Joe Stiglitz, interviewed in the Guardian about his book (co-authored with Linda Bilmes), “The Three Trillion Dollar War”. A couple of thoughts:
- The cost of the Iraq War could have underwritten Social Security for fifty years. This brings home one of the points Max Sawicky always made in the SS debate (in general to a brick wall). Although the headline amounts associated with these problems are scary, they are actually not all that much as a percentage of GDP. The Iraq War is a horrific waste of money, but I don’t think anyone would actually try and claim that it literally can’t be afforded. Similarly with the Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security nexus of funding costs; it’s absolutely clear that the productive capacity of the US economy can pay for these things, it’s just a question of whether there is political will to do so, or whether the government would rather spend the money on killing hundreds of thousands of people overseas for no very obvious benefit.
- It’s not often that one gets to correct a Nobel Prize winner, so I will take the opportunity. Stiglitz is qutoed as saying that “Money spent on armaments is money poured down the drain”. This is actually the best case for armaments spending from an economic point of view. Most of the time, when armaments are used, they damage something valuable. If all the bullets fired in Iraq had been poured down the drain instead, the world economy would be massively better off, even allowing for the cost of cleaning up the pollution caused in the drain.
- Three trillion dollars really could have solved a lot of world problems. For example, it would have funded a once-and-for-all offer to the entire population of Gaza, the West Bank and the UNRWA refugee camps of half a million dollars each to slope off and stop bothering the Israelis. That’s the sort of money we’re talking about here.