New York, New York: There is or used to be a debt clock on New York’s 42md Street chronicling the growing national debt, minute by minute, showing how much money Americans owed. That clock is being rebuilt because the people who made it did not allow enough space on it for anything above, 9 billion, 999 million, 99 thousand and 99 cents. With the debt promising to rise above ten trillion, a new digital clock is being readied.
If we can cover our economic distress that way, why not the Iraq war?
Who will join me in building a War Clock to show the vast amounts of money being pissed away every second in Iraq? Wouldn’t this be a feature that every TV newscast could update daily, just as they report on the movements of the stock market? All it would require is a simple graphic.
The drama of human beings dying and a country like Iraq being devastated doesn’t seem to register on many Americans. Perhaps that’s because, as a nation, market logic has subsumed moral logic and nothing matters unless it is quantified.
In the world of sports, people with less than elementary school educations mange to remember intricate sports statistics and understand the computation of complex odds behind gambling.
In business, and now increasingly in life, the bottom line separates winners from losers. The tickers are everywhere.
We all have to memorize complicated numbers just to get by-social security numbers, credit scores. Credit cards, ATM numbers etc, etc.
So what about the numbers of war? Do you think most Americans understand what this conflict is costing them not only on lives lost but in what used to be called our “national treasure?”
Here’s a number most of us don’t know: $291,875,368,544. That’s the official cost of the war, as I write, according to the national priorities project. They break all of this down on their website: http://nationalpriorities.org
It breaks down to $2,629 per household.
Which in turn translates into $1,168 per person
Those of us here in New York State have coughed up $24,991,439,397
What else could that money have bought?
Instead we could have paid for 38,701,306 children to attend a year of Head Start.
Instead, we could have insured 174,967,057 children for one year.
Instead could have provided 14,164,972 students four-year scholarships at public universities.
Instead, we could have built 2,630,942 additional housing units.
Instead, we could have hired 5,063,778 additional public school teachers for one year.
Now these numbers ,of course, don’t cover the costs of the destruction of Iraq or the estimated 250,000 civilians who have died there.
It doesn’t cover the costs in human life of “coalition Forces” now estimated at 2529. A Casualty Count website http://icasualties.org/oif/ has lots of other numbers about the wounded which may be understated because those shipped “out of country” are not always counted
In his book, Imperial crusades Saul Landau describes the Pentagon budget. He writes:
“The 2005 defense budget – the word “defense” has become a joke in the post Cold War world – will reach $500 billion (counting the CIA), $50 billion higher than 2004. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next ten years, the armada of aircraft, ships and killer toys will cost upwards of $770 billion more than Bush’s estimate for long-term defense.”
He also notes, “As Associated Press’ Dan Morgan reports (June 12 2004, Tallahassee Democrat), the Pentagon “plans to spend well over $1 trillion in the next decade on an arsenal of futuristic planes, ships and weapons with little direct connection to the Iraq war or the global war on terrorism.”
And so it goes. Ever upward! There is no bottom line to the bottom line. Much of this is financed not only with taxes but loans from China, Japan and other creditors who will probably never be repaid.
Meanwhile, two million Americans went bankrupt last year with many unable to because of a bi-partisan supported “Bankruptcy Reform bill. (Interested industries spent $154 million in lobbying for it. Home foreclosures are up. College loans are going up at months end. Credit card debt is strangling millions of American families. The military has been targeted by payday lending scams. The credit squeeze impacts us all.
It’s only money. Or is it? During the Vietnam war, we used to speak of the choice as guns or butter? Today margarine and other spreads have replaced butter while the social safety net is in shreds and no one-least of all most Democrats-are even talking about the real bill we are all paying for the lack of good schools and health care.
It is time for the news to stop using words. Let’s only talk in numbers. Make every newscast a math class. Maybe then, Americans will start getting it-and getting rid of the people who are getting them.
We are about to celebrate Independence day as a people increasingly dependent on a bad deal that many us don’t even recognize.
In God We Trust has been replaced by In Debt We Trust. Our flag doesn’t run-except in red ink. The bill is coming due.
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. His new film is about numbers-In Debt We Trust (InDebtWeTrust.com) comments to [email protected]