Friday, February 29, 2008

The Economy & The 800-Pound Gorilla

There is a growing recognition, to use my very own phrase, that the Iraq war is a sucking chest wound on the U.S. economy, but you wouldn't know that if you've followed the recent peregrinations of Federal Reserve Chief Ben "Rate Cut" Bernanke.

A review of 30 recent news stories on Bernanke and the crash-and-burn economy found not a single reference to a war that has cost in the vicinity of $500 billion and is likely to cost $1 trillion before it's over, whenever the heck that will be, and Bernanke didn't even allude to it when he gave his semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress this week.
The reason, of course, is obvious. Beyond the feat of actually making us miss his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, it would be impolitic for Bernanke to utter the obvious because.

Doing so would be an inconvenient dent in the Bush administration's facade that the war is all good and has required no sacrifice other than the occasional dead or brain damaged soldier.
Beyond the here and now -- that the war is damaging the U.S.'s overall fiscal health as the economy spirals ever deeper into recession and contributing mightily to a burgeoning budget deficit that our children's children will be paying for long after the last American combat trooper slouches home -- there are less obvious aspects:

* Every dollar spent on a bullet is not being spent at home on education, improving and repairing infrastructure and paying down that immense deficit that is Bush's second biggest gift to us beyond the war itself.

* The extensive use of National Guard units has left many communities scrambling to replace police officers, school teachers and others who serve extensive and in some cases repeated war tours.

* Among the indirect costs, the bill for caring for returning vets with physical and emotional problems will be staggering. Conservative estimates put the number of vets in need at over 200,000.

* Tens of billions of dollars have gone into the gaping maw that is Iraqi government corruption never to be seen again.

* Contrary to the president's assertions, his war has further destabilized the Middle East, including playing havoc with oil prices, which is a further drain.

Come to think of it, war isn't the only word that never seems to escape Bernanke's lips. There's also recession.

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