvements, new roads, bridges and mass transit.   Job training for the unemployed and the disabled; enough money to hire that extra teacher or two that every school needs.  Tax incentives to bring jobs back to America.  Hey, mayors of big cities!  Raise your hand if your city is not desperate for $250 million, the amount we spend on occupying Iraq each and every day.  I don’t see any hands . . .

The availability heuristic makes it hard for Americans to see the great tragedy of spending tax dollars overseas (we’re actually financing our Iraq occupation through massive debt).  We have to work harder to see what could have been than to see what is. 

If we work at it just a bit, though, we realize that the failure to invest is the moral and economic equivalent of destroying existing American assets and lives.  What the President is doing each time he diverts $250M is the equivalent of knocking down and destroying $250M of valuable American assets.  Not investing $250M versus destroying $250M worth of existing property–it’s the same result:  something isn’t there that should be there.  This logic is inescapable unless one believes that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been a success. 

I’m relieved to see that a prominent national candidate has successfully made this connection between the flow of tax dollars to Iraq and the loss of use of those tax dollars back home.  In short, Iraq is a domestic issue.  I’m crossing my fingers and watching to see if the media will give further traction to this important idea.

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Category: American Culture, Economy, Iraq, Politics, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Just this morning, I discovered an amazing page on the GOP website (http://www.gop.com/Issues/SpendingRestraint/). It touts *spending restraint* as a key feature of Bush's presidency. No kidding, here's a quote from a paragraph titled, "Fiscal Discipline & Managing for Results:" "The FY 2007 Budget builds on last year’s successful spending restraint by again holding the growth of overall discretionary spending below inflation, proposing to reduce non-security discretionary spending below the previous year’s level, and calling for the elimination or reduction of programs not getting results or not fulfilling essential priorities."

    See their game? They claim "spending restraint" by only mentioning "non-security discretionary spending." That's how they sidestep record budget deficits and uncontrolled military spending. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy aren't considered "spending" (even though they produce budget deficits exactly as spending does), while spending in Iraq isn't "non-security." So, if we exclude those things, Bush magically becomes a budget hawk.

    My favorite part is where they call for "the elimination or reduction of programs not getting results or not fulfilling essential priorities." You can bet they're not including Iraq here, either.

    War is peace, torture is justice, wiretapping is freedom, ignorance is strength, spending is saving…Orwell would indeed be proud of President Bush.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    As regards the macroeconomics of federal spending, there is an even easier way to understand why Erich is correct to call Iraq a domestic issue. At its most basic level, federal spending (which includes tax breaks, because they are merely federal spending by another name) can be divided into just two categories: investment and consumption. As with our own personal spending (which we can either invest or consume), the federal government, likewise, can either invest our tax money for future growth, or buy goods and services for current consumption. Obviously, more spending on investment (say, for education, roads, bridges, hospitals, Internet infrastructure, job training, etc.) means less is available for today's consumption, but more will be created when the investment pays off in the future. This distinction isn't entirely clear-cut — i.e., every "investment" will have aspects of consumption (e.g., investing in education requires the consumption of teaching services, janitorial services, books, sports equipment, etc.) just as every "consumption" will have aspects of investment (e.g., welfare aid to poor families is also an investment in their future prosperity and in community stability) — but it is helpful.

    With this simple framework in mind, Bush's spending for the unnecessary invasion of Iraq can be seen for what it is: a giant money pit. As Erich points out, if the same money Bush has spent in Iraq were spent, instead, in America — especially if the money were directed toward investment rather than consumption — the future benefit to America (and even to the rest of the world) could have been profound. Instead, Bush has spent our tax dollars to first destroy and then rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, for a net gain of zero.

    And what is the investment aspect of this consumption? The fanciful belief that terrorists will be less likely to attack Americans in the future: a belief that is obviously delusional given the growing sectarian violence in Iraq, the growing power of radical Muslims throughout the world, the global condemnation of America's actions in the Middle East, etc. Bush has spent hundreds of billions of American tax dollars (and more than 2500 American lives) so that we can all "feel safer" by having Saddam in jail, but his invasion has drained our treasury, ruined our global reputation and robbed America of the moral high ground. Meanwhile, back in America, gasoline prices have skyrocketed, global warming is destroying our crops, the lack of affordable healthcare is crippling middle-class families, Katrina victims are still looking for affordable housing…all while Bush and his Republican pals in Congress spend their time trying to undermine our own citizens with laws against stem cell research, abortion and same-sex marriage. To the American readers of this blog: how much safer do you feel?

  3. Erika Price says:

    I definitely see Lamont's success as an exhilarating victory, but I find it a little sad that we have to focus on the economic cost of the war to get Americans to listen, as oppossed to the ahem, other gaping costs.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: I agree with you entirely.  Though I didn't mention those other horrific costs in this post, I've posted on them here and here and here .

    I wrote this particular post because the media has generally failed to focus on the substantial domestic damage we are suffering by diverting massive economic resouces to occupy Iraq. In this post, I mentioned the availability heuristic as one likely cause, though there are other reasons for this failing, including our national hyper-consumerism and the proud ignorance we (and our President) display regarding the long-term consequences of our actions.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's a website focusing on this very issue that Iraq is a Domestic issue: http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=co

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    How expensive is the U.S. occupation of Iraq? Check out this column from the St. Petersburg Times by clicking here.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    as Aida Edemariam puts it in the Guardian, it would have paid for "8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students." Of course, as John McCain himself has told us, he "doesn't really understand economics." But foreign policy does not exist in an economics vacuum.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Also consider the following post, which I entitled: "The Seventy Million Children Left Behind War."

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/03/30/the-s

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