Billions & then some

Eighty-seven billion dollars. That’s the amount President George W. Bush has asked Congress to appropriate in the next fiscal year for the military occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. That will bring the cost of the Iraq war to a two-year total of $166 billion. The entire sum will be added to the deficit, which is now expected to reach half a trillion dollars. If nothing else, the president’s request should put the final nail in the coffin of the Republican Party’s reputation for fiscal responsibility.

Bush and his economic advisers are gambling that the economy will rebound despite what threatens to be a deficit that will reach 5 percent of the gross domestic product, a threshold of indebtedness many economists fear will trigger economic instability, if not disaster. The president seems immune to such worries, convinced that his policy of tax cuts and unlimited military spending will stimulate business investment and jobs and consequently tax revenue. Of course, however many billions he spends on the ill-defined war on terrorism, Bush continues to chastise Congress about “discretionary” domestic spending. But like the rosy scenarios of a quick transformation of Iraq from despotism to democracy, the administration’s budget making is based more on rigid ideology than economic reality or political realism.

Only last spring administration hawks, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, were...

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