Larry Beinhart

'Wag the Dog' author: Trump is too dishonest to win re-election by attacking Iran

If Donald Trump is convinced that he will lose his bid for re-election or if he is convinced that an investigation is getting too close, would he go to war with Iran? Or Venezuela? Or some other player to be named later?

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3 Things You Have to Know About the Bogus 'Fiscal Cliff'

Obama won. Romney lost. That is a crisis averted and a very good thing.

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Myth Romney's Big Propaganda About Taxes

Here’s an actual fact.

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Corporations Are Working to Destroy One of the Few Tools We Have to Stop Their Abusive Behavior

Everyone has heard of the woman who spilled coffee on herself and won $3 million from McDonald’s. Perhaps you recall an editorial similar to the one that ran in the San Diego Union Tribune: “A winning lottery ticket…absurd… a stunning illustration of what’s wrong with America’s civil justice system.”

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The Astonishing Stupidity of Not Raising Taxes on the Rich When Budgets Are Tight

The current economy is routinely and universally referred to as the worst recession since the Great Depression.

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How Can the Richest 1 Percent Be Winning This Brutal Class War Against 99% of Us?

Who are they? The richest 1 percent. And maybe the next 9 percent.

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Tax Cuts Simply Do Not Create Jobs

MYTH #1: Tax cuts create jobs. Tax increases cost jobs.

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Why Do People Believe in God?

We're doing that because if we start with the idea that if God does exist, then we have to explain why there are so many versions of Him (her or it) and why we can't figure out the right one. Historically, that's a dead end, stuck in the same battle as Saladin and Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades.

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Why You Should Be Screaming for Higher Taxes

US economic growth has been strongest when our taxes have been high. During World War II, then under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, our upper marginal tax rates were between 88-92%. Read those numbers again. They are astonishingly high. Those were our strongest growth years.

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Why Atheism May Be the Best Way to Understand God

Editor’s note: Religion is among the most volatile and divisive issues in the world today. Yet there’s little serious investigation into why people believe, or why some will kill and die for their faith. Larry Beinhart, in his new novel, Salvation Boulevard -- and this series of articles -- is hoping to start a conversation about these issues. This is the second in the series, the introduction can be read here.

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Why the Economy Grows Like Crazy Amid High Taxes


The real-world effects of tax policy are counterintuitive.

They run exactly opposite the conventional wisdom. They defy what the Heritage Foundation calls common sense and what the American Enterprise Institute calls logic.

Reality laughs at the Laffer curve, calls Ronald Reagan wrong and says George W. Bush is a loon.

High marginal tax rates correlate with economic growth.

Examples include World War II and the Truman-Eisenhower years, when it was around 90 percent, and the Clinton years, when it was high relative to the preceding and following administrations.

Tax rate increases are followed by real economic growth.

Examples include Hoover in 1932, Roosevelt in 1936 and 1940, Bush the Elder in 1991 and Clinton in1993.

Moderate tax cuts are followed by a flat economy.

This is a generalization from one example: Johnson in 1964.

Large tax cuts are followed by a boom, a bubble and a crash.

1929, 1987 and 2008 are examples.

These are covered in more detail in the first part of the article "Tax Cuts: The B.S. and the Facts."

Why do high taxes create a stronger economy?

I used to run a small business -- a commercial film production company.

Every time we took a dollar out as personal income, it instantly turned into 50 cents.

If we didn't really need the money, that was an incentive to keep it in the company and to find ways to spend it that took it out of the taxable profit column but increased the value of the company.

High taxes create an incentive to reinvest profits into long-term growth.

With high taxes, the only way to retain the bulk of the wealth created by a business is by reinvesting it in the business -- in plants, equipment, staff, research and development, new products and all the rest.

The higher taxes are (and from 1940 to 1964 the top rates were around 90 percent), the more this is true.

This creates a bias toward long-term planning.

If a business is planning for the long term, it wants a happy, stable work force. It becomes worthwhile to pay good wages and offer decent benefits.

