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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Linking the deficit and Iraq

A recently released Newsweek poll shows a lot of new public unease about US policy in Iraq:

"Nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, say they are very concerned that the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq will lead to a large budget deficit and seriously hurt the U.S. economy. And 60 percent of those polled say the estimated $1 billion per week that the United States is spending is too much and the country should scale back its efforts."

The poll also found:

"SIXTY-NINE PERCENT of Americans polled say they are very concerned (40 percent) or somewhat concerned (29 percent) that the United States will be bogged down for many years in Iraq without making much progress in achieving its goals. Just 18 percent say they're confident that a stable, democratic form of government can take shape in Iraq over the long term."

Part of the problem may be the latest attempted linking of the cost of war in Iraq to domestic economic problems. State and local governments are cutting services and education spending -- plus, many police officers and other "first responders" are serving in Iraq.

This information has been widely distributed over the internet, but you might want to check out the story in full: - What Can $87 Billion Buy?.

The author compares Bush's $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq with other spending priorities. Here are a few bullet points:

"$87b Is More Than The Combined Total Of All State Budget Deficits In The United States

$87b Is Roughly The Total Of Two Years Worth Of All U.S. Unemployment Benefits

$87b Is Enough To Pay The 3.3 Million People Who Have Lost Jobs $26,363 Each

$87b Is More Than Double The Total Amount The Government Spends On Homeland Security

$87b Is More Than 10 Times What The Government Spends On All Environmental Protection"

You get the idea.

Will this issue have traction? I do think this is an excellent way to frame some of the tax/deficit issues many Democrats are raising. Many are already talking up homeland security, health care, and other needs, but most are discussing these spending needs in terms of the tax cuts.

The war and the Defense budget are other important competitors for bucks. Wesley Clark, more than any of the other "anti-war" candidates, can perhaps raise these issues much more directly and credibly (the dovish hawk, in contrast to many other Dems positioning themselves as hawkish doves).

Of course, Clark is going to have to quickly move from biography (4 star General, Kosovo, Rhodes Scholar, top of his class at West Point, Arkansas) to well-rounded candidate with worthy ideas about America's future.

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