February 06, 2009
What Are These Three Numbers?
Here is a bar chart of three figures. What are they?
Figure 1: Costs, in billions of dollars.
Bar 1, at $920 billion is the latest figure cited for the Senate stimulus bill. Bar 3 at $816 billion is the amount in the House stimulus bill. Bar 2 is the cumulative direct costs (excluding VA, interest payments) for operations in the Iraq Theater of Operation, aka OIF, through FY2010, in constant 2009 dollars.
I think this is all relevant when we think about what we've spent money on in the past, searching for those WMDs.
Putting things into perspective (because I keep on hearing that word "massive" over and over again), I divide each bar by two times FY2009 nominal GDP (given that the spending will take place primarily in two fiscal years -- see this post).
Figure 2: Cost of Senate stimulus bill, divided by 2 times FY2009 GDP, cumulative cost of direct costs of OIF through FY2010, divided by 2 times FY2009 GDP, and cost of House stimulus bill,divided by 2 times FY2009 GDP. Source: For OIF costs, Belasco/CRS (October 2008), using "low troop level" CBO baseline, and converted to 2009 dollars using calender year CPI in CBO database Table c-1 (January 2009) [xls] and FY 2009 nominal GDP reported in CBO, Budget and Economic Outlook (January 2009) [pdf], and author's calculations.
Posted by Menzie Chinn at February 6, 2009 12:43 PMdigg this | reddit
Do you think that this is an argument FOR the stimulus?
If anything, it should make us think about the record of Bush Administration spending (the deficit was NOT caused by tax cuts alone). And we should ask ourselves if that level of spending/ stimulus didn't make the economy great, what is the current round going to do?
We need to go in a fundamentally different direction. Our current course is just more of the same, only bigger.
Posted by: Buzzcut at February 6, 2009 01:26 PM
Ooh, I've got an even better one...
Obama needs to display his cahonnes by canning this "stimulus" and just invading Iran!
He could even address unemployment by reinstituting the draft. Then he'd REALLY be FDR.
Posted by: Buzzcut at February 6, 2009 01:31 PM
Figure 1 says "costs per year" but the text says "cumulative". What is it? (Your snide comment about searching for WMD notwithstanding).
Posted by: scott s. at February 6, 2009 01:41 PM
scott s: Good point. Have fixed the figure notes.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at February 6, 2009 01:44 PM
What are these three numbers?....Stairway to....
So the reason the media does not make this comparison to current expenditures is because 1) vested interests in the war and winning it could judgement 2)"massive" is self-explanatory for the likes of scott 3)it is a socialist plot to show that there is no difference between a Rep and a Dem when it gets right down to the hard stuff: the MIC
Posted by: calmo at February 6, 2009 01:57 PM
As they say, sunk costs are irrelevant. The more interesting questions to me are still:
1. Given the uncertainties involved in the multipliers, is there an "uncertainty adjusted" optimal allocation of spending and tax cuts across the different types of possible interventions (i.e. specific types of tax cuts, specific types of spending)
2. Is *this* stimulus package on balance worth trying (I believe Doug Elmendorf is saying that short term dynamic multipliers may be good, but long run ones may not be so good)
3. Are there simpler, less costly to administer ideas that can be approved piece by piece, such as Greg Mankiw's proposal today (or JDH's last week)
Posted by: Robert Bell at February 6, 2009 02:01 PM
Seems you are still hung up on sunk costs rather than marginal costs. Sure, if we hadn't spent all that money in Iraq our debt would be smaller, but we did and mentioning it again and again won't change that fact. Also, why stop with the Iraq War? Why not put up the costs for the Vietnam War as well? Just curious.
Posted by: GWG at February 6, 2009 02:16 PM
GWG: The point is not to change the past, but to put into perspective the magnitudes that are being considered. And to highlight the oddity of some people having no problem spending $800 billion by the government on one thing, but are worried about a few billion for SCHIP.
By the way, these are sunk costs for Iraq. But life is a repeated game, and I wonder whether the same people worried about the size of the stimulus plan will be unworried about expenditures to start a new military intervention somewhere.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at February 6, 2009 02:40 PM
Barney Frank made this point on I think Meet the Press. The point is not that this is an argument for the stimulus. The point is that anyone who supported the war (for instance, Congressional Republicans) cannot argue against the stimulus solely on the basis of the cost.
Posted by: bdw at February 6, 2009 02:42 PM
This is the most bizarre argument I've heard in a while. The Iraq War is widely agreed to be one of the worst policy blunders of the last couple decades. Your argument is that the proposed stimulus is only a little bit worse (from a fiscal perspective)? I think you're setting the bar a little low.
