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February 3, 2007

Penny Wise
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:10 AM * 31 comments

It’s time to compare and contrast:

9/11 security could cost $21 billion

WASHINGTON (CNN)—A bill to enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations—the first bill passed by the new Democratic-led House of Representatives—will cost $21 billion over five years if enacted into law, congressional budget officials said Friday.

Rep. Peter King, R-New York., the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, said the report validated his opposition to the bill.

“This bill was rushed to the floor without the Democratic leadership giving us any indication of its massive cost—and now we know why,” King said in a written statement. “Had we known [the cost] before the bill was brought to the floor, it would have been a different story.”

Democrats said the bill was needed to fulfill the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Okay, got it. 21 billion over five years ($4.2B per year), for something that might make us safer, is way too expensive according to the Republicans.

So what do the Republicans love?

Bush administration seeks $245B for wars
Includes additional funding for 2007, $145B for 2008

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official said Friday.

The requests Monday, to accompany President Bush’s budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would bring the total appropriations for 2007 to about $170 billion, with a slight decline the following year.

$170B for a war that’s making us less safe is just fine with them. If $21B is “massive cost,” what the hey is $245B?

Here’s my solution: Take $4.2 billion out of the $170 billion that Bush wants for his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (a bit under 2.5%) and fully fund the 9/11 commission recommendations for this year.

Here’s another plan: Forget the “Surge.” Use the money that it would take to send 21,500 combat troops (plus their support and logistics units) into the meatgrinder, an action that everyone outside of the White House gates agrees is going to fail, and use it to fully fund the 9/11 committee’s recommendations.

May I also note, in passing, that the National Intelligence Estimate has finally gotten around to agreeing with Making Light:

The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements….

That is to say, it’s a civil war with complicating factors that make it much, much worse.

Comments on Penny Wise:
#1 ::: Matthew ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 11:21 AM:

I can't help but think the Republicans are penny wise and "We're taking a pounding!" foolish.

Its a bit long to be a good pun, but it pops into my head whenever I see how much money the war is costing.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 11:36 AM:

My question: What, exactly, is the Republican Party smoking?

#3 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Perhaps this is true of all politicians, but it's been clear that the Republicans have been more interested in playing political games than actual governance since at least the start of W's administration. That they refused to clear up the false rumors of vandalism at the very beginning of their administration was a harbinger of things to come. (It bugged me at the time that rather than just saying if their offices had been vandalled or not, they kept saying that they had no comment. I mean, they of all people should know whether or not it had happened.) They decided that creating FUD and tarring the outgoing administration was more important than setting the record straight and doing the actual job of governance. It's been that way ever since.

The Bush administration clearly wants the surge so that they can push the inevitable withdrawl into the next administration. This way, Bush isn't tagged with the loss. Why so many Republicans are following him on this, I'm not sure. (Maybe they're dead certain that a Democrat will win the White House in 2008 and want to tag Democrats with the loss?)

If you look at it solely in terms of political gamesmanship, it makes some sort of sense. If you look at it in terms of governing a country, it's appalling.

What I find bizarre is that the President thinks it's wrong to repeat his own policies back to him. He had made it quite clear that he intended to get the troops over to Iraq before anyone could do anything about it. That way, the legislature would be forced to fund the troops lest they be smeared as being against the troops. Nancy Pelosi called Bush on this and the response was that she was playing political games. Say what?

#4 ::: R. M. Kehrli ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 12:03 PM:

The GOP will probably get away with spinning it as a bad thing, since most people won't actually compare relative costs. I imagine most of them won't go much further than a passing, "Wow, that IS a lot of money."

#5 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Congress, the press, and the bureaucracy too often focus on how much money or effort is spent, rather than whether the money or effort actually achieves the announced goal. -- Donald Rumsfeld

#6 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 12:45 PM:

I wrote about exactly this contrast this morning. You say it better, more clearly, and with rational recommendations. Thank you. (Edited my entry with a link back here.)

#7 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 03:42 PM:

So, when will we be able to say "We told you so?" about the troop surge?

#8 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Wait, wait! Can't you see that if you start spending money on actually preventing terrorism, that will only embolden terrorists! You need to disembolden terrorism by... by... emdoing something.

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 04:46 PM:

You discourage terrorists by showing them that the real money is in war profiteering.

This requires that you so thoroughly lack empathy and understanding that you can't conceive of any action that does not stem from greed.

I'm not seeing a hole in the logic yet.

It's been a bad day. I think I may be being overly cynical.

#10 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 06:42 PM:

I am deeply skeptical that the extra homeland security type stuff will make us any safer. But at only a tenth the money cost of the Iraq screwup, it's probably a bargain. (And the side effects will be extra costs and hassles, not thousands of dead Americans and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.)

#11 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 06:56 PM:

Fragano Ledgister@2: My question: What, exactly, is the Republican Party smoking?

