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Transcript:

January 15, 2010


BILL MOYERS:
Since the war began, more than 900 Americans have died in Afghanistan. Our casualties doubled in 2009, and according to the United Nations, civilian deaths there have spiraled upward, too, more than 2,400 in 2009, the most lethal year yet.

For the 2010 fiscal year, Congress has appropriated an estimated $72.3 billion for Afghanistan-- and that's not including the $33 billion the "Associated Press" reports that President Obama will be requesting to help fund his additional 30,000 troops.

The National Priorities Project, a non-profit that analyzes how our tax dollars are spent, estimates that, at this rate, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost Americans more than a trillion dollars in taxes. I can't add up all the zeroes it takes to get to a trillion but I do remember that Greg Mortenson said he could build 30 or 40 schools with the money it takes just to keep one American soldier in Afghanistan for a year.

To help make sense of those numbers, on that National Priorities website, there's a "Trade Off" section that breaks down the amount of taxes each state or congressional district has paid for the two wars. For instance, $94 billion have come from taxpayers here in New York state. It then shows you what those dollars could have been used for instead. We could have hired more than a million elementary school teachers for a year, or provided more than 17 million people with a year's worth of health care or built more than half a million housing units. Indeed, with money like that, we might be able to completely rebuild Haiti, ease the misery of those made homeless by that massive earthquake, and maybe even throw in the restoration of New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland and a dozen other American inner cities.

The people at the National Priorities Project have a "Cost of War" digital clock that includes all funding for the wars to date and we'll link you to it via our website. Go to pbs.org and click on "Bill Moyers Journal." You'll also find there more by and about Greg Mortenson, as well as Thomas Frank.

That's it for the JOURNAL. I'm Bill Moyers. And I'll see you next time.


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