It's also worth noting that many people who supported the Iraq War only did so because they overestimated the gains (they thought there were WMDs in Iraq) and underestimated the costs (both financial and nonfinancial). If this grand scheme is similarly overbilled, what then?
Posted by: RobertB at February 6, 2009 03:36 PM
I'm still somewhat ambivalent on the Iraq war. I can't decide whether it was a good idea that was badly executed or a bad idea that was badly executed. But its fairly obvious that if we had taken all of that money and spent it on something like energy efficiency we would probably be better off from both an economic and a security standpoint...
Posted by: dbr at February 6, 2009 04:47 PM
"Massive" is just so self-explanatory for the media-conditioned...on their way to Parkinson's.
So, thanks for identifying media complicity in the use of this word "massive".
So much depends on this media-facilitated smooth transition from that chronicle of a "pretty respectable" (until the last year) GOP economic regime to a Dem regime and it's new charismatic leader.
For every Krugman there are 20 Rush Limbaughs...is the massive problem.
Posted by: calmo at February 6, 2009 04:56 PM
This makes no sense. Most people who oppose "the stimulus" do not oppose "a" stimulus, they oppose "this" stimulus, and not simply for the cost. Regardless, it would be perfectly understandable if someone "supported the war," but opposes the price tag of this stimulus on the idea that we're in a slightly different financial situation today.
On the other hand, you could ask those who oppose the war's costs how they can possibly ignore the cost of this stimulus package. If deficits DID matter then, why don't they matter now? Are the fiscal and economic situations different now? They are? Could many of these people have changed their mind about the value of the war? They could? So then there's that crazy thing called context? Then see above.
Posted by: MM at February 6, 2009 05:51 PM
Thousands of teachers in California and elsewhere in the US are being laid off or can’t find jobs. On the other hand, thousands of army soldiers are keeping their jobs and thousands more are being hired. What makes a soldier more valuable than a teacher? The soldiers kill children, intentionally or unintentionally. The teachers help to educate children and make their life better. What makes a soldier more valuable than a teacher? The point is that many in the US and in this forum see hiring soldiers as something worthwhile while teachers are being fired and denied jobs.
Posted by: Homero Guajardo at February 6, 2009 06:37 PM
We spent stupid money so now it's OK to do it again?
Posted by: wally at February 6, 2009 07:09 PM
If I were to buy a $300,000 house, would it be ok, then, for me to justify a $300,000 car on the grounds that it is on the same scale as my last expenditure?
Pointing to one "massive" expenditure as justification for another only makes sense if you are using it as a naive way to justify your misguided perspective.
Posted by: Anonymous at February 6, 2009 07:13 PM
In other words, astoundingly abysmal though the Bush MalAdmin's economic record was, just think how much more disastrous it would have been had we not been lied into a hellaciously ill-judged war?
And now that one of guys who opposed that war is president, let's pay careful attention to the unbridled moronism of his Congressional critics, the same folk who bloviated endlessly about the aforesaid war being the the right thing for America?
Posted by: stunney at February 6, 2009 08:17 PM
"Obama needs to display his cahonnes by canning this "stimulus" and just invading Iran! "
No leftist has cajones. That is why Arnold calls them 'girlie-men'.
I think the Democratic government has already decide that they don't want to save America, and have set a goal of looting as much as possible while going out in a blaze of glory. The 'stimulus' is nothing more than a transfer of wealth from the private sector to the left-wing establishment.
Posted by: GK at February 6, 2009 08:29 PM
Interesting how a very intelligent person like Menzie is turned temporarily dumb by contact with politics. A lesson for all of us.
Posted by: jult52 at February 7, 2009 03:13 AM
"I think this is all relevant when we think about what we've spent money on in the past, searching for those WMDs."
Menzie, it's nice to see you admit that wasting money on one endeavor justifies wasting money on another endeavor. Nice logic...
Posted by: Anonymous at February 7, 2009 03:25 AM
I AGREE WITH dbr,
ITS A GOOD POINT.
POLICYMAKERS SHOULD THINK MORE ABOUT STRUCTURAL POLICIES IN ORDER TO INCREASE ENERGY EFFICIENCY.
