Tuesday, May 11, 2004


There are many reasons to criticize the war in Iraq, but that's not what this Blog is for. (For that, check out the list of labor and political blogs on the left)

One aspect of the war that I do want to write about is how it's distorting our economy, or more precisely, what the United States government thinks is important. Daily Kos helps put spending on the war in perspective
If Congress appropriates the $25 billion requested by the White House, the cost of the Iraq war will reach $174 billion. Compare that figure with another figure discussed this week:
The cost of fighting crime in the United States, for police, prisons and courts, rose to a record $167 billion in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available, according to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics...

In total, the criminal justice system accounted for 7 percent of all state and local government spending in 2001, roughly equal to the amount spent on health and hospitals, the report found. The criminal justice system employed 2.3 million people in 2001, 747,000 of them as jail or prison guards.
The next time Bush talks about the war in Iraq being the necessary cost of keeping us safe from Saddam Hussein, somebody should ask him what he thinks about the fact that it's cost more money to conquer and occupy Iraq than the yearly cost to police all the streets, administer the criminal laws, prosecutions and appeals, and incarcerate the prisoners in every jurisdiction--municipal, county, state and federal--in the entire United States. And the follow-up question, at a time when state and local governments are pleading with the federal government for sufficient resources to train and equip our first responders for dealing with emergencies, preparing our public health system to cope with epidemics or health crises, and patrolling our points of entry and securing vulnerable sites like chemical and utility plants from attack, should be, "Mr. President, can you explain how we've benefited from your war against Iraq, and why we're paying more for those paltry benefits than we pay to maintain civil order here in the United States?"
Oh, and one more detail. 5,500 Americans were killed in the workplace in 2002 and an estimated 50,000–60,000 died from occupational diseases.

The entire OSHA budget? About $461 million in FY 2004.