“NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT”—A Useful Website to See How Taxes are Misspent and Priorities are Lost in America—but some Underestimates of Total Costs of War in Iraq are EvidentBy Kevin StodaAMERICA’S POLITICAL ECONOMY: IRAQ WAR-TIME
I have spent these past few day reviewing the talking-point pages and fact sheets on the NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT (NPP). It is a very informative site for anyone concerned with the political-economic mess our leaders have landed Americans in.
NPP effectively provides data and evidence for citizens and youth concerned about the unfair burdens placed on many peoples and regions of this great land. The recent NPP data, combined with the Naomi Klein narration in the The Shock Doctrine, show that in too many ways the development of the U.S. economy in recent years parallels that used by fascist states, such as Pinochet’s Chile and Nazi Germany, to develop their political economies.
Hopefully, every nation on earth will one day have similar access to their own government’s misspending, so they can rightfully call for an end to the wars breaking out in too many corners of the globe currently.
Each fact sheet (dated August 2007) from NPP in this section http://www.nationalpriorities.org/Publications/A-Vote-for-More-War-States-and-Congressional-Dist-2.html
is aimed at congressional districts throughout the United States and notes:
--how much each individual state and each individual congressional district has been losing out from the federal budget since 2003 due to the Iraq War alone.
--how, in the lead up to the Iraq War, it was claimed by the executive branch and its accounting divisions that the total cost would only be at most $50 to 60 billion.
“Even the [2007 budget for the Iraq War’s current] half a trillion dollar price tag does not begin to cover future costs…. Since the war is deficit-financed, interest payments alone could rise to one hundred billion dollars. Spending on veteran’s health care and disability payments for the many severely wounded soldiers could also mount to hundreds of billions of dollars.”
According to the national report by NPP, by August 2007 at least $456 billion has been taken away at the national level from local communities and states. With current government discretionary spending on defense and the Iraq War reaching (officially) 60% of all such spending annually (regardless as to whether congress does to try and stop the war or not this September), costs to American regions and individual American citizens will continue to double or triple in a few short years.
One reason this will be the case is explained by NPP and the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who note, “Apart from the tens of thousands of reported U.S. casualties, nearly one in five returning veterans suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
While over 4,000 American and Allied force soldiers have already died since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the predominant perception in the Iraq and the Middle East (and in most arenas in the USA) continues to be that “the U.S. military presence is provoking more conflict than preventing” it.
Nonetheless, after I reviewed the NPP figures in various well-document reports, I have the impression that the overall impression, NPP figures and costs are too conservative and make little cognizance of multiplier effects on the local and national economy.
This is why economic leaders and decision makers, like Alan Greenspan, should have bravely spoken out long ago against the hemorrhage facing Americans (and the economy) in this decade and have warned daily against the future American political economy due to the horrible fiscal behavior of the past 7 years and due to the war-making addiction of the current and past administrations in Washington, D.C..
Before delving into the shortfalls in NPP’s model of accounting, I will look at the 5 U.S. states where I have lived over the past 4 decades and use these close-ups of the political economy to show a peek at how NPP’s talking points and common arguments are developed and presented to legislature and concerned citizens.
The objective of my looking specifically at one region of U.S. states making up 1/6 of the American economy (i.e. looking at these states—Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) is two-fold:
(1) to further personalize the narration represented by NPP’s research and talking points, and
(2) to look at the Iraq (and partially the Afghan) War in terms of its effect on regionalized political economies.
America is after all a federal nation with different regions holding different perspectives and experiences. Regional economic linkages are too often ignored by focusing only at state level politics.HEARTLAND: EXAMPLES FROM 5 NEIGHBORING STATES
I, like most Americans, have lived in more than one U.S. state.
In fact, I was born in northern Illinois in Dekalb County, which gave its name to the corn industry long ago. Later, while still a child, my dad moved from his native state, Illinois, to that of my mother’s birthplace: Missouri.
By the time, I had graduated from high school & had completed my undergraduate degree and first M.A., I had lived, studied, and worked in both Oklahoma and Kansas.