Posted by: JL at February 7, 2009 05:01 AM
OK - let's think for a second. The President said that he ordered us to attack Iraq because of WMD (Clinton, 1998) and that the President signed the Iraq Liberation Act to overthrow Saddam Hussein (Clinton, 1998). From Nov 98 to present, there hasnï¿½t been a single US aircraft carrier that has deployed from the US that hasn't dropped bombs on Iraq - ergo, we have been at war in Iraq for over 10 years. The CIA under Clinton was virtually prohibited from collecting inside Iraq, so it is little surprise that we had poor intel. It did not help that Saddam was running multiple deception programs designed to make the Iranians beleive he had WMD's - and we picked up on that. Bush finished what Clinton did not have the will to do. Throw in the Clinton Administration's inept responses to Al-Qaeda, and we all paid for Clinton's mistakes. Just ask NYC and DC. Now, we get to have a whole new set of Clinton mistakes with Hillary as SecState. Bush liberated 50 million from oppression, shattered Al-Qaeda, there are 390000 Iraqis that are alive today that would not have been if Saddam was still in charge (yes, I factored in the casualties of the insurgency in that), and there have been no major terror attacks against the US homeland since 9/11. It doesnï¿½t mean we are done, it just means we are winning. The Jihadists strategy was to get the US out of the Middle East, overthrow the local Arab governments, and establish a new theocratic Caliphate. Saddamï¿½s strategy was to get the US out of the Middle East, overthrow the neighboring Arab governments, and establish a totalitarian fascist regime. The US's strategy is to defeat the Jihadists and their ideology and transform the Middle East from authoritarian regimes that breed terrorism to democracies that live in peace. It takes time - but it is absolutely clear that we are winning (note the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan), the jihadists are losing (about 35,000 dead jihadists, with most fleeing Iraq now), and Saddam definitively lost. While virtually every leader gets the length and cost of wars wrong, in the end, we won. It's a very cold human being that consigns millions to death and slavery - as well as ceding the initiative for the defense of the US to terrorist groups that unequivocally want our destruction. Now, if it is such an issue that we spent that money on the liberation of millions and fighting against a lethal enemy - then why the heck are we trying to ram through an intensely corrupt and wasteful spending package with little or no debate? The debate over removing Saddam took nearly 13 years. We are getting about 13 DAYS to debate this pork plan. People need to get a grip.
Posted by: Godson at February 7, 2009 05:28 AM
"On the other hand, you could ask those who oppose the war's costs how they can possibly ignore the cost of this stimulus package. If deficits DID matter then, why don't they matter now? Are the fiscal and economic situations different now? They are?"
Yes, they are. In March 2003 the economy was in recovery. It's not just the cost of the war that's a problem, but how it was financed at a time when the economy was 18 months into recovery. The Iraq war should have been financed with tax increases. Instead it was financed with deficits. Today's recession calls for deficit spending, but that's been made much harder because of Bush's tax cuts and deficit financed war.
Posted by: 2slugbaits at February 7, 2009 05:53 AM
Nice post - Couldn't have summed it up better. Liberals forget that just about everyone in congress having the same information at the time voted FOR the war. They also forget the massive cost in lives and on the global economy that terrorist attacks inflict. I am sure we lost more than $800 billion of gnp in the aftermath of 9/11. So $800 billion over 7 years for the war on terror that all the libs also voted for seems like a pretty good deal.
Posted by: Dean at February 7, 2009 05:55 AM
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has already estimated the GDP cost of 9/11. Your $800 billion estimate is wildly off the mark. Just a number you made up. Not even close.
All members of Congress did not have the same level of information. Except for a few in the leadership, the rank and file Congress Critters primarily received summaries and digests. Of course, I'll grant you that even if hey did have the same level information very few of them could have been bothered to study the data; e.g., only 4 Senators even bothered to read the reports that they were given. I can't account for intellectual laziness.
As to costs in lives...9/11 resulted in ~3000 deaths. How many people will die prematurely due to unsafe highways, lack of Medicaid and loss of healthcare coverage, and the sundry effects of unemployment? I'll go out on a limb here and guess that it's a hell of a lot more than 3000.
Posted by: 2slugbaits at February 7, 2009 07:10 AM
It's funny how many read into this post an excuse or a justification, and get defensive.
It's just data. It's just a comparison.
Man, conservatives are easy to spot; their powers of induction are real strong.
Deduction, not so much.
Posted by: K Ackermann at February 7, 2009 07:37 AM
@Homero Guajardo - it's not that soldiers are more valuable than teachers, it's that it makes us feel better that at least some people are getting socialized medicine.
Posted by: K Ackermann at February 7, 2009 07:40 AM
@Godson - When we gave Saddam chemical weapons technology, did we want him to use it?