Undoubtedly something the Republican Party has been condemning on moral grounds for years, but which everyone in the press corps and in DC knows about.

#12 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Aconite, they've been smoking The Gays? Dirty!

#13 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 07:01 PM:

Sorry to double-post, but I'd just like to point out that albatross and Aconite left comments one after another, and when I responded to one I got the name right! I can change!

#14 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 08:30 PM:

“This bill was rushed to the floor without the Democratic leadership giving us any indication of its massive cost—and now we know why,” King said in a written statement. “Had we known [the cost] before the bill was brought to the floor, it would have been a different story.”

Funny, this wasn't a problem when they were doing it. Another case of IOKIYAR?

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 09:07 PM:

IOKIYAR = It's OK If You're A Republican.

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 09:26 PM:

Aconite #11: They've been smoking the pages? Oh, dear me.

#17 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 03:57 AM:

I remember people saying that the US should have just bought Saddam off: billion dollars and a guaranteed retirement in some nice tropical paradise.

Would it not, in the long run, be vastly cheaper to offer a similar deal to Bush & co., on the condition that if they ever again so much as make political noise, they will be immediately extradited to Iraq with their names tattooed all over their body in every local language?

-- Wakboth

#18 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 05:51 AM:

Ummm, isn;t this the same set of recommendations that has been studied so exaustivly by the Republicans when they were actually in control of the House and Senate?

And they have the nerve ti lie so blatantly about not knowing what wqas in the bill, and the cost?

#19 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:00 PM:

Ethan @#12 I'm reminded that saying you're going outside to smoke a fag mean something completely different in the US than it does here.

#20 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:21 PM:

Neil Willcox, now I'm reminded by you of when I was in high school and was the only one who knew who Pulp were (yes, I was in high school when Different Class was new; yes, that makes me a small child), and everyone thought the line "Smoke some fags and play some pool" from "Common People" was wicked gay. Of course, they never heard the bit in "Pencil Skirt" about "I've kissed your mother twice/Now I'm working on your dad."

#21 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 08:41 PM:

ethan@13; Fragano Ledgister@16: I see my cunning plan of going around without socks on so the root system, in contrast to webbing, is clearly visible has borne fruit.

Since it's a fricking 6 degrees here before wind chill is factored in, I'm glad to know my sacrifice has not been in vain.

#22 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 02:02 PM:

I just had a thought, and I guess this is the best place to put it:

Has anyone pointed out yet that Bush is now responsible for more American deaths than the 9/11 attacks? (Of course, in total number of deaths he passed 9/11 long ago, but the number of American deaths is one hell of a symbolic line to have crossed.)

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 02:16 PM:

That was noted on WNYC the day it first happened, ethan. "Today the number of Americans who have died in Iraq surpassed the total number of 9/11 victims" or something.

Please do remember, however, that while 9/11 happened in the US, not all the victims were American (in the usual sense). The victims came from every language, people, and nation.

#24 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Yeah, I know the victims were from everywhere. I should have noted that in what I said. Apologies!

It's good that people have noted the numbers, which I guess I missed somehow. But has anyone pointed out that Bush killed them?

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 03:58 PM:

I've been saying for at least a couple of years that he should be in prison for Depraved Indifference Murder.

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Aconite #21: Isn't that dangerous.

#27 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Fragano Ledgister@26:

Why, yes. Yes, it is. The things I do for you people, just so you don't end up with acotross around your necks. Such is my humanitarian spirit.

If anyone wants to knit me a pair of transparent socks, that would go a long way towards mitigating my misery. This really isn't the right time of year for root-pruning.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 10:12 PM:

Aconite #27: I have here a couple of tailors, fresh from the service of an emperor in a distant land, who say they can do invisible clothes, not just socks. Would that solve your problem?

#29 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 08:21 AM:

Fragano Ledgister@28: Er, thank you, but I believe those tailors did some work for a would-be emperor in a not-so-distant land, too, and I can't say I was overly impressed. I know it must be difficult to design a cut that flatters a butt with a head in it, but I thought their hat selection was lacking,

#30 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2007, 02:16 AM:

Why commit to spending $21 billion for something an expert panel suggests would help solve the problem, if you can spend 20 or 100 times that* on a massive boodoggle that you have no reason to believe might help? Scale is crucial. You need truly massive operation if the loss of 353 tons of cash is to be seen as being so insignificant that it will barely rate a footnote in any account. What could those Democrats be thinking!

*The cost of the war is much higher than what has been budgeted and spent. It is wearing out equipment - the equipment that doesn't crash and burn - and causing permanent health problem for troops. Once all these are factored in, it represents a commitment, so far, of between $1 and $2 trillion - depending on the source. The Guardian is one.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Aconite #29: OTOH, they do a great flight-suit.

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