Finally, a decade later, I moved to Texas where I taught and also earned a second master’s degrees.
Unlike eastern U.S. states these five states--Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas—are not connected nor typically divided historically simply by bodies of water or by clear geographic distinctions.
For several centuries, these 5 states have been connected simply by a corridor of roadways and trade routes—moving from Mexico towards Canada and Michigan. Specifically, more goods follow the transport network of roads on and around the Interstate 35 and 70 Highways (including Old Highway 66 and modern I-44 in this region) than any other roadway corridor in the North America.
These two roads, I-35 and I-70, serve for the North America politically, economically and socially what the spice route in Asia once did.
Likewise, this corridor on the plains and prairies serve of the Midwest what the Nile River delta did for ancient Egypt or what the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers did for Mesopotamia.
As far as the defense of the USA is concerned , communities along these two roadway systems have served the USA for generations. From Ft. Riley in Kansas to Ft. Hood in Texas (or from Ft. Sills in Oklahoma to the Great Lakes’ Naval Base), my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, my brother, brother-in-law, and various other friends or relatives from this 5-state region have served in the U.S. armed forces in forts or bases in these same states.
Moreover, I have also taught in several towns in these states where many parents and some students were serving in the National Guard when called up for war over the years.
These towns include Wichita Falls, Texas (Fr. Sheppard Air Force Base) and Great Bend, Kansas (National Guard) . In College Station, Texas I even taught Korean students who had come to join the renowned Texas A & M ROTC as cadets. (Only West Point has seen more generals pass through its university gates and training program than Texas A & M has.) In short, when one works in these 5 states, one observes a linkage between civilian and military life everywhere.
According to the NPP reports from August 2007, the Iraq War has directly cost these five states the following billions of dollars in terms of federal funding--funding which could have been used in other ways:Tax Payer Cost State
$24.7 Billion Illinois
$3.6 Billion Kansas
$6.9 Billion Oklahoma
$7 Billion Missouri
$37.3 Billion Texas
$79 .5 Billion Total for these 5 states
In short, if one looks at this total of nearly 80 billion dollars in federal funding for budget items--other than funding the Iraq-War--, these 5 states took upon themselves over 1/7th of burden of the $456 billion total losses in discretionary and other budget non-discretionary spending related to the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq as reported by NPP.
This may seem fair at first because these states as a group represent a great portion of U.S. citizen residents: 1/6th of the total U.S. census. However, here is where NPP’s talking points are especially helpful. NPP shows which U.S. Congressional Districts in which states are bigger losers. For example, in Kansas’ Congressional District #3, under U.S. Representative Moore, $1.12 billion has been lost. Meanwhile, in Kansas’ Congressional District #1 has lost only $761.4 million—almost 25% less.OVERALL LOSSES ON I-35 CORRIDOR
With each state losing billions of dollars, there should be little wonder that the infrastructure on I-35 and other roadways and bridges around the region are in such horrid state!
On top of the under-funding for U.S. infrastructure since the 1980s, the Iraq War has served as a shock-factor weakening significantly further our local government’s ability to oversee maintenance of basic needs that our societies have been depending on historically—like public libraries or public transportation.
Using Naomi Klein’s analysis, called the “Shock Doctrine”, in looking at the apparent federal government’s turning its back towards the ever-growing man-made disaster in New Orleans since 2005, the Iraq War is continuing actively as a “shock policy” in most all regions of the U.S.
Politically and economically speaking, this economic shock is simply called run of the mill capitalism by the U.S. press today. However, it is actually a new form of capitalism done-to-regions by the federal government in support the Chicago School of Economics’ vision of transforming once-upon-a-time Keynesian political economies—as were once present throughout the U.S. after WWII—into fascist inspired forms of capitalism, which have become too-dominant on the U.S. political landscape.
Moreover, using the talking points of NPP’s website in state of Kansas, the $3.6 billion shortfall due to the Iraq War could have provided any of the following:
(1) the insuring of full health care coverage for over 500,000 children,
(2) the building of well over 400 new elementary schools, or
(3) the creation of nearly 45,000 affordable housing units.
