Based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) recently determined that the Iraq war costs $720 million per day, $500,000 per minute – enough to provide homes for nearly 6,500 families, or health care for 423,529 children in just one day.
AFSC is using ten, seven-foot banners displayed at legislative and congressional offices around the country to illustrate the costs of the war and the human needs that could be addressed with those same resources. The National Priorities Project (NPP) also has a new report on the Bush Administration’s latest $50 billion spending request, which would bring the total cost of the Iraq War to $617 billion.
In addition to these staggering costs, we’re also learning more about how this war has served as a boondoggle for defense contractors, with war profit-making gone out of control. The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill was way ahead of the curve in reporting on Blackwater’s role in the most radically privatized, outsourced war in history. (Last week, Jeremy was asked to testify before the Democratic Policy Committee about his work and reporting–which may well lead to some good reforms. )
The Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy has done important research in this area. Here are some of the more disturbing facts: CEOs of defense contractors are paid more in four days than a general earns in a year; since September 11, CEOs at top defense contractors have received annual pay gains between 200 percent to 688 percent; between 2002 and 2006, the seven highest paid defense contractor CEOs made nearly $500 million – General Dyanmics’ CEO, Nicholas Chabraja, alone was paid $97.9 million, averaging $19.6 million per year. (David Lesar of Halliburton pocketed a mere $16 million per year during that period, and Lockheed Martin’s Robert Stevens has cashed in on stock options to earn over $19 million so far this year.) Many of the CEOs profitted from stock options as their companies’ stock prices soared with the increased revenues from the Defense Department.