“What does $456 Billion Buy?” – That was the question asked by the Boston Globe in an effort to put the cost of the war on Iraq in perspective. Their list of alternate ways to spend that money has been making the rounds on the Internet like wild-fire and if you somehow missed it, I would highly recommend that you have a look. The ones I found the most ironic are that the cost of this war, which is essentially a battle for the oil reserves, could pay for gas used by *every* driver in the United States for 1.2 years and that with just one-sixth of the US money targeted for the Iraq war, you could convert all cars in America to run on ethanol! On a more disturbing level, the $456 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world’s poor for five and a half years, based on the World Bank estimates of what it would take to eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015! Wow! Unbelievable!
In my bewilderment at these facts I am neither being naïve, not have I been living on Mars. I have heard/read about the multi-billion dollar tab associated with this war so many times, that to a certain extent I am jaded. My brain cannot distinguish between numbers once they cross the million dollar mark. The reason this post shook me up is that it puts the huge jaded numbers a little more in perspective.
We here are personal finance bloggers. We try and track every dollar (and in the case of some people, every penny) we spend. We scrimp and we save. We question every purchase before we make it, and when we decide to buy something we make sure we get the best darned deal. So, let’s make this a bit more personal. Let’s see how much this war is costing each one of us personally.
According to this report of the National Priorities Project, the median income family in the United States paid $3,736 in federal income taxes in 2006. Out of this, $1,354 is spent on military expenditure and to pay the interest for debt related to military. In other words, around 36% or a little over one-thirds of the total tax paid is used for military purposes. Now, check how much your tax payment was this year and check what one third of it comes up to. (Alternately, you can use this interactive tool to see a pie chart of your tax breakdown). That’s how much *you* individually are paying for this war! And that is for just the year 2006! You have been paying this amount every year for four years now!
Over the past four years, the better half has been paying more than the median income family mentioned above due to his tech industry job, and I have been paying a little less than the median income family due to being a student most of the time. Without getting into too much detail, and based on some rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, we could have done one of these things, if we did not have to pay for the war.
- The better half could have paid for one year of business school in an executive MBA program! An MBA for the better half is some thing we have thought about on and off, but never really considered seriously due to the prohibitively large cost!
- Or, we could have funded IRA’s in each of our names for every single year for the entire four years I spent in school. We didn’t because, really, we couldn’t afford it!
- Or, Instead of driving a 13 year old beat up car with 160K miles on it, I could be cruising around in a brand new car, heck maybe even an SUV! (Not that I would even if the cash was handed to me, but that’s a different issue).
- Or, on a more fanciful note, we could have a 62 inch flat screen TV + never cooked (eat out every day) + hired someone to clean the house and mow the lawn for the entire four years!
- Or, we could have possibly had my dream vacation – a trip around the world! Sigh!
So, what are *you* giving up to sponsor a war that you probably do not support?