Using the moneys in almost any combination of these 3 ways [above] could have had greater positive impact and a better multiplier effect throughout the region than has the war-bound defense spending of this Iraq War, the war on Afghanistan, or the unending-war-on terror.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma, with a very similar population to Kansas, has lost 1.8 times as much funding per capita from the federal pouch s Kansas: (1) about 1 million children could have been fully insured, (2) nearly 700 elementary schools could have been constructed, or (3) 100,000 affordable housing units could have been built.
Missouri, while less hard hit than Oklahoma by redirected or misdirected federal funding, still might have done the following with its moneys: (1) insured upwards of 630,000 children, (2) built over 800 new elementary schools, or (3) constructed over 72,000 affordable housing units.
Meanwhile, if we look at the two most populated states on this section of the I-35 and I-70 corridor, Illinois and Texas, we see the following. (1) Texas and Illinois together could have insured 5 to 6 million children, (2) from 5 to 6 thousand new elementary schools could have been constructed, or (3) 600,000 affordable housing units could have been built.
Instead, the U.S. has a horrible housing economy largely due to (a) bad government priorities in congress and the executive branch—and (b) the fact that investment banks and lending houses have been looking for ways to make money for the energy boomers, mutual-funders, and others (who have money to put away or invest) by manipulating the market and ignoring protection measures for over a decade.
Instead, the American housing market is in its worst state since the great Depression.
Instead, tens of millions of Americans go around with out insurance.
Instead, America’s schools and roadway infrastructure are crumbling. (Klein points out that charter schools were part of the Chicago school’s approach to developing Chile’s economy under Pinochet. It is the approach used under W. Bush in the U.S. and especially in New Orleans after the Katrina Disaster.)
Certainly, some cynics will note that various tax moneys were returned at the local level to these states by
(1) the expensive and ill-planned endless-war-on-terror industrial contractors contractors and
(2) the energy boom that accompanied the Iraq War.
However, that sort of analysis is a crude (and inhuman or at least undemocratic) way to promote positive and proper priorities in funding America now, in the past, or in the future!
Moreover, since peoples lives are at stake in war and weapons, it won’t do anyone any good to be cynical.
We don’t have the time to slow down as cynics call us to do, and we need to confront the status quo. We need to use analysis like NPP provides to swing thinking investors and bankers to shift their local and national levels of priorities.
In summation, if one takes this point of view of simply saying that war, weapons, and high fuel prices are part- and parcel of America’s future in capitalism, I invite them to read Naomi Klein’s recent book, The Shock Doctrine.
Klein responsibly de-links capitalism and democracy.
Her theory and analysis is light-years more accurate and salient than cynics or Bush’s advisers have to offer in terms of how democracies and economies function or don’t function together.OTHER COSTS SUFFERED ON THE I-35/1-70 CORRIDOR
NPP notes that the human costs of the Iraq War have been enormous, and the costs on the home-front in the USA will continue for decades—leading to simultaneous deflation (and marked by spurts of inflation) and recession that America knew so well in the 1970s, i.e. after the Vietnam War-era spending spree.
Recall that following the horrible economy dislocations of the 1970s, America was brought Reaganomics—the first strong sign that Keynesians were kicked out and a quasi-fascist Chicago School ideology had taken over America. It is this ideology which Naomi Klein calls “The Shock Doctrine”.
Meanwhile, since 2003, there are 100s of thousands of Iraqis dead .
There are also currently 2 million internal refugees in Iraq.
As well, there are 2 million refugees—including those injured and maimed—from the Iraq War in other (primarily) neighboring countries.
In the USA, 100s of thousands of family’s (primarily those with family members serving in Iraq or in the military) have lost jobs, incomes, and even homes due to dislocations caused by the militarized economy since 2001.
The mobilizations of National Guard forces are just one facet of this large displacement. Moreover, the entire defense establishment is still short on qualified personnel in many locations—just as the federal government’s foreign affairs offices are short manpower—largely due to the lack good foreign policy, defense, labor, and economic policy leadership in the Land.