Low taxes create an incentive for profit taking.

It is easy to confuse profitability with wealth creation.

They are not the same.

President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. There is no doubt that this gave the country an asset of great value, one that was very productive. It created great "wealth." But, aside from the construction companies that contracted the work, it was not profitable.

Selling subprime mortgages, trading in derivatives, packaging mortgage-backed securities and "flipping" condos were all very profitable but did not create wealth.

The theory is that if the rich can keep their money, they will invest in businesses that create jobs, more businesses, more tax revenue and greater "wealth" for the nation.

That sounds like logic and common sense. But is it, in practice, what happened?

Once tax cutting began, the culture of business changed.

It was no longer enough for a business to be a reasonably good business, making steady, reliable profits.

Indeed, that became a very bad condition for a business to be in. It made it a target for takeovers by people who were willing to milk them of their profits.

Among the ways you can get more profit out of a going business are:
  • Cutting the workforce -- possibly sacrificing long-term productivity
  • Cutting salaries -- who cares if the employees are unhappy? The balance sheet improves.
  • Selling off assets -- who cares what happens in 10 years? We can take the money now.
  • Outsourcing -- which sends the "wealth" somewhere else.

A whole host of devices were developed to do all of the above: junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, greenmail and the like.

Lots of money could be made that way -- for a small number of individuals. But it doesn't produce "wealth."

An environment in which profit-taking is cheap creates the conditions for a bubble.

Once you've taken your profit, and you have the cash in hand, you look for a place where you can get profits quickly, then again and again. Instead of examining how sound a company is, how well it's run, its debt load and its long-term prospects, other things become important -- such as the speed at which you can profit and the ease of entry.

Instead of investing in business -- which is difficult, slow and complicated -- investors go into markets.

They look for sectors that are hot. When investors find such an area, they flock to it. It heats up even more. People are seen making money, quickly and easily, simply by buying and selling, and they don't want to miss out.

Then there's a bubble -- which is followed by a crash.

Proponents of tax cuts take the position that taxes take money out of the economy.

That's flat out not true.

Governments don't keep the money they collect; they spend it. It goes right back in. It just takes a different route. It goes to different places.

The places that government puts money are important. More to the point, they are important for business.

All infrastructure is an invisible subsidy for all business.

It's easy to understand this when we're talking about roads.

It doesn't matter if your business doesn't ship anything by truck or even by bicycle. The fact that you can get to your office quickly and easily, that your mailperson can get to you without traveling on the back of a mule, is a subsidy of your business.

It's a little harder to see that when we're talking about soft infrastructure.

Laws, regulations and their enforcement. Social Security, unemployment insurance, public health and welfare. Education, research, support of sports, arts and culture. Parks and playgrounds. All of them create a society that is safer, more stable, and more able to produce and consume. They produce a better place in which to do business.

Tax cutters also claim -- and I paraphrase the essence of the argument -- that the money government gets disappears in wasteful stupidities.

There's some truth in that.

They might point out all sorts of cultural and scientific projects, like a museum for the Woodstock Festival, counting the fish in Waldon Pond or studying the sex life of prairie dogs. I would point to the Star Wars missile defense shield, farm subsidies, the ethanol program, the privatized non-reconstruction of Iraq and all of Halliburton's contracts.

But it is also true that businesses spend money on all sorts of wasteful stupidities.

I am sitting here wondering how anyone -- in fact, a succession of people -- could run a company with the power and resources of General Motors into the ground.

In the mythological marketplace, they should fail and suffer for their faults. In the real world, the arrogant fools who ran the place will walk away with millions, and the hundreds of thousands of people who worked for them and their suppliers, who offered services and goods to those in turn, will be the ones who suffer.

The point is that relying on the magic of the marketplace is like relying on any other kind of magic.

There are things that are necessarily done for the common good.

Clean water, sewer systems, garbage collection and public health initiatives create a healthy population, able to work and consume. Take those away, and we return to the plague years. Imagine what that does to business.

