I have ten dollars.Â I take my ten dollars to Las Vegas and I lose it all in a slot machine.Â I’m out ten dollars.Â But there is more to my ten dollars than the fact that it no longer exists.Â It has lost its opportunity to do something else.Â Buy almost three gallons of gas.Â Perhaps some groceries.Â Maybe I might have used it to see a movie and buy some popcorn.Â Or pay a bill.Â Or give it to charity.Â Anytime you waste money, you also waste the opportunity to do something else with it.Â
On September 26,Â Dr. Anita Dancs, the research directorÂ for the National Priorities Project, testified before Congress.Â The mission of the National Priorities ProjectÂ is toÂ offer citizen and community groups tools and resources to shape federal budget and policy priorities which promote social and economic justice. NPP is a nonpartisan and nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization.Â In herÂ testimony she highlighted the opportunity cost of war.Â Â With the recent appropriation, the U.S.Â has spent nearly $320Â billion on the war.Â These dollars could have been spent meeting other needs.
According to Dr. Dancs “that amount of money could have provided health care coverage for all uninsured children for as long as the Iraq War has lasted; provided four-year scholarships (tuition and fees) to a public university for all of this yearâ€™s graduating seniors; built half a million affordable housing units; fully-funded the amount the Coast Guard estimated is needed for port security; tripled the energy conservation budget in the U.S. Department of Energy; and still enough would be left over to reduce this yearâ€™s budget deficit by one-third.”Â
But certainly we do not begrudge the money if it goes to making the country more secure, safer from terrorism.Â But even National Intelligence Director John Negroponte has acknowledged that the jihad in Iraq is shaping a new generation of terrorist operatives.Â So not only are we not safer, nor winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis but we’ve also lost opportunities to make our own country stronger, safer and more just.