In the run-up to the November elections, Republicans comforted themselves by passing around an analysis by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office showing that spending on the Iraq war so far has been “only” $709 billion. They pointed out that President Obama’s wasteful stimulus actually cost $100 billion more.
And they touted the $709 billion number as refuting the calculation by Nobel economics laureate (and Democrat) Joseph Stiglitz that the cost of the Iraq war was much higher. Stiglitz put forth his data in The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, his 2008 book written with economist Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
The Republicans are wrong; Stiglitz is right. The main cause of the debilitation of the U.S. economy is the immense expense of “defense”—the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the vast global empire occupying more than 130 countries, and “defense” spending in general.
As Stiglitz and Bilmes explained in a September 29 conference call that included Stars and Stripes, the military’s own newspaper, their new calculations put the cost of the Iraq War as high as six trillion dollars. “We are presenting a new paper with updated costs at the American Economic Association annual meeting in January,” Bilmes told me.