Sometime between now and Memorial Day, the House is expected to consider $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan. This “war supplemental” is largely intended to plug the hole in Afghanistan war spending for the current fiscal year caused by the ongoing addition of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, whose purpose is largely to conduct a military offensive in Kandahar that 94 percent of the people there say they don’t want, preferring peace negotiations with the Taliban instead.
Of course, by itself the number $33 billion is totally meaningless. To make it meaningful, we need to compare it to something – what else could we do with $33 billion?
If the Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812) becomes law, it will create or save more than 675,000 local community jobs and more than 250,000 education jobs, according to the latest estimates from the House Education and Labor Committee.
According to the House Education and Labor Committee, the bill includes $75 billion over two years for local communities to hold off planned cuts or to hire back workers for local services who have been laid-off because of tight budgets. The bill also includes $24 billion, already approved by the House in December, to help states support 250,000 education jobs, put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat, and retain, rehire, and hire firefighters.
Let’s therefore put the two year cost of the Local Jobs for America Act at $100 billion, or $50 billion a year.
Now, in order to compare apples and apples, we need to convert the $33 billion for war in Afghanistan to an annual figure – note that the $33 billion just pays for the Afghanistan war through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. There’s some debate about when the Pentagon will actually finish burning through the money it’s already been given; let’s start our count on June 1. In that case, $33 billion pays for four months of war in Afghanistan, for an annualized cost of $99 billion.
In other words, the cost of the Local Jobs for America Act is half of the cost of continuing the war in Afghanistan.
Or we could look at it this way: supposed we decided to pay the two-year cost of the Local Jobs for America Act by shortening the war in Afghanistan. By how much time would we have to shorten the war? We’d have to shorten it by at least a year.
Now, if only there were a bill in Congress that would likely shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least a year.
Fortunately, there is. Last week, Senator Russ Feingold [D-WI] and Representative Jim McGovern [D-MA] introduced companion legislation “to require a plan for the safe, orderly, and expeditious redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan.” This legislation requires the President to establish a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Since the current deadline for U.S. military withdrawal is nonexistent, I think it’s fair to say that if this bill becomes law, the war is likely to be shortened by at least a year.
If you want your representatives in Congress to support the Local Jobs for America Act, and they say, “that’s a great idea, but we have to pay for it,” then encourage them to support the Feingold-McGovern bill.