Yesterday, Congress’s Joint Economic Committee produced a report finding that the “hidden” economic costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars totaled approximately $1.5 trillion, costing the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000. (View the full report here.) The total includes higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans, and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.
While acknowledging that she hadn’t “seen the report,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino nevertheless derided it yesterday as “an attempt to muddy the waters.” Today, Office of Management and Budget chief Jim Nussle added his own attack on the report:
Office of Management and Budget director Jim Nussle blasted a congressional report that pegged the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan at $1.6 trillion through next year, saying the study by the Joint Economic Committee was “clearly partisan.”
Stephen Colbert once remarked, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Colbert was joking; Nussle is not. Responding to Nussle’s comments, Israel Klein — a spokesman for the Joint Economic Committee — told ThinkProgress:
Unfortunately for the White House, reality is not partisan. The Bush administration has now requested a total of over $800 billion for the direct costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Borrowing this money has resulted in an additional $60 billion in interest on war-related debt so far, with decades of future payments to come. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that even if troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan are reduced by more than half over the next five years, total Federal expenditures for the two wars and interest on war-related debt will total $2.4 trillion.
The total economic costs estimated by the JEC add a reasonable and conservative assessment of the additional non-budgetary costs created by the wars on to these figures. These costs were assessed using standard economic methods and widely accepted assumptions. We stand by our report, and welcome inquiries concerning our methodology and assumptions.
The same administration that has been so unwilling to call on Americans to make sacrifices for war is now frightened by the prospect of the public discovering why sacrifice was needed.
UPDATE: When the CBO revealed in October that the Iraq war costs could total $2 trillion, Perino said she’s “not worried about the number.”