A simple yes or no will do.
Posted by: K Ackermann at February 7, 2009 07:44 AM
@ K Ackermann - so, you now agree that Saddam had chemical weapons? Glad to see you confirmed that for us. I was beginning to think you were about to make an argument that there weren't any.
In the Iran-Iraq war, we did support Saddam against Iran, and while technology was transferred, chemical weapons were not. If one will note, the Iranian Revolution was the only place where the jihadists have successfully taken control, and their political ambitions have never waivered - total domination of the Middle East and the export of the jihad worldwide. They have remained consistant in their policy, with the Iranians being responsible for about a third of the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq, as well as supporting Jihadist operations around the world. I'm not hearing the outrage over that. I'm also not hearing much about 77000 civilians have been killed worldwide and 145000 wounded by the jihadists since 9/11. I tend to think this is something that should be fought against. I'm still waiting for the "progressives" to take ownership of the 100 million souls that were killed by the Communists during their haylcon days, so spare me your snark. I'm chucking that the Progressives(rebranded Communists) are now saying that CIA rendition and "harsh interrogation techniques" are NOW perfectly fine - or will be when need arises. Color me unsurprised.
If your arguement is that we (and the rest of the West) shouldn't have provided technology to Iraq to fight Iran, that is one thing. Not strong given the circumstances of the time, but it's "an" arguement. However, if your arguement is that because we "tilted" toward Iraq during the 1980-1988 war, that we should now allow the jihadists to overthrow the governments of the Middle East, subjugate millions by massive violations of their human rights, and allow the jihadists to dominate Europe and the Far East through control of the oil supplies, then that is quite something else. That's your real arguement, right? A simple yes or no will do.
Posted by: Godson at February 7, 2009 08:21 AM
It's also notable that the second chart is fairly misleading. Yes, the stimulus package costs should be divided by 2xGDP, because those outlays will take place over two fiscal years. However, Iraq War spending has been accumulating since 2003. Shouldn't that bar have been divided by 6x GDP? It's certainly the case that, as a percentage of economic output per year, the Iraq War has been substantially smaller than the proposed stimulus. Is that not exactly the sort of information your chart purports to display?
Posted by: RobertB at February 7, 2009 08:22 AM
I think this is an apples and oranges comparison. As you note, the OIF costs are cumulative while stimulus package--whatever its final cost--is a one-time outlay.
Now, do any of us believe that the stimulus package will be the ONLY such package passed by Congress and signed by the President.
I think we will see $1 trillion-such packages per year for the next 2-3 years minimum IF (as is likely) the current package is signed into law. And, in the end, I think the $3-5 trillion spent in stimuli will extend--and probably deepen--the economic retraction rather than (to use the cliche) "kick starting" it.
We and our children and their children will be paying for this for decades, not only directly in higher taxes, but also in inflation and slow growth.
Posted by: Terry at February 7, 2009 08:38 AM
And of course there's always the fact that Menzie's chart is focused on flows. The comparison would be even more striking if we looked at the comparison in terms of stocks. The fiscal stimulus package will, at the end of the day and if done as the Democrats hope, leave us with more physical infrastructure and capital stocks. That increased stock will allow us a higher benefit stream in the future. The first order effect of the Iraq war is to destroy a good chunk of the world's infrastructure and capital stock, which means a lower benefit future benefit stream.
Posted by: 2slugbaits at February 7, 2009 08:43 AM
I am not an economist, I just read the junk.
Bash the Iraq War all you wish (what ever makes you feel worm and fuzzy). One party will not let America tap into the vast oceans of oil, Oil Shale, Nuke Power or clean burning Coal.
Solution is to keep energy flowing to drive our economy from places like the Middle East. With out the War would the economy be worse?
Here in California. We can not buy a diesel cars (trucks only) even though diesel is proven more efficent.
We lable Dirt Bikes, Classic Cars and Boats to be Gross Polluters as the Hippies fly private jets? Go figure.
Barney Frank and Chris Dodd mandate Banks make loans you or I would NEVER make with insurance from Fannie and Freddie. Yet we blame Bush? Frank now would like to over see Wall Street as the Government is looking for ways to take over 1/3rd of GDP, the Auto Industry, Banking System and Health Care?
Sounds like Carl Marx and National Socialism is running the show. When Germany took this rought we got Nazi's. What ever happend to that Constitution thing?
Even the New York Times will tell you, if you Tax more of something. You get less of it.
