By Contributor on December 18, 2007

By Anita Dancs and Heidi Garrett-Peltier

On Dec. 15, President Bush once again berated Congress for not giving him more spending for the Iraq War. But Congress is right to resist his browbeating.

Before launching the Iraq War, the administration claimed that the war would cost American taxpayers a mere $50 billion. Now the extra money that Bush demands would bring the total so far to more than half a trillion dollars.

It won’t end here.

In the New Year, Congress will consider up to $200 billion. In future years, aside from the costs of bombs, bullets and combat pay, we can expect to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in veterans’ health care and disability payments. The total cost may well exceed $2 trillion, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated.

Every dollar spent on this war is a dollar we cannot invest in our country and our communities.

Think what we could have done with this money. The $500 billion that Bush has squandered in Iraq could have paid for 4 million new housing units, or hired 8 million new teachers. And the $2 trillion we may end up spending on this war could pay for universal health care for 12 years.

While Congress was funding this war, levees were breaking in New Orleans, a bridge was collapsing in St. Paul and fires were raging in Southern California. With much of the National Guard deployed in Iraq, we did not have sufficient resources to handle these disasters.

Economics 101 teaches us that government spending is good for the economy. A dollar spent by the government results in job creation, which results in income for the employed person, which results in the employed person having money to spend at the supermarket, corner restaurant, or movie theater. Those businesses flourish, they can hire more people and so the economy grows.

But the story is more complicated. Not all government spending is equal.

Every billion dollars spent on the military results – directly and indirectly – in fewer jobs and lower quality jobs than a billion dollars spent on education, a recent analysis published by the Political Economy Research Institute (an organization one of us works for) shows. That is, the effects of military spending ripple through the economy with much less vigor than government spending on other programs.

Plus, domestic spending has a longer-lasting impact on the economy. A well-educated, healthy workforce, along with investment in infrastructure, will fuel the new industries of tomorrow.

But instead of investing in our economy, we are throwing money out the window on a misguided venture. More tragically, thousands of young men and women in their prime are being killed or face a lifetime of disabling injuries.

As the president presses for more war funding, he vetoes spending on critical needs in our country. What will we have left to defend if our government doesn’t use its means to protect our jobs, health, infrastructure and general standard of living? What are we fighting for?

“History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap,” President Reagan said on Jan. 16, 1984.

We are learning only too well that the price of President Bush’s aggression is not cheap.

Anita Dancs is research director of the National Priorities Project (www.nationalpriorities.org) and Heidi Garrett-Peltier is a researcher with the Political Economy Research Institute (www.peri.umass.edu). They can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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