Polluted air, toxins in the groundwater, viruses and bacteria jump the borders of even the wealthiest communities.

Bad health created by lack of care for the common good becomes an economic drain on society.

This is not to say that a full-out, state-run economy is better than capitalism. It's not.

That produces different problems that are even worse.

It is not even meant to imply that all "sound" investments in "real" businesses stopped with tax cuts. They didn't. Start-up money and venture capital were relatively easy to come by. Lots of new and good businesses were built in low-tax environments.

But low taxes produced great excesses of negative activity as well. There is a propensity in business, and as a nation, to hollow out our businesses, and mortgage and sell off our assets, in order to grab short-term profits.

A sound economy is based on a mix of market and government actions -- and a host of other factors as well.

These explanations are speculative, a search to explain what is observed in nature, if you will.

What is certain is that tax cuts on the top brackets, and in particular on unearned income, do not produce healthy economic growth. Contrary to all expectations, tax hikes seem to produce the desired growth. All the explanations in the world, funded by all the right-wing anti-tax think tanks in the world, won't change that reality. If these explanations don't suit you, then supply a better one that will.

A Crash Course in Economic Crashes

The first time I was in a car crash, I was 6 or 7 years old.

That's a long time ago. But there are certain things about it that I remember quite vividly.

My father was driving. The road was icy. We began to slide. This was in the days before seat belts, and cars had bench seats, upholstered but not shaped for each individual bottom. My father shot out his right arm and pressed me against the seat back to keep me from flying forward if, indeed, we were going to end up hitting something.

What was most extraordinary was how long it seemed to take. How time slowed while we slid forward and sideways, heading onto the shoulder, then past it. It seemed as if we had all the time in the world, yet there was nothing we could do to get off the ice, alter the trajectory, slow down ... nothing ... until we crashed.

As I read the economics news, I'm having that exact same sensation that we're in a slow-motion crash.

Each week, sometimes daily, we slide by a new warning sign, another wreck that's already off the road.

The new one is Lehman Brothers.

Before that, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Before that, Bear Stearns.

In August, "one in every 416 U.S. households entered the foreclosure process." In spite of a 2005 law that made personal bankruptcies more difficult and that allows creditors to squeeze money out of people even after they've gone bankrupt, personal bankruptcy rates are soaring. General Motors stock has been trading at 1950s prices. Like GM, Ford is laying off thousands of workers. Both of them are asking for federal assistance to survive. Pension funds are routinely failing.

Then there are my personal experiences.

Like when I go to the gas station and watch the ticker on the pump go up over $50, $60 and then $70 to fill the tank. Or when I go to the supermarket and lay down $140 for what cost me $90 a year or so back.

From time to time I run into rich people or their handlers. In February I was traveling with a lawyer from one of New York's leading law firms. He does the legal work on IPOs. He told me the firm's January 2008 business was down 90 percent from January 2007. A couple of days ago a hedge fund guy dropped in on our regular tennis doubles game. Between sets he mentioned how hard it was to get credit these days. "On a secured loan," which means 40 percent backed by assets, mostly commercial real estate -- he was talking about $120 million and up -- "the banks want 20 percent interest."

Every analyst I see or hear blames it on the "housing bubble" and the "subprime mess."

That doesn't seem right.

It doesn't explain why the dollar has lost about a third of its value against the Canadian loonie and the euro, among others, or why gold is bouncing up against the $1,000 ceiling -- both of which happened before the bubble sprang a leak.

It doesn't explain why the stock market -- as measured by the Dow Jones average -- is down (adjusted for inflation) about 15 percent from 2001. Moreover, at its peak during the Bush years, it was only 14 percent (adjusted) over the 2001 mark.

It doesn't explain why median income is down -- depending on who's reporting it -- $700, $1,000, $1,200 per person, over that same time period. Even median family income, with more people working per family, is down.

It doesn't explain why, during the so-called Bush boom, corporate profits were at an all-time high, but corporations were starved for places to invest the money.

