Cost of our new high-speed trains is dwarfed by the tax dollars we waste in our Afghanistan and Iraq “wars.”
President Obama has recently announced that he will allocate $8 billion ($4 billion each year, over two years) to develop a new system of high-speed passenger rail service. This is an excellent idea. The new rail lines will be created within 10 geographical corridors ranging from 100 to 600 miles long.
Note, however, that the high-speed rail line system will be an extremely expensive project, and that the $8 billion bill will need to be paid by 138 million tax-paying Americans. Dividing the $8 billion cost by the number of taxpayers, we can see that, on average, each taxpayer will pay almost $60 ($30 per year, for two years) to support this massive new high-speed rail service.
Again, this high-speed rail project will cost an immense amount of money. Consider, though, how small this pile of rail money looks when compared to the amount of money we are wasting in the “wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 2009, the United States spent approximately $87 billion for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan. The fiscal 2010 budget requests $65 billion for Afghanistan operations and $61 billion for Iraq. the cost of these two “wars” together is $126 billion for 2010.
Compare these expenditures on a bar chart:
Keep in mind that these two “wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan have accomplished almost nothing. They go on and on, draining the federal treasury in the hope that we can someday concoct a good reason for having our troops there. The many billions of dollars we are pouring into these “wars” is, for the most part, a futile attempt to minimize and repair the damage we’ve done by going into these “wars” in the first place. The most notable thing we’ve accomplished in these two “wars” is causing numerous countries to lose respect for the United States. We have also caused thousands or millions of individuals to hate us for the indiscriminate killing we’ve done (including the deaths of many thousands of children). Before you protest that we need to have soldiers in Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda, keep in mind that, according to US intelligence officials, “there are only about 100 Al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.” We have just recently committed 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan (in addition to 68,000 US troops and a comparable number of United States contractors personnel already there) to help contain those 100 Al Qaeda fighters. Also keep in mind that under the nine year US occupation, the drug trade has flourished in Afghanistan and, in fact, many suspected drug traffickers are now top officials in the Karzai government.)
The high-speed rail project is just one of many good things we can do with our limited and valuable tax dollars. Every time we waste a tax dollar, it is not available for a worthwhile project. Tax dollars are fungible—dollars do not come pre-designated to be spent in particular ways. Each tax dollar wasted is a tax dollar that is now longer available for a worthwhile project such as high-speed rail. There are so many non-funded and under-funded worthwhile projects out there that it is a wonder that we could justify any wasteful projects like waging “wars” that lack military objectives.
Note also that the bar graph is the tip of the iceberg. Official government figures indicate that $653 billion in tax dollars was spent on the US military in fiscal 2009. Credible sources have suggested, however, that this number is extremely misleading, and that massive military expenses are hidden in other government departments ($150 billion) and other military expenses (“past military expenses”) have also been peeled away from current expenses incurred due to prior military adventures. In actuality, 54% of our tax dollars are spent on current and past military expenses. According to the website of the War Resisters League, the United States accounts for 47% of the world’s total military spending [with 12 of the top 15 military spenders being allies of the United States], and the U.S. share of the world’s GDP is only 21%. The U.S. outspends Iran and North Korea on military expenses by a ratio of 72 to 1.
For fiscal 2010, then, the United States will spend $4 Billion on a high-speed rail project that will actually benefit Americans, while the United States simultaneously wastes 31 times that amount on the military debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and far more than that for “reasons” the Pentagon works hard to conjure up.
When President Obama announced the high-speed rail project, it was announced with great fanfare. To be consistent, each year that we continue to waste 31 times the cost of high speed rail on extended military occupations that are injurious to our national interest, we should arrange for a proportionately larger anti-celebration, a slow-speed funeral train that would wind around the country announcing to Americans that each taxpayer is forking over another $913 each year to support a fruitless display of military might, plus ever-more military and civilian deaths and dismemberments.
About the Author (Author Profile)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 and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Eisenhower warns of the military industrial complex | Dangerous Intersection | February 7, 2010
- The dangerous prisoners of Guantanamo | Dangerous Intersection | February 14, 2010
- How big is the U.S. military budget? | Dangerous Intersection | April 1, 2010
- Where are the photos of good things supposedly happening in Iraq and Afghanistan? | Dangerous Intersection | May 7, 2010
- NASA vs. Air Conditioning the Desert? : Dangerous Intersection | August 8, 2012