But trillions? US GDP is roughly $10 trillion. Alterman is saying that over the long run, this war is going to cost us at least 20% of GDP. That’s nuts, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen those sorts of numbers around.[….]
Thus, Eric Alterman is enabled to claim that the cost to the US taxpayer will be over $2t, even though most of the larger costs cited by Galbraith aren’t going to be borne by Americans either directly or indirectly, but by Iraqi oil.6 That’s the oil that will be able to flow freely for the first time in ten years because of this war — and the revenue from which will flow to the Iraqi people for the first time in a decade.
The war will certainly cost more than the $60b and change that the President is asking for. But it is not going to run us several trillion dollars (though even if it did, that would work out to less than 0.1% of GDP over the next 20 years.) I don’t know how much more, and neither does anyone else, although I’m sure the military has better guesses than I could make. It’s important to think about the economic cost of the war — the pro-war side has mostly dropped the ball on this, and it’s an important calculation when we consider whether or not to go. But making up ridiculous numbers in order to support your predisposition isn’t helpful — and when the war doesn’t cost us $2t, people are going to remember that the next time you talk about the costs of a program you don’t like.
But what do I know? I’ve never worked at a start-up and I don’t have three MBAs.
Doubt this will make it into Conor Friedersdorf’s lil’ round-up of mistaken Iraq War predictions.