Let us presume that government policy has an effect on the economy.

What are the policies that have produced this economy that's on an icy road, sliding in slow motion toward the cliff, or, if we're lucky, maybe just into a ditch?

The core, the very heart of Bushonomics, is cutting taxes, especially for the wealthy.

I find it impossible to figure out what George Bush's motivations for anything are. He may have that impulse because he himself, his family and his friends are all very rich and they'll save themselves millions of dollars over the years. Maybe it's political. As he once said, the super-rich are his "base." It may be a class thing, borne of the belief that rich people are rich because they're better and will do better things with the money. It may be the mystical belief that "the market" makes everything better.

Whatever the truth is, the tax cuts were sold as economic stimulus and jobs packages with the promise that they would not create deficits. This last was based on a romantic Ayn Rand vision of millionaires racing into the backwoods to build, build, build new businesses that would create jobs, "good jobs," and new taxes would be paid by the businesses and the workers, making up for the initial deficits.

Alas, none of that ever happened.

Deficits were created.

Bush went on a war spending spree. That made them bigger. Whatever boom there was did not create sufficient revenue to the government to make up for deficits.

That triggered the next event in our saga.

Deficits normally lead to inflation.

Bankers hate inflation. So do politicians.

So Alan Greenspan, everyone's favorite economic hero, stepped in. He cut the rates that the Federal Reserve charged banks to borrow from the government.

The intent was to keep inflation low.

It sort of worked for about five years. The official, and actual, rates of inflation were pretty low.

The reason I say it only sort of worked was that, in reality, it suppressed inflation. It made the dollar worth less -- as we now know, at least one third less. Oil, as it happens, is priced in dollars. Overseas suppliers of oil began to see their incomes decline -- by about a third. So they did what any sensible person with the power to do it would do: They began to raise their prices.

That does not account for the full rise in the price of oil, but it triggered it, and it's a large segment of it. Since everything in America moves on oil, it has raised the cost of everything else. It doesn't account for all the cost increases we're seeing now, but it propels a significant portion of them.

This was combined with several other impulses.

Free trade has to be number one on the list.

Free trade brought cheap consumer goods into the United States from overseas. That made shoppers very happy. It kept inflation down.

It was tough on workers. It not only put a lot people out of work directly, it put downward pressure on wages all across the board. That too, helped keep inflation down.

It was also very tough on businesses that actually make things here in the United States. The making of things, and then the support services, were outsourced, though the companies remained here, as corporate and marketing entities.

Other factors include deregulation, non-enforcement of regulations, appointing industry representatives to regulatory agencies, and union busting.

With outsourcing and domestic wages going down, corporations did, indeed, make record profits.

Three things came together to produce a great deal of loose cash.

First, the government cut taxes while it increased spending.

Second, the Federal Reserve made it cheap, artificially cheap, to borrow money.

Third, corporations made money -- largely by pushing wages and salaries down -- but had no place to put it.

But, what was there to do with all that money?

There was nothing being produced with the right kind of growth potential to pay back the loans. Working people were not making more money that could be used to create more consumption.

So the great ocean of money went, ultimately, to two places, from which it was supposed to be paid back: to real estate and to consumers (who were making less income) for personal spending on credit.

There was growth, about a 37 percent increase in the GDP in actual dollars across seven years. That's about 17 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Let's go back and look at two other numbers: median income and the stock market.

They're both down.

Where was the growth?

It was in borrowing. In credit. In debt.

There's one bubble, the housing bubble, which is inside of -- or a symptom of -- a much larger bubble, the credit bubble. That bubble is so big that it represents almost the entire growth in the U.S. economy for the last seven years.

At the core of it, the seeds from which the poison fruit has grown are the tax cuts.

Do tax cuts actually stimulate the economy?

Vast sums of money have gone into creating that myth. Major intellectual industries have been created and sustained to sell that story. At the center of that claim is the Legend of Saint Ronald Retro Reagan.

