Financial Burdens of the Iraq War

Jake - Westminster, Maryland
Entered on December 3, 2008

An estimate for the total cost of the war in Iraq is set at three trillion dollars, but it will most likely exceed that (Bilmes, Stiglitz 1). Original estimates for the war ranged between 1.7 billion dollars and 200 billion dollars by government agencies and officials (Bilmes, Stiglitz 1). This year alone, the war has cost almost 200 billion dollars (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). The United States was not economically ready to start a war. The war in Iraq has been the reason for huge financial burdens on the United States, causing large national debts, lack of funding to create, maintain, and build programs in America and fewer benefits to soldiers and veterans.

The interest alone on borrowed money we “will have added about one trillion dollars to the national debt,” by the end of the Bush administration (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). That money is not covered at all by funding; it is entirely debt, which we owe in full to other countries. The war spending has caused the U.S. to be “facing a recession” (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). The value of the dollar is worth less than three quarters of a Euro currently. Before the war, oil was below twenty five dollars per barrel, now it is over one hundred dollars per barrel (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). In Iraq, the United States is spending three billion dollars per week of money coming from other countries or budgets of other programs (Bilmes, Stiglitz 1). The only way to start the economy in the right direction again is to end the war in Iraq and start paying off our debts to the world. It will take many years for the United States to get back to a stable condition but if the government keeps spending at the current rate, it may be in over its head in debt and never get out.

The money spent on the war in Iraq has created a bad economy that could have been avoided if we had focused on smaller, more local goals that would have made a huge difference. From the beginning of the war to now, a nationalized healthcare system could have easily been funded and put into place. “The National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency” have had their budgets cut significantly by the war (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). Education is always an issue. With a fraction of the money spent in Iraq, every school in the nation could be updated and current. “We could have achieved literacy for all—for less than the price of a month’s combat in Iraq” (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). Social Security would not even be a problem if the war had not occurred. “For far, far less than the cost of the war, we could have ensured the solvency of Social Security for the next half a century or more” (Bilmes, Stiglitz 2). The funding for the war in Iraq could have been fractionally used to improve the United States vastly; if this had happened, there would not be an economic crisis.

With inflation and lack of financial resources, the United States is not giving soldiers equal benefits of soldiers years ago. In 2007, the gap between what the GI Bill covered for tuition cost of veterans and actual tuition cost was $4,680, leaving soldiers over four years in nearly twenty thousand dollars of debt (Clark 2). How can the government expect enlistment rates to be the same when young soldiers are being told that college will be paid for then they end up in debt? Amariee Collins enlisted to reap the benefits of tuition reimbursement but found out after her military duties were up that she still would not be covered for all her education costs. “She warns would-be soldiers about the reality of the education benefits,” that they are not as advertised by military recruiters (Clark 1). After World War II, soldiers were reimbursed in full for practically any college they attended. A bill has been proposed to increase benefits to full cost coverage of a state public university tuition, books, and housing. Although, it is opposed by President Bush, so even if it passes through the House of Representatives, it will likely be vetoed. The current education benefits afforded to veterans are not nearly sufficient and are causing young people to not want to join the military before college.

To bolster military enlistment, both John McCain and Barack Obama have supported separate GI Bill reform plans. The most prevalent plan was “overwhelmingly passed by the senate” and is supported by Senator Obama (Clark 1). This plan would give a veteran “15 years to claim four academic years worth of payments” (Clark 1). Also, if the soldier chose to attend a private university instead of a state school, it would match scholarship money earned. The second plan, which is supported by Senator McCain, gives less financial benefits but allows options with payments. It would increase the current benefit by almost three thousand dollars per year. And veterans who serve for six years or more would be able to transfer education benefits to their direct family (Clark 2). Both plans are an improvement on the current GI Bill and will play a part in earning soldiers’ votes in the coming election.

Currently, when a soldier is disabled due to military service, they receive compensation. But since the economy is in a weak state, the cost of living far exceeds that compensation. In some “cases of severely injured soldiers, someone in their family has to give up a job to take care of them” (Bilmes, Stiglitz 1). The disability stipend needs to be enough to cover living expenses for each individual soldier and his or her family in every situation. If a soldier dies in action, a check is given to his or her family for five hundred thousand dollars. This amount is “far less” than what an insurance policy would pay for the death of a young person (Bilmes, Stiglitz 1). With all spending going to the war, the government cannot afford to adequately compensate the soldiers that fight the war.

The United States and its soldiers are in a far worse condition today due to the cost of the war. Economically, the war in Iraq was ill prepared for and ill planned. We do not have nationalized healthcare, strong social security, or totally renewed education. Whoever the next president may be, he needs to focus on alleviating national debt and strengthening our economy rather than spending money that we do not have. The future of the United States economy will be determined by how long we continue to fight the war in Iraq. Changes must be made, and it is in the hands of the American public to decide wisely who will lead our country into the future.

Works Cited

1. Clark, Kim. A New GI Bill Could Bring More Benefits. 2008, U.S. News and World Report

2. Bilmes, Linda and Stiglitz, Joseph. The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More. March 9, 2008, Washington Post,