A new report, "Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," by the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, estimates that the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 through 2008 will total $1.6 trillion. That includes "hidden costs," such as the amount of interest on money borrowed to pay for the war, the cost of long-term health care for veterans, and how much disruptions to the oil markets are costing. It's twice the amount that the Bush administration has requested.
How much of that burden is being borne by U.S. taxpayers? According to the report, the cost averages out to $20,900 for every family of four. Using a very rough formula, let's take the current median household income of $48,201 and multiply it by the seven years covered in the report for a total of $337,407. Then take that $20,900 of war costs per household and divide it by that $337,407. (Hair-splitters, we don't need to hear from you on this one. No parsing of changing incomes over time, definition of a household, and other details. This is blog math, not an econ exam.)
The result? If you're a U.S. citizen, more than 6 percent of your income—6.2 percent, to be unduly precise—has gone toward this war since 2002. Naturally, your reaction to this news may depend on whether you thought we should be involved in Iraq in the first place. But it adds further food for thought, especially if you read Alasdair Roberts's cover story, "The War We Deserve," in the current issue of FP, in which Roberts argues, "Americans now ask more of their government but sacrifice less than ever before." Is 6.2 percent of your income a sufficient sacrifice? What do you think?