New Op-ed in Los Angeles Times by Bilmes and Stiglitz

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America’s costly war machine

Fighting the war on terror compromises the economy now and threatens it in the future.

By Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz

September 18, 2011

Ten years into the war on terror, the U.S. has largely succeeded in its attempts to destabilize Al Qaeda and eliminate its leaders. But the cost has been enormous, and our decisions about how to finance it have profoundly damaged the U.S. economy.

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.

To date, the United States has spent more than $2.5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon spending spree that accompanied it and a battery of new homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11.

How have we paid for this? Entirely through borrowing. Spending on the wars and on added security at home has accounted for more than one-quarter of the total increase in U.S. government debt since 2001. And not only did we fail to pay as we went for the wars, the George W. Bush administration also successfully pushed to cut taxes in 2001 and again in 2003, which added further to the debt. This toxic combination of lower revenues and higher spending has brought the country to its current political stalemate.

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Recent commentary by the authors on the costs of 9/11

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US response to 9/11 contributed to causes of current debt crisis

Linda Bilmes writes in the Christian Science Monitor that the costs of military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq account for well over one-quarter of the increase in US national debt since 2001. Financing wars and defense build-ups in this way is an historical aberration. Americans have typically paid for wars through higher taxes.

The Price of 9/11

Joseph Stiglitz writes in Project Syndicate that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda harmed the US in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined.

The Price of Lost Chances

David Sanger of  The New York Times puts a stark price tag on the cost of reacting — and overreacting — to the Sept. 11 attacks. The New York Times provides an interactive graphic showing war costs, based on the work of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes:

Other articles:

Posted:  Anthony Gregory writes about the cost of the wars in the Huffington Post:  9/9/11 08:29 PM ET