Likewise towns, local economies, and regions around military bases—from in Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri to Lackland AF Base in Texas (or from Ft. Riley in Kansas to other bases at the ends of the I-70 & I-35 corridor states) have been damaged, hampered or severely deformed by the extended absence of local peoples and base personnel.
All of this is done in the name of either the War on Terror or supposedly in the name of winning a wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or Palestine/Levant.
Besides carrying 1/7th of the budgetary load deficit for the Iraq War these five states--Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas--being focused on in this paper have carried very specific human cost burdens:Human Cost (deaths) State Human Cost (wounded)
130+ Illinois 1,011+
40+ Kansas 344+
58+ Oklahoma 448+
64+ Missouri 634+
331+ Texas 2,582+
623+ Total for these 5 states 4,519+
These 5 states have been suffering 1/6th of the nation’s total official military deaths in Iraq. They also suffer 1/6th of the total official military wounded.
On the one hand, this all may come as no surprise because 1/6th of the U.S. official population lives in these states (or are official American residents of these states).
However, there are 45 other states in the U.S.A., so geographically these 5 states are carrying a “war burden” density, along the I-35 & I-70 roadway corridor, per square mile not experienced by most of the other U.S. states or regions.
Texas is particularly hard-hit along the I-35 corridor, with bases in or near Dallas, Ft. Worth, Killeen and San Antonio taking a brunt of Iraq War deaths and war wounds—i.e. experiencing nearly 40 to 50 % above the national average of wounded or war deaths than for most U.S. communities.RISE OF THE GUNBELT, RISE OF SHOCK ECONOMIC DOCTRINE
About 7 years ago, I was in a doctoral level political science class at Texas A&M University (home to the Bush Library, Cold War Secret Archives, and the think tank of neo-cons who brought you the Iraq War). One professor of American politics, policy & research whom I took two courses under there did not question the status-quo in terms of politics as usual in the USA.
During one discussion with this professor, I indicated that it was well-known that the rise of Sunbelt States after WWII was propelled by the fact that a large economic- and brain-drain transfer had started around 1940 in the U.S.A. related to the arms industry, military training, base construction, etc.
That particular professor challenged my line of thinking, claiming that no research had been carried out conclusively demonstrating that a great percentage of that post-WWII defense spending (from Virginia, Georgia & Alabama to Texas and Kansas to California & Washington state) had negatively distorted the U.S. economy.
I responded in surprise, “Sure there was such research, and the research had been carried out both through qualitatively and quantitatively!!”
I subsequently showed that professor the book, The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of America (1991), by Ann Markusen, Peter Hall, Scott Campbell and Sabina Deitrick. Not only had I read the book, I told him, but I had since noted that the book was used around the U.S.A. in several upper level and graduate classes on political science, policy, and public management.
A short on-line description of this classic book, The Rise of the Gunbelt, is as follows: “Since World War II, America's economic landscape has undergone a profound transformation. The effects of this change can be seen in the decline of the traditional industrial heartland and the emergence of new high tech industrial complexes in California, Texas, Boston, and Florida.”
Moreover, “The Rise of the Gunbelt demonstrates that this economic restructuring is a direct result of the rise of the military industrial complex (MIC) and a wholly new industry based on defense spending and Pentagon contacts. Chronicling the dramatic growth of this vast complex, the authors analyze the roles played by the shift from land and sea warfare to aerial combat in World War II, the Cold War, the birth of aerospace and the consequent radical transformation of the airplane industry, and labor and major defense corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell Douglas. Exploring the reasons for the shifts in defense spending--including the role of lobbyists and the Department of Defense in awarding contracts--and the effects on regional and national economic development, this comprehensive study reveals the complexities of the MIC.”
As a history and social science instructor from the USA, I believe firmly that these sorts of books, The Rise of the Gunbelt or Namoi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and their contents should not be relegated to upper level courses in universities.
They (and their content) need to be shared with incoming university students in order to better form and inform future generations of students taking U.S. history of politics and economics what has been going on in America over the past 4 to 7 decades. Further, more and more research demonstrating the shifts in American political economic history must be produced and published at the universities in the USA. The whitewashing of cultural memory must end!
