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article imageU.S. war spending has huge costs and creates debt of trillions

By Ken Hanly     Nov 13, 2017 in Politics
Washington - Instead of defense and military spending in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere being accompanied by increased taxes or sale of bonds, taxes are about to be cut.
The U.S. government has been operating at a deficit since 2002 and the debt now totals $20 trillion. Yet the Republican tax plan is estimated to add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
Senator Jack Reed, of the Senate Armed Services Committee said: “We have to recognize that we have been borrowing for 16 years to pay for military operations. It’s the first time really in history with any major conflict that we have borrowed rather than ask people to contribute to the national defense directly, and the result is we’ve got this huge fiscal drag… that we’re not really accounting for or factoring into deliberations about fiscal policy as well as military policy.”
Pentagon cost estimates leave out important costs
The Pentagon's most recent estimate of what was spent on foreign wars since 2001 is also $1.5 trillion.
However many of the costs associated with the wars are not included. The Cost of War Project includes in costs security funding, care for veterans, and interest on the debt being created. Their latest report claims war-related costs from 2001 to 2017 come to over $4.3 trillion.
Interest on borrowing for war costs is humongous
Interest alone on borrowing to fund Overseas Contingency Operations has been so far $534 billion according to estimates of the Cost of War Project at Brown University.
Neta Crawford author of the report of the project and a political science professor at Boston University said: .“Even if the U.S. stopped spending on war at the end of this fiscal year, interest costs alone on borrowing to pay for the wars will continue to grow apace. By 2056, a conservative estimate is that interest costs will be about $8 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way that it pays for the wars.”
Congress committees pass $700 billion defense bill for 2018
The bill was passed by the Armed Service Committees of both the House and the Senate. The total amount is $85 billion more than the 2011 Budget Control Act allows.
Although Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia) claimed that the greatest threat to U.S. security was the national debt, he also argued that the Republican tax cuts were not increasing the problem. He called the cuts a short-term investment.
Perdue said: “You can’t fix this long-term problem unless you grow the economy and you’re not going to grow the economy unless you fix taxes."
Even if Democrats manage to block the Republican tax cuts the way in which U.S. overseas wars are funded still requires change.
Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that earlier the U.S. had a relatively low debt but now that has changed and there will be downward pressure on defense budgets: “I think we’re in a different place now than we were in 2001. All of these factors did not exist then and now start to conspire to depress defense spending. They very well may weigh on the defense budget in the 2020s…Then when you combine that with tax cuts which are also going to make the deficit higher, it’s all putting downward pressure on defense budgets.”
Yet, US presence is continuing in both Iraq and Afghanistan and all signs are that borrowing will continue as before.
More about US war costs, us debt, US tax cuts
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