What is the War on Iraq Costing You?

“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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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).

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

Cost of the War in Iraq
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plonkee said...

I don't know what we in the UK have spent on the war in Iraq, its probably less per head than in the US. It probably could have paid for me to go on vacation to Iraq, which would have been a lot more useful to me.

The biggest thing that we've lost is probably the respect of other EU member states - but thats getting too political. As you can guess, I didn't support the war.

ispf said...

Plonkee: You are right - the UK expenditure for war is lesser than the US expenditure. The link below shows data from a couple of years before - http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

That said, would you really want to go on *vacation* to Iraq? Boy, you are a lot more adventurous than I am :)

Dimes said...

EXCEPT- Not every "military" dollar is going *to* the war. A lot of it is payroll and other incentives. I wonder if it counts civilian DOD expenses as well, or those unmonitored Pentagon charge accounts (what we call "military" is really going for breast enlargements!), as I suspect.
If all the Iraq/Afghanistan spending stopped right this second, the number wouldn't go to zero, or anything close to it.

ispf said...

Dimes: It is true that a part of the budget ear marked for military goes for payroll and other incentives. Which is I guess I am OK with. But at present, the war comes with a huge tab, and most of it is likely to be taken care of by the military budget. Giving up what I *really* want to pay for a war that I do not support - that is the part I have a beef with!

Dimes said...

If only we could decide where our tax dollars were spent! I don't especially mind the military expenditures, but I don't want one damned penny going towards medicare aside from the 1.45% out of my payroll tax, and no money to bankroll emergency care for indigents or illegal immigrants. Public health is ok though. While we're at it, I don't want any of my taxes going to EITC or TANF, or to food and housing assistance. I object to any and all foreign aid, AND above all, I do not want to bankroll any pork barrel projects or industry subsidies or bailouts.
Where do I pick up my refund?

hank said...

I just stumbled on this post today, but it really is mindblowing to think about... And that was just to May - how about February of the next year? :) Ridiculous, eh? Go Barack? :)

juandos said...

Hmmm, compared to the cost of the wetback invasion of the United States, the war in Iraq is quite the bargain:

1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year.
Verify at: http://tinyurl.com/zob77

2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.
Verify at: http://www.cis..org/articles/2004/fiscalexec.html

3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.
Verify at: http://www.cis..org/articles/2004/fiscalexec.html

4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.0.ht...

5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.
Verify at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.h...

6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens. (This equates to $1.1 Billion per year.)
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.h...

7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.h...

8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for Welfare & social services by the American taxpayers.
Verify at: http://premium.cnn.com/TRANSCIPTS/0610/29/ldt.01.html

9. $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens.
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.h...

10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the US
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0606/12/ldt.01.h...

11. During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U. S from the Southern border.
Verify at: Homeland Security Report: http://tinyurl.com/t9sht

12. The National Policy Institute, "estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period."
Verify at: http://www.nationalpolicyinstitute.org/pdf/deportation....

13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin.
Verify at: http://www.rense.com/general75/niht.htm

14. "The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States."
Verify at: http://www.drdsk.com/articleshtml

The total cost is a whopping $335.8 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Are we THAT stupid?

1. The Iraq war began on March 10, 2003.

Verify at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/2003031...

2. The total cost for war to date, almost exactly 5 years as of this writing, is $512.05 Billion.***

Verify at: http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home

3. That means that the war in Iraq has cost us an average of $102.4 Billion per year. LESS THAN ONE-THIRD OF WHAT WE SPEND ON ILLEGAL ALIENS PER YEAR.

Verify at: The nearest calculator, or, pencil and paper.

clovrmay said...

I'm writing a paper on declining tax revenues and your information you provided has been extremely helpful, Thank you all!!