Posted by: Dave Johnson at February 7, 2009 08:44 AM
1) I think Buzzcut was right. One can quibble about the Iraq war numbers, but a brief look at treas.gov shows that the year to year change in Federal debt has grown fairly steadily from 2000 to 2008. From a numbers perspective, that does look a lot like "stimulus spending." (in quotes because the spending is named after its desired effect, rather than the cause.) This package is just more the same on 'roids.
2) I am surprised to see all the bitter political fighting. Come on people, America is a joke. It's a huge snowball that has rolled down the mountain and is heading straight for the village. Just stand on the hill and watch the show. No amount of 'discussion' is going to change the course of this disaster.
3) I view the stimulus package as helpful in the sense that it may expedite the process of making America truly desperate. Right now we are still stuck in this goofy politics-as-self-affirmation mode, a la Krugman, and the iraq/liberal/conservative argument above.
Posted by: vorpal at February 7, 2009 08:55 AM
Boy, Menzie you got the blood going on this one I guess.
Bush/Cheney got over to Iraq and found out, much to their surprise, there was no "there" there. Place was a mess.
Stuck with nation-building. That's a whole different kettle of fish. Real, real expensive fish too. Britain tried it back in what, the early 1900s (20s maybe), and it dang near bankrupted them. They high tailed it out of there.
As for the various stimuli we're about to embark on to stop our slide into deep recession, nobody has publicly acknowledged the real bill (except maybe Krugman), and TARP chief Prof. Warren.
She deserves watching, by the way. A bankruptcy expert when just about no one wants to acknowledge the bankruptcies. Should be interesting when the public learns the bill's going up another couple trillion.
Posted by: beezer at February 7, 2009 09:50 AM
No one wants to address the fact that our economy runs on energy (cheaper the better).
If we will not use our own energy. We will be forced into areas such as the Middle East.
Jimmy Carter with all of his wisdom saw fit to gift Iran to the Mullahs. This act left the USA with no beach head to defend energy.
Iran received the Harpoon System before Israel did, which showed the importance of Iran to the USA in the Middle East before the Carter error.
If the Hippies should continue to run America's energy policy. Wars such as what we have in Iraq will continue way into our future.
We can allow our Government to run the private sector of our economy with National Socialism. Doing so will not change the fact that we are dependent on energy from outside our own Country.
Even if spending 1 Trillion Dollars of the people’s money on buying votes were to bring us out of recession. We would fall back into recession after a short lived recovery because a barrel of oil will cost us $200.00 in an economy built around $86.00 per barrel oil Max.
I can sum this up here. We spend 1 Trillion Dollars and build no new Dams, Power Plants, Refineries or Oil Drilling.
That in itself is a disaster.
Sorry, no time to proof this.
Posted by: Dave Johnson at February 7, 2009 11:20 AM
The comparison I like to make is a change in inflation from 3% to -3% increases the real debt by about $800B. What would be the cost of another year of recession on revenues and increased automatic spending?
Posted by: Lord at February 7, 2009 02:08 PM
Oh, Jesus. The commie libruls. We're coming to take your guns soon.
Just remember who started this and Iraq.
Do you know what happens when the tax rate is real low? Depressions. Go look up the tax rate leading up to the Great Depression. If I remember right, Clinton had to raise taxes to get things going too. Or was that just coincidence? All I know is it gets old inheriting lousy economies from conservatives.
Profits are taken when the rate is low. Reinvestment happens when taxes are higher. It also doesn't kick our kids in the head quite so hard.
Posted by: K Ackermann at February 7, 2009 02:43 PM
I have researched U.S. support for Saddam in general and chemical weapons in particular in some detail. You assertsions are wrong. Below you will find an article I sent to an Iranian web site.
I would like to offer a few comments on the content of your website. First, let me say that the information about the history of Iran is quite beautiful and well done. However, some of the more recent information is incorrect. Your site alleges that the US supplied chemical weapons to Saddam's Iraq. This is not correct and the rest of your website refutes this claim. More broadly, your site condemns the US for supporting Saddam when in fact the US was the least significant supplier of arms and money to his regime.
Picture 14 from the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 is titled "Donald Rumsfeld - Reagan's Envoy - provided Iraq with chemical & biological weapons". This is totally untrue. The US has never supplied CBW to any other nation. Indeed, the US has not made such weapons for decades. President Nixon ended the US biological warfare program back around 1970. US production of chemical weapons ended in the same time frame. Since then the US has been slowly working to destroy its huge inventory of chemical weapons left over from the cold war. Incinerators have been built and successfully operated in some cases. However, political and environmental opposition to disposal projects has slowed the work and much is left to be done.