Reagan cut income taxes, big time. But he raised Social Security and Medicare taxes. That meant that rich people paid less and working people paid more. The immediate result was that the economy faltered. Then Reagan raised taxes, though not by as much as he cut them. At about the same time, oil dropped from $40 a barrel to $20. The economy did grow. That is until the stock market crash of '87.

There is vastly more evidence the other way. Tax increases stimulate the economy. It may not make sense, it may be counterintuitive, but here are the facts.

What if taxes went up to over 90 percent?

According to the Reaganauts and Bushwackers, the world would collapse. Business would grind to a halt. Investors would flee. Workers would lay down their tools.

Back in World War II, taxes did go up that high.

Americans who earned as little as $500 per year paid income tax at a 23 percent rate, while those who earned more than $1 million per year paid a 94 percent rate.

The result:

The American economy expanded at an unprecedented (and unduplicated) rate between 1941 and 1945. The gross national product of the United States, as measured in constant dollars, grew from $88.6 billion in 1939 -- while the country was still suffering from the depression -- to $135 billion in 1944, according to Economic History Services.

From 1946 to 1963, the top rate fluctuated from 86 percent to 91 percent.

Average economic growth was 3.5 percent per year.

The current top income tax rate is 35 percent.

Economic growth has been, at best, 2.5 percent -- that is, if you stop counting in 2007. And don't consider the type of growth, which consisted primarily of increased debt and pyramids of borrowing.

In 1992 the top tax rate was 31 percent.

Bill Clinton increased it to 39.1 percent.

The Dow Jones average went up 360 percent. The number of jobs went up 237,000 per month (under Bush, as of 2007, it was just 72,000 per month). Median household income went up rather than down. The budget was balanced.

Both candidates are talking about tax cuts to fix the economy.

Does that make sense?

Here, in New York State, we are facing a budget crisis due to the collapse in the financial markets, which is where a lot of our tax revenue comes from.

The governor has a choice between raising taxes and cutting expenditures. He's a good, fairly liberal Democrat. But he polled the people and the Legislature, and everyone wanted to cut spending.

That means cutting the state workforce.

That means that people who had jobs and were spending money will be unemployed and spending a lot less. That means less revenue for the state and for the places that they did business with, which means the economic crisis will grow worse.

States are in a difficult position because they compete with each other for "friendly business environments," which always means, in the short term, lower taxes.

This administration, and most economists, at least as they appear in the media, want us to "consume" our way out of trouble.

But the model should be the other way. We should be producing our way out of trouble.

Is that possible in a "free trade" world?

The answer is yes -- through government spending. Through the kinds of things that the market cannot, or will not, supply.

The market will not protect our coastlines. How many Katrinas and Ikes do we have to have before we understand that it is in the common good -- and good for business and good for the economy -- that we do so?

Most of the costs of doing so cannot be outsourced. They have to, by their nature, stay here.

The same is true for wind and solar power and rebuilding our electrical grid to make such power sources work.

The market will not produce sensible, affordable health care. The market, in fact, has produced the worst cost-to-benefit ratio in the civilized world. The market has produced more bureaucracy in health care than any government agency ever could.

An affordable, national health care system would make American business more competitive.

For those of us who pay for our own health care, it would leave more money in our pockets than most of the tax cut proposals.

The market cannot and will not produce clean air and water. It will not produce an educated population.

Why did we have so much growth -- so much business growth -- when we had high taxes and when the taxes on corporate profits were actually collected?

If taxes on income (personal or corporate) are high, the impulse is not to take them, especially if they're as high as 90 percent. But there's no need to go that high to start making a meaningful adjustment.

What do companies and people do when they're making money in a high tax environment? They reinvest, in producing something. Cashing out is difficult, but the value of what they own continues to grow as the reinvestments pay off. We then have to "make money the old fashioned way ... earn it."

There is a difference between my business and "business," the wealth of the nation.

In my business, I hate regulations, unions and high taxes.

In my country, I appreciate regulations, unions and what high taxes, if intelligently spent, do for me. Then I live in a country in which business in general does better, my investments in the stock market do better, my retirement is protected, my children's health care is affordable, and I have more hope for their future.

New York Times Perpetuates the Myth that George Bush Won the 2000 Election

"In 2001 painstaking postmortems of the Florida count, one by the New York Times and another by a consortium of newspapers, concluded that Mr. Bush would have come out slightly ahead, even if all the votes counted throughout the state had been retallied." Alessandra Stanley, New York Times, May 23, 2008, in a review of the HBO television movie, "Recount"

That's not true.

The New York Times did not do its own recount. It did participate in a consortium. Here's what the consortium actually said: "If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin." Ford Fessenden and John M. Broder, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2001.

Why did Ms. Stanley make such an important and fundamental error?

It is not a trivial matter. It is a common piece of misinformation. Many, many people believe it. Now a few more do, as a result of Ms. Stanley's review. It is not a trivial matter. Because that misinformation was created by one of the most bizarre, and still completely unexplained, journalistic events in modern times.

Here's what happened.

George Bush appeared to have won Florida, and therefore the presidency.

The law in Florida was actually quite simple and direct:

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What Is Iraq Costing You?

The War in Iraq has cost about $453,000,000,000 (four hundred and fifty-three billion dollars) to date.

That's pretty hard to grasp. Especially on my income and probably on yours. Let's bring that home and make it a little more understandable.

I live in Ulster County, New York. Our share of that is $372,000,000 (three hundred and seventy-two million dollars).

If you live in Los Angeles, your bill is $4,823,000,000 (four billion, eight hundred twenty-three million). Savannah, Georgia, $144,000,000. Little Rock, Arkansas, $339,000,000. That's how much you're putting in so far. It keeps ticking away at two billion dollars a week. If you live somewhere else and want to know how much it's costing your city or county, go to costofwar.com.

You might also want to do what they suggest. Imagine what could have been done with that much money. The schools, bridges, medical care, playgrounds.

What did we get for our money?

The original deal -- as presented to us -- was to disarm Saddam Hussein for $50 billion. If we didn't do it right away, the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud.

Bizarre, but true, that was actually accomplished. And for far less. It wasn't difficult, since Saddam was already disarmed. But by massing our troops and demanding UN resolutions, Saddam was forced to let the inspectors in so that we got to see it for ourselves.

But the administration was set on war! We're not actually sure why. Perhaps they aren't either. So they told us that the inspectors were associated with the UN. They were Swiss or French or some other foreigners, and therefore, unlike Americans, they were easily conned. Their failure to find WMDs didn't mean there weren't any. It really meant that Saddam was super tricky as well as super evil.

So the goal slipped from disarming Saddam to removing Saddam.

Removing Saddam was going to be a magic moment. It was going to be like a Disney animated feature. When the ogre was slain, the entire kingdom would break out with flowers and the flowers would dance and sing. And welcome the Americans as liberators!

That's not all we were going to get for our investment. We were going to get much, much more!

We would strike a blow in the war on terror! Keep (non-existent) weapons of mass destructions out of the hands of a dictator who might give them to terrorists. Establish a democracy in the Middle East. Bring stability to the region and hope to other people under evil dictators. Make Israel safer.

Most of all it would be a demonstration!

We would smite our foe like the Lord God Almighty, throwing thunderbolts and parting the very seas, so that all who saw would quake in fear and tremble before us. That's the colorful, theological version, but it is, in fact, what the administration expected.

We were a beneficent power, too. We were going to rebuild Iraq. George Bush said it was going to be "The greatest financial commitment of it's kind since the Marshall Plan!"

Was that going to cost us more?

No. "We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon," said the ever astute Paul Wolfowitz, deeply knowledgeable about third world countries, war and finance. 'What a deal,' as they used to say, throwing in a second pair of pants and a genuine silk tie, when you bought your Bar Mitzvah suit down on Orchard Street.

