The United States is in debt. Big time. And some wonder how the richest country in the world got so deep into debt.
The answer is: Exactly the way any family household does. The United States spent more — sometimes a lot more — than it brought in.
America spends a lot of money on so-called “entitlements,” which are actually the programs that make America America: Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment and welfare. Most Americans are OK with that. Few object to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, America’s largest hunger safety net.
But Americans are right to be wary of the U.S. war operation, which, according to a new study, doled out some six trillions on war since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That’s $6,000,000,000,000, and that’s a lot of scratch.
Just last month we hit another milestone: The U.S. has now been at war in Afghanistan for 17 years. That makes it the second longest in U.S. history, after the Vietnam debacle, which ran for 20 years.
The numbers in the new study are higher than what the Pentagon reports. “The annual analysis from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University far exceeds Pentagon estimates because it looks at all war-related costs — including the Pentagon’s war fund, related spending at the State Department, veterans care and interest payments — for military operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” The Hill reported.
“We were told to expect wars that would be quick, cheap, effective and beneficial to the U.S. interest,” study author Neta Crawford said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “Because we finance these wars on a credit card, the costs of the wars themselves pose a national security challenge.”
The study estimates that war-related spending through fiscal 2019 will total $4.9 trillion. Another projected $1 trillion for veterans care through fiscal 2059 brings the total to $5.9 trillion, according to the study.
Should the wars continue through fiscal 2023, total costs will be more than $6.7 trillion, the study added, citing the Pentagon’s projected future years’ spending and likely needs for veterans.
“It’s important for the American people to understand the true costs of war, both the moral and monetary costs,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said in a statement, The Hill reported. “Our nation continues to finance wars and military operations through borrowing, rather than asking people to contribute to the national defense directly, and the result is a serious fiscal drag that we’re not really accounting for or factoring into deliberations about fiscal policy or military policy.”
Of course, the cost is much higher than just dollars. The death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan related to U.S. military operations since 9/11 is between 480,000 and 507,000, the study found.