Courier News

Shift Funding From Iraq To U.S. Problems

Courier News — Sunday, April 6, 2008

By PHYLLIS SALOWE-KAYE

It is hard to believe that March 19 marked five years since President Bush sent U.S. forces into Iraq. In five years, we have seen nearly 4,000 American men and women lose their lives, nearly 30,000 more wounded and another 30,000 treated for non-combat injuries and illness. Yet the Bush administration continues to pour $12 billion a month into another country's religious civil war with no end in sight. The war in Iraq is expected to surpass $3 trillion – yes, that's trillion – dollars when all is said and done, according to one recent conservative estimate.

Earlier this year, President Bush asked Congress for another $70 billion to fund the war in Iraq for part of 2009, passing the buck on to the next President to figure out a responsible end to the war. At the same time, the President insists Congress hold down domestic spending, which really means cutting families off of heating assistance, dumping children from education and after-school programs, and eliminating health-care programs millions of Americans rely on. Many in Congress, including Congressman Ferguson, are ready to line up behind him.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing we've come to expect out of the Bush administration and its congressional allies over the past seven years. The current debate over whether or not the country is technically in a recession serves as a perfect example of how out of touch President Bush and his supporters are. If you ask any middle-class family paying more than $3 a gallon for gas, watching the value of their home fall and their health care costs soar while their income remains the same, there's really no question about the state of our economy.

For many working Americans (like myself) hearing Congressman Ferguson and President Bush talk about "fiscal responsibility" while spending $12 billion a month in Iraq would be almost laughable if there weren't so much at stake. How can Congressman Ferguson justify denying needed investments at home and then turn around and rubberstamp a blank check for Iraq whenever the President asks?

The war in Iraq has already cost more than half a trillion dollars and experts have calculated the real cost – after veterans' care and interest on the borrowed money the war's being fought on, and other economic impacts will exceed $3 trillion. It's no wonder the national debt's gone from $5.7 trillion to $9.2 trillion since President Bush took office.

Enough is enough -- it's past time that Congressman Ferguson and his colleagues stand up to the President and tell him that we can't continue to spend endless amounts of money in Iraq while neglecting investments in America's future.

In the last election the American people overwhelmingly rejected the Bush administration's failed policies and voted in a new Congress. They made it clear they wanted a change of course, both in Iraq and at home. Unfortunately, the President's friends in Congress have blocked every attempt to bring the troops home from Iraq and every attempt to reverse the dangerous fiscal policies that have become a hallmark of the last seven years.

If Congressman Ferguson and members of Congress want to stave off an economic crisis, one that's already hit thousands of New Jersey families -- and support the troops – more of the same isn't going to work. The problems our country faces have grown so large, it's going to take real responsibility and leadership from Congressman Ferguson and his colleagues – that means voting to bring our troops safely home from Iraq and reinvesting in priorities here at home.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye is executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action in Newark.

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