Opinion: Endless Wars Like Afghanistan Is Why America Lags Behind

It was no surprise that Republicans had to be pulled kicking and screaming into an agreement to pass a 1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. It is certain that neither the cost of investing in America nor the nation’s deficit was the issue; not when Republicans eagerly passed tax cuts for the rich that added to the deficit, or appropriated trillions of borrowed money for two undeclared wars.

There was a prescient statement in a brilliant piece over at Salon by David Cay Johnston that summed up why “Americans can’t have nice things,” and why Republicans, and some Democrats, love to engage in seemingly never ending wars like Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Johnston wrote:

Endless war(s) create enormous fortunes for investors in the military-industrial complex.”

 And as Johnston’s piece notes, those wars, like the Afghanistan conflict, rob Americans of a society, an economy, and a quality life that a nation like China now enjoys.

While America was doling out trillions of dollars in borrowed money to enrich the military industrial complex, all under the guise of spreading democracy to a nation that will never emerge from the dark ages; China was investing heavily in infrastructure that is the envy of the world.

According to the last accounting, America has invested roughly $2.3 trillion in a conflict it could never call a victory. And yes, that is trillions of American taxpayers dollars to wage “an undeclared war” that squandered 2,448 American troops’ lives.

That human cost to America does not include the over 100,000 Afghanis who were killed in a two decade long war that ended with Afghanistan right back where it was before America came to get revenge on a country that did not attack America.

And that $2.3 trillion is not the final cost according to Brown University’s “The Cost of War Project.” That figure is conservatively estimated to be more than $6.4 trillion that will cost every American family of four roughly $100,000.

All the while, Afghanistan is right back where it was prior to America’s undeclared war and where it would have been if the good ole’ U.S.A had left 15 years ago or stayed for another 100 years. Sadly, that $6.4 trillion price tag does not include the enormous amount of borrowed taxpayer money spent in another undeclared war in Iraq.

Even more tragic than not bringing democracy to people who can’t possibly handle it, or putting trillions in the military industrial complex coffers, not one stinking penny of that borrowed taxpayer money has improved the life of even one American. It certainly wasn’t “an investment in public infrastructure which is the commonwealth foundation on which private wealth is built.”

America’s infrastructure is crumbling and none of that “war money” was spent to build or maintain dams, bridges, highways and roads, rail lines or public buildings that would benefit the American people for decades, and create millions of good paying jobs for at least a decade. None of that money was invested in schools, hospitals, or the nation’s “third-rate grid in an electricity-dependent Digital Age.” It all went to the military industrial complex.

During the 1980s America invested roughly 3.1% of the economy “on steel and concrete infrastructure.” That kind of infrastructure investment since then “has been slashed by half to a record low.” But Republicans have made damn sure the economy invested trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and like the eternal foreign wars, it was put on the nation’s credit card.

While America has been borrowing trillions to fight forever wars to benefit the military industrial complex, and barely investing 1.3 % of the economy for infrastructure, schools, hospitals and the public good, China invests over 5.5% of its economy on its infrastructure. An investment, by the way, that benefits the people of China as well as that communist nation’s economy. As David Cay Johnston wrote:

While our elected officials squandered [borrowed] money on an undeclared war that drained our economy, the dictatorial regime in Beijing bought China a bright future.”

It is tragic that America is in the sad decrepit shape it finds itself. Because although Republicans always find plenty of “borrowed” