Published on Monday, October 14, 2002 in the Chicago Tribune
Get Ready for Bleak Life During Wartime
by Salim Muwakkil
Now that the U.S. Congress has given President Bush broad authority to use military force against Iraq--with or without UN support--Americans had better get ready for life during wartime.
The nature of how life will change was hinted by a House vote approving a $355.4 billion defense bill that passed on the same day as the war authorization.
The expenditures in this bill amount to one-sixth of the entire federal budget and are larger than the total defense budgets of the next 25 largest nations combined.
But that huge amount still doesn't include new Pentagon spending expected for Star Wars, which seeks to militarize space with new "tactical" nuclear weapons.
It also excludes the costs of a war with Iraq.
This vote comes at a time when fiscal crises are forcing states to make drastic cuts in social services just when the need is growing.
Job creation has been in reverse since Bush took office in January 2001. In 2000 the economy created 1.7 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since Bush's inauguration, the economy has lost almost 1.5 million jobs.
During 2000 the unemployment rate averaged 4.1 percent and fell to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent in October 2000. The rate today is 5.7 percent and rapidly rising. And that's not counting the millions who have dropped out of the labor force.
Following eight straight years of declining poverty rates, those numbers are also on the rise. During the first year of the Bush administration, 1.3 million Americans slipped back into poverty.
Throughout America, poor people are looking to local governments for shelter, child care and health care for their uninsured families. Because of drastically declining revenues, however, few states are able to accommodate them.
With war likely raging thousands of miles away in Iraq (not to mention the ongoing war on terrorism) the federal government will be unable to provide much relief.
And not just poor people will be hurting as we race toward war with Iraq and those other imperial goals of the Bush administration's national security strategy, laid out in a recently published pamphlet. A strategy that the current edition of New Yorker magazine concludes is "a vision of perpetual war and ... world domination."
Average, wage-earning Americans also are being singed by our worsening, wartime economy. After increasing for every year since 1991, the median income also fell in 2001. Every income group except for those earning more than $150,000 experienced a drop in earning power.
According to the Mortgage Bankers of America, home mortgage foreclosures are at a record high. The American Bankruptcy Institute released figures for the second quarter of 2002 revealing an all-time high in bankruptcy filings.
There are several other areas where Americans will find their quality of life declining, including increases in the cost of health insurance and prescription drug prices.
These economic changes are partly the product of cyclical forces. However, the government's ability to soften the blow of these changes will be severely limited by the resource demands of the Bush administration's plans for world domination.
But all Americans won't be hurt by these enormous increases in military and war-related spending. Many aerospace firms and weapons manufacturers are being graced by the Bush administration's largess, according to a fact sheet prepared by the Arms Trade Resource Center.
In addition to the massive bill just passed, various defense contractors already have benefited greatly from the $68.9 million in emergency and supplemental spending approved since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The cost of military personnel dispatched to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, the Philippines and Yemen is rising rapidly.
If these missions remain unchanged for several years , the costs will be in the tens of billions of dollars.
Spending associated with the homeland security category has risen dramatically from $19.5 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $37.7 billion in 2003.
When the proposed Department of Homeland Security gets off the drawing board, it will demand even more funds.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost of prosecuting a war on Iraq would run between $6 billion and $9 billion a month and the cost of a consequent occupation would vary from about $1 billion to $4 billion a month.
The costs of empire may turn out to be the most lethal enemy of the world's last
Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor at In These Times E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org