But it wasn't a Disney movie. The commander-in-chief and his crew were wrong in their assumptions and incompetent in execution.

If they stop, they will have to admit that we got nothing for our money. If they go forward, it's not their money. Or their bodies. While it's not be in our interests, its in their interests to turn the war into the Energizer Bunny, endlessly, mindlessly, going and going and going.


One question that should be asked, but hasn't been, is where did the money actually go?

The answer is that nobody really knows.

To give you some idea of how bad the book keeping is, the Congressional Budget Office reported that from 2001 to 2006 we had spent 290 billion dollars on the war in Iraq. But the Congressional Records Office had the number at $318.5 billion dollars. A gap of 28.5 billion.

The Government Accounting Office said that because of the way the Department of Defense handles its money, "neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used."

We don't even know how many troops are deployed to Iraq. One Defense Department system says 260,000, another says 207,000, and the DFAS, who does their payrolls, says 202,000. A difference of as much as 58,000 troops.

The Armed Forces have been so privatized that General Patraeus is not guarded by soldiers, but by private contractors.

When we pass a bill for billions to 'support the troops,' we have no way of knowing how many troops we're supporting or how much money is supporting them. It would be at least as accurate to say it's a bill to support Halliburton, Blackwater and the General's private security guards.

George Bush's version of the Marshall Plan, the reconstruction, is even worse. Paul Bremer III burned through -- an estimated -- forty billion dollars. Billions were handed out in cash. People were playing football with shrink wrapped bricks of $100 bills.

Nobody knows where the money went.

Nor has there been much reconstruction. There is less electrical service than before the war. There are fewer functioning schools, hospitals and medical facilities. There is no one to staff them if they had been built, since so many of the people with skills have been killed or driven out of the country. Water and waste treatment is so inadequate that a cholera epidemic is appearing.

A cost-benefit analysis would say that what we have achieved is in the minus column. That we spent forty billion dollars to get deconstruction.

Alright, there was waste, corruption and profiteering on a grand scale. Alright, the Iraqis didn't get anything for money, except hundreds of murderous, petty tyrants to replace one, grand, bloody dictator. But what did we get for our money?

We didn't get rid of the WMDs, because they weren't there.

We got rid of Saddam Hussein. He was replaced by a nominal democracy, but an actual chaos. Murder, rape, gang violence, civil war, revenge killings, semi-tribal war, have become the norm.

Al Qaeda not only survived, it got stronger.

The Middle East is less stable.

Israel looks more vulnerable.

Iran has been strengthened.

Instead of being a demonstration of irresistible power, the war exposed the limits of American power.

Iraq has become the textbook on how an insurgency can defeat a major power.

George Bush said this was a war for civilization. In the course of it, we have rejected the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and the rule of law. We have embraced torture, failed to protect and provide for civilians in a country under our occupation and allowed the monuments and treasures of an ancient civilization to be looted and destroyed. Who is it that's fighting for civilization?

Has anyone benefited from this war? Yes.

Before the war Halliburton was facing bankruptcy. Now they're doing very well, along with a host of other military contractors.

The really big winners are Iran and Al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden was a murderous madman, an outlaw hiding the caves of Tora Bora. Now Al Qaeda has a new base in Iraq and controls at least one province. His goal was to get America into a war like the one the Soviets fought, and lost, in Afghanistan. Which he did. He also wanted an actual world wide conflict between Islam and the West. He got that too.

Iran wanted Saddam Hussein gone. To have Shia'a groups, with ties to Iran, come to power afterward. For America to be weakened and to have its forces tied down so they could pursue their nuclear ambitions. They got all that.

As I wrote this, I heard a story on the radio about a kid from Saugerties -- which is the next little town over from Woodstock, NY -- who got both legs blown off in Iraq. I didn't catch his name. I'm sorry. He's one of the 25,830 that the DOD reported as officially wounded. Along with 3500 US dead. The 650,000 Iraqi dead. No one counts their wounded. Millions driven into exile.

Those are some of the costs. Now you know who benefited.

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