"Overwhelming Margin" of U.S. Public Thinks War Cost Hurting Economy

Reporter John Broder pondered all that the contry could be doing with the massive amounts of money being spent (squandered?) in Iraq in his Monday report, "Views on Money for Iraq War, and What Else Could Be Done With It." The opening sentence revealed the story's slant:


With long-term estimates of the cost of the Iraq war ranging from $1 trillion to $3 trillion or more, the question naturally arises of what else the country could have done with the money.


But perhaps a bit more naturally to anti-war liberals?


Even if the country can afford the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or, as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain assert, cannot afford not to fight them, the amounts being spent on the conflict are of a scale that war critics say would allow the country to address what they see as more compelling problems.


At the low end of estimates of the cost of the war - $120 billion a year - the money would cover the projected cost of Mrs. Clinton's universal health care plan. It could pay for Mr. Obama's less inclusive health care plan and his proposal to bail out homeowners with troubled mortgages. Or for development of new renewable energy sources and a nationwide public works program. Or pay toward a long-term fix for Social Security. Or the unpaid part of the Medicare drug benefit.


To bolster his argument, Broder recited an incredibly leading question from a CBS/NYT poll (one previously criticized by Times Watch) without talking to any actual economists, left or right, who might have an informed view.


The American public, by an overwhelming margin, believes that the cost of the war is worsening domestic economic problems. In a New York Times/CBS News poll completed on April 2, 67 percent of respondents said the war had contributed "a lot" to American economic problems, and 22 percent said it was contributing "some." Only 10 percent said "not much" or "not at all."


Mr. Bush said in his speech on Thursday that the Defense Department budget today represented slightly more than 4 percent of gross domestic product, compared with more than 6 percent in some years of the Reagan administration and as much as 13 percent in 1952-3, when the United States was engaged in the war in Korea.


As Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw stated on his blog:


My guess is that if this poll question were asked of professional economists, most would answer 'Not Much.'