Over the holiday weekend Bruce Bartlett posted a piece entitled The Cost of War on Forbes.com which discusses American resolve for spending blood and treasure for overseas adventures and whether the American public are properly prepared for these war expenditures.
In discussing the George W. Bush build-up to the Iraq invasion, he points out Bush’s unprecedented tax cuts at the time of preparation for war. Of special note is how Governor Mitch Daniels, then head of the Office of Management and Budget is complicit in the deception leading up to the war:
However, Bush and his party, which controlled Congress from 2001 to 2006, never asked for sacrifices from anyone except those in our nation’s military and their families. I think that’s because the Republicans understood, implicitly, that the American people’s support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has always been paper thin. Asking them to sacrifice through higher taxes, domestic spending cuts or reinstatement of the draft would surely have led to massive protests akin to those during the Vietnam era or to political defeat in 2004. George W. Bush knew well that when his father raised taxes in 1990 in part to pay for the first Gulf War, it played a major role in his 1992 electoral defeat.
Consequently, Republicans resolved to fight our wars on the cheap and with deceptive cost estimates. On the eve of war in December 2002, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mitch Daniels claimed that the war in Iraq could be fought at a total cost of $50 billion to $60 billion. Indeed, Bush even fired his top economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, for saying publicly that the war might cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.
Of course, both Daniels and Lindsey grossly underestimated the actual cost. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost close to $1 trillion thus far. That is exactly what economists not on the White House payroll expected. (See this December 2002 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.)
If we could not trust his numbers when planning a war then, how are we to trust his ciphering now in the midst of the state’s worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. As he now attempts through use of his political slush fund PAC entitled Aiming Higher to solidify complete and unopposed control of the state with no financial stop gap from the legislature or any of the other statewide office holders?
The answer? We can’t.