At no time has the US ever supplied CBW to any other state, with the possible exception of other members of NATO (unknown to me). Your site specifically states (http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/arming_iraq.php) that the US provided chemical precursors, not actual weapons. However, the precursors were dual use chemicals with widespread civilian applications and numerous sources worldwide. For example, see http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/chemical_warfare_iran_iraq_war.php which says
"Mustard gas may be made in different ways according to whether ethylene, vinyl chloride or thiodiglycol is chosen as the starting material. Published UN findings suggest that the Iraqi mustard had been made from the last of these precursors. Thiodiglycol is a quite widely used industrial commodity, finding application as an antioxidant, as a vulcanizing agent, as an intermediate for other commodities, and as a solvent for dyes used in the textile industry." and "Except for methylphosphonyl difluoride, all of the controlled chemicals have significant civil applications".
Note, that other countries were not shy about helping Saddam's chemical warfare program. Iraq sought to obtain a pesticide plant from the US company Pfaulder. Pfaulder walked away from the deal. The contract then went to a German company with fewer scruples. See "Saddam: King of Terror" (Con Coughlin) for the details. See also http://www.cbwinfo.com/General/Proliferation/Pretext.html for another version of the story.
In fact it is rather hard to find any evidence of significant sales of dual use precursors to Iraq from the US. The Riegle Report refers to another report for details. See See "United States Export Policy Toward Iraq Prior to Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait," Senate Report 102-996, Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs, 102d Congress, Second Session (October 27, 1992). This report is hard to find online.
However, other sources indicate a very modest to negligible role for the US. For example, the Iraqi declarations on the subject list dozens of companies that supplied chemical precursors, but only two in the US. One of them was presumably an Iraqi front (the Al Haddad trading company of Tennessee). The owner of that company is apparently still a fugitive from justice. The other company, Alcolac was small and was prosecuted for its violations of export control law.. By contrast, a long list of large Asian and European companies supplied Saddam's chemical warfare program. See http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/21/international/middleeast/21CHEM.html for the details. See also http://www.iraqwatch.org/suppliers/nyt-041303.gif . The Iraqwatch web site has plenty of other information as well. Notably companies in India and Singapore provided Saddam with thousands of tons (literally) of the deadliest precursors.
The bottom line is that the US played little if any role in creating Saddam's chemical weapons program. However, only the US is blamed. Germany, France, and particularly India and Singapore played huge roles. Yet, not a word of condemnation of them is to be found. See http://www.blogmosis.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=23685 and http://www.gulfwarvetlawsuit.com/042503.html for some details.
Your site alleges that the US supplied Anthrax to Saddam in several places. While this may be technically correct, it is wildly misleading. Here are the facts. Until the late 1990s there were no controls on the sale of Anthrax in the US. Anyone with a few dollars could buy raw Anthrax without restriction. In the middle 1990s a white supremacist purchased Anthrax. This led Congress to impose controls on Anthrax and other biowarfare source materials in 1997. All of this long after the Iraq/Iran war ended. See http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/bioterror_prevention_011026.html and http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2001/112001/11032001/428237 for some history. The core point is that US sales to Saddam simply reflected the lack on any restrictions on biowarfare raw material at the time, not any US policy of giving Iraq the means to wage biological warfare.
The second point is that Anthrax, by itself is not dangerous. To be deadly, it must first be weaponized. This is known to be quite difficult. The US mastered the technology during the cold war. So did the former Soviet Union (leading to tragic accidents inside Russia, see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plague/sverdlovsk/alibekov.html). However, at no time did the US ever provide the technology for weaponizing Anthrax to Iraq or any other state. Note that the terrorist(s) who launched the Anthrax attacks in the US after 9-11 did have the means for weaponizing Anthrax (the quality was said to exceed the US military state of the art). By contrast, the Aum cult in Japan actually launched Anthrax attacks in Japan but apparently failed to infect anyone. See http://www.rickross.com/reference/aum/aum278.html .
The general US government view is that the post-9-11 Anthrax attack was domestic in origin (see the above links). A minority view points to Al-Qaeda. The evidence is two-fold. First, it is well known that Al-Qaeda is very interested in biowarfare/bioterrorism. The converse is that all data to date suggests only limited technical capability in this area. Second, one of the 9-11 terrorists may have had an Anthrax infection that was treated by a doctor in Florida.
