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Five Eye-Opening Facts About Our Bloated Post-9/11 'Defense' Spending

A dollar spent on guns is one less buck available for butter.

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3. Covering the Uninsured

A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University estimated that 45,000 people die every year in the United States from problems associated with lack of coverage. The study found that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts,” even “after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health.”

According to NPP's analysis, the costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every uninsured American for 1.7 years.

4. Closing State Budget Gaps

Forty-six states face budget shortfalls in this fiscal year, totaling $130 billion nationwide. The supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year add up to $170 billion – that doesn't include the Pentagon's base budget, nukes or Homeland Security.

5. Iraq, Just in 2011

Iraq is still a bloody mess, with an insurgency still underway. But our politicians have declared vistory and the media have largely moved on. That doesn't mean we won't spend almost $50 billion on those "non-combat troops" which remain, however. What else could we do with that kind of scratch if we just brought them home? NPP tells us it would buy:

  • 24.3 million children receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
  • 726,044 elementary school teachers for one year, OR

  • 829,946 firefighters for one year, OR

  • 6.2 million Head Start slots for children for one year, OR

  • 10.7 million households with renewable electricity -- solar photovoltaic for one year, OR

  • 28.6 million households with renewable electricity-wind power for one year, OR

  • 6.1 million military veterans receiving VA medical care for one year, OR

  • 9.8 million people receiving low-income health care for one year, OR

  • 718,208 police or sheriff's patrol officers for one year, OR

  • 6.0 million scholarships for university students for one year, OR

  • 8.5 million students receiving Pell grants of $5,550

The Big Picture

It's a tragic irony that so much of the discussion surrounding the public debt centers on “entitlements” like Social Security (which hasn't added a penny to the national debt) when we're still paying for Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and the Balkans and on and on.

Estimates of just how much of our national debt payments are from past military spending vary wildly. In 2007, economist Robert Higgs calculated it like this:

I added up all past deficits (minus surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to each year's ratio of narrowly defined national security spending--military, veterans, and international affairs--to total federal spending, expressing everything in dollars of constant purchasing power. This sum is equal to 91.2 percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006. Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government's net interest outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.

When Higgs did that analysis four years ago, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion just in interest payments on our past military adventures.

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