As well, in the immediate future this truer political-economic understanding of history and economics of post-WWII America should be fully integrated into public and private high school curricula. (I believe many European states, such as Germany and France have educated students in the area of the political-economic developments of their own societies than is the case in U.S. public school curricula. Maybe if math, history, and political economics were better linked no one would fall for the neo-con and pro-Milton Friedmen rhetoric than misinformed the previous generations in the USA.)
For too many generations in the USA, these simple facts which the NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT are spelling out very clearly have been ignored on the ground by teachers and professors—i.e. those educators who should have known better as to how their own country had been transformed and has in part had its spiritual growth and economic promise stunted by almost continuous war economies since 1940.
This is also why I find partial fault with the shallowness of some of the talking points in the 51+ sections of the NPP website related to “Cost of the Iraq War” , e.g. for not digging deeper into how school education and the raising of a misinformed America have been a result of the “War Shock” economies America has faced or intentionally placed itself in almost-continuously for over 7 full decades now.
Further, NPP needs to (1) use and show the economic and monetary multiplier effects of misspending and (2) explain more thoroughly how misspent monies now have double-, triple- the negative effect on the U.S. economy in a few short years time.
In this area of taking both a long term historical- and futurist- view economic development is where both Naomi Klein’s recent book, The Shock Doctrine, and the Rise of the Gunbelt have succeeded, i.e. by the authors’ combining thoroughly the quantitative and qualitative effects on each and every generation--and how the economy of each and every generation gets further and further distorted over time.
The U.S. ended World War II (1945) with the majority of money, gold, and immediate productive capacity on the entire planet Earth.
Americans of each and every generation since that time need to understand political economy and their own history in order to stubbornly ask anew: What happened with all that capital?
How has America misspent or misused that position of power since then? (What have we as a nation and individuals done with all the money, power, and know-how that brought the U.S. to such dominance in 1945?)
How will we answer God if he asks us: “What did you do with all that I have given you?”
Will we simply, as a people called Americans, answer in the End Time as follows?
“We simply blew everything up!”
“We dropped some big bombs. They went ka-boom. We shock and awed everyone!”
“We flew jet fighters really fast. Way cool!”
“We outspent our enemy in the Cold War—Wooooaahhhh, that was close! (Our economy would have likely collapsed 5 years after the Soviets if Gorbachev hadn’t come along and thrown in the towel on the Soviet side back aound 1986.)”
“We fired some big guns, we killed some people, we destroyed ways of life, etc.!”
What do you want history to remember the American Democratic experiment for/?
The main point is whether we will we take hold of our American destiny and do much better with the economic benefits we possess and finally build an America to be really proud of? i.e. a society that looks after the poor? Or provides great homes, housing and opportunity to everyone? One that is more democratic and just than any other nation by far?
Or, are we going to simply settle for the mediocre and destructive path we have been on with this Chicago School of Economics the past 4 decades?
I vote “NO” to the continuation of the permanent war and “Shock Doctrine”.
It is your choice, America?
Grab your chance now!
Get wise and take back the country, people, and get on a much more positive course (or destiny) than the path we currently trod upon!
Use the tools on the web, like NPP, but go out and develop other weapons to stop the War on the better development of America and the American economy. Now!NOTES
“A Vote For More War: States and Congressional Districts”, http://www.nationalpriorities.org/Publications/A-Vote-for-More-War-States-and-Congressional-Dist-2.html
Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, http://www.naomiklein.org/main
Markusen, Ann; Hall, Peter; Campbell, Scott; and Deitrick, Sabina.
The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of America (1991), Oxford: University Press.
Markusen, Ann; Hall, Peter; Campbell, Scott; and Deitrick, Sabina.
The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of America (1991) http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Politics/AmericanPolitics/HistoryPolitics/?view=usa&ci=9780195066487
NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT (NPP), http://www.nationalpriorities.org/home/3.html
“The Shock Doctrine , Klein, Naomi and The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”,
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