The third point is that raw Anthrax can be obtained from any number of sources all over the world. Once again see the above links. Even if those sources were shutdown Anthrax would still be easy to obtain. In parts of the US, Anthrax is endemic. Anyone who wants raw Anthrax can go collect it themselves. For example, in parts of Texas minor human Anthrax infections are commonplace. Fatalities are very rare. However, anyone who wants Anthrax can just dig up some ground in the infected areas and take it home with them.
To be blunt, accusing the US of supplying Anthrax to Saddam is wrong even if some US lab did ship Anthrax to Iraq in the 1980s. Raw Anthrax is not very dangerous and means to make it fatal was never provided. If the US sold water to Saddam, would you blame America if Saddam used it to drown people?
The overall tone and content of your site blames the US for arming and backing Saddam. It is certainly true that the US to provided some assistance to Iraq in the Gulf War. Of course, the aid provided by the US and Israel to Iran may well have been greater or even much greater (who kept Iran's US made jets flying?). However, the real bottom line is that the US was the least significant participant in that deadly conflict and yet is the only nation to warrant several webpages of criticism. See http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/arming_iraq.php and http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/united_states_iran_iraq_war1.php .
The Stockholm Peace Research Institute did a detailed study of "Who Armed Iraq". See http://projects.sipri.se/armstrade/atirq_data.html for some details. SIPRI is not a particularly pro-US institution. In fact, like most left-of-center Swedish organizations, it is anti-American. However, the facts speak for themselves. The USSR provided more than 100 times are much war material to Saddam as did the US. Yet, I can only find once sentence on your website criticizing the USSR and then only in the context of condemning the US (http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/arming_iraq.php). France supplied dozens of times as much war material as did the US and yet is only mentioned in passing.
It is worth noting that the only actual "weapons" the US is known to have supplied Iraq were helicopters. These were not combat helicopters such as Apaches, Blackhawks, Comanache, etc., but medium helicopters allegedly sold for agricultural purposes. In reality it appears that they were used to transport officers and troops. See http://www.hrw.org/reports/1989/WR89/Iraq.htm. See http://www.helispot.com/photos/01023.html for a picture of the Bell 214ST (the type of helicopter sold to Iraq). By contrast, other countries supplied the deadliest weapons imaginable but get off with no more than a rhetorical slap on the wrist for your website and virtually everyone else.
Your site also alleges that the US allowed other Middle Eastern states to ship US weapons to Iraq. Perhaps this is true. However, the quantities could not have been large. As you know, the US has fought two wars against Iraq since then. Coalition troops, including Americans occupy Iraq as of this date. Yet, I have never seen a single report of US made weapons having ever been found. By contrast, Soviet and French weapons have been found in abundance including some made since the UN embargo was imposed.
As a citizen of the US, I recognize that not all of America's foreign policies have been well considered. However, I am also appalled at how the US is blamed for everything wrong with the world no matter how contrary the facts are. You might try to introduce some balance, by adding say 50 pages condemning France's role in backing Saddam or 200 pages about what the Soviet's did for him (in spite of his executions of communists).
Posted by: Peter Schaeffer at February 7, 2009 02:56 PM
Thank you for posting my note.
Posted by: Peter Schaeffer at February 7, 2009 03:36 PM
Liberals are offended by speach-impaired Bush and the war.
Conservatives are offended by smug Obama and the growth in government.
I seriously doubt that there ae more than a handful of people out there in favor of both the war and also the bailout.
Therefore the argument is fundamentally masturbatory - it only presents a thinking point if you accept the thesis.
This used to be one of my favorie economic blogs.
I still love JDH's auto data.
IMO, its been otherwise tending toward irrelevant.
I don't check in very much anymore.
Posted by: KevinM at February 7, 2009 06:39 PM
K Ackermann on 02-07-09 @ 02:43 PM says:
"Do you know what happens when the tax rate is real low? Depressions."
K Ackermann: You should share your pearl of wisdom with Tom Daschle, Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel.
Posted by: Anonymous at February 7, 2009 07:30 PM
Thanks, this is a worthwhile comparison if only to shut up a few Republican senators. These guys don't blink an eye if the spending is wasteful defense spending. How many billion in Iraq simply went missing? ($8B) was what I last read. Some stimulus - probably spent on whores and liquor.
For all the folks commenting above that have a really hard time wrapping your mind around this, perhaps you haven't paid much attention to the government spending debates we've had in this country since Reagan. The only kind of government spending that is sacrosanct is defense spending according to the conservatives. I am sick of the hypocrisy.
Thank you Menzie for pointing it out.
Posted by: CL- Oregon Girl at February 7, 2009 07:55 PM
It's Karl Marx.
Posted by: CL- Oregon Girl at February 7, 2009 07:58 PM
Here are a few for ya.
"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." --President Bill Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998
"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." --President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." --Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998
"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983." --Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." Letter to President Clinton, signed by: -- Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others, Oct. 9, 1998
"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." -Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998
"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." -- Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." Letter to President Bush, Signed by: -- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), and others, Dec 5, 2001
"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and th! e means of delivering them." -- Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." -- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." -- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002
"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." -- Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002
"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002
"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002
"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do" -- Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002
"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002
"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003
Posted by: Dave Johnson at February 7, 2009 10:03 PM
CL- Oregon Girl on 020709 at 07:55 PM
"Thanks, this is a worthwhile comparison if only to shut up a few Republican senators. These guys don't blink an eye if the spending is wasteful defense spending."
As of Friday (02-06-09) the $780 billion figure of the Senate bill doesn't include the $46.5 billion in amendments added to the stimulus bill during the week. It appears that the Senate deal is at least $827 billion or $7 billion more than the House bill.
Adding in debt and that comes to $1.175 trillion dollars in total cost for the bill.
Here's the House breakdown:
* $820 billion for bill
* $348 billion for debt service
* Total cost of House bill is $1.168 trillion
He's the Senate breakdown as of Friday:
*$780 B (base deal)
*$46.5 B (amendments added during debate)
*$348 B (servicing debt)
*Total equals $1.175 Trillion
Only Washington can sell an increase over the cost of the original House bill as a cut.
Can you defend the spending or not?
Posted by: Babinich at February 8, 2009 03:25 AM
Anybody with a brain could see or should see that if we got out of Iraq and Afghanistan NOW we'd have lots more funds to use to save the economy. The war spending is real waste. But Republican warmongers and ideologues adore it since it pleases Israel, the state they think must be served and sucked up to.
Posted by: Hal at February 8, 2009 03:29 AM
For the analogy to be complete you need to include a bar for the economic loss due to the events on 9-11.
You should probably also add all stimulus packages to date. This "stimulus" would more correctly be compared to one battle in Iraq, not the entire campaign.
But that is okay. I realize that your motivation was not to draw any kind of accruate comparison.
Posted by: DickF at February 8, 2009 07:54 AM
DickF: And what exactly does 9-11 have to do with Iraq (for the umpteenth-zillion time)? Even the Bush Administration gave up that canard by the end of its 8 eight years.
Posted by: Menzie Chinn at February 8, 2009 09:05 AM
DickF, Bush's 2001 stimulus amounted to $2T putting these to shame.
Posted by: Lord at February 8, 2009 10:09 AM
There are some other bars that would be interesting to compare, Menzie. Like, for example, the bar of federal spending on raising spending on education of the poor up to the level of spending in the average school district. Or the bar spent on alleviating hunger abroad. Or the bar on money spent on providing equal justice in the courts.
By the way, one of the largest components of the Senate bar is the annual AMT patch, which provides almost no benefits to the middle class and which seems to mostly benefit CPAs. And for which the accursed Republicans keep blocking a more permanent fix so they can keep it alive as a campaign issue.
Posted by: Charles at February 8, 2009 05:50 PM
Maybe Barack will get us out of Iraq so fast that it will become a suburb of Iran. I mean who cares about the freedom of a bunch of brown people? Let's snatch defeat from the jaws of victory............and get on with the business of rewarding Dem special interest groups with the stimulus bill.
Posted by: Robert at February 9, 2009 08:43 AM
Menzie, you got a lot of reaction with this, but it is not up to your standards as an economist. In addition to confounding stocks and flows, you confound real versus notional costs. The Iraq war spending (until the very recent past) has been a real cost, because it took resources from alternative uses. In the case of the stimulus, the resources will not be taken from alternative uses, as they would otherwise not have been employed.
Posted by: don at February 9, 2009 10:23 AM
don on 02-09-09 @ 10:23 AM
"In the case of the stimulus, the resources will not be taken from alternative uses"
How is the stimulus being funded?
Where are the dollars coming from?
Posted by: Babinich at February 9, 2009 12:19 PM
Anybody using the "liberals don't care about brown people" argument needs to explain why we have not sent troops into Tibet, Iran, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Saudi Arabia and every other place where brown or black people are suffering at the hands of an oppressive government. You cannot use the humanitarian argument in isolation.
Posted by: m3 at February 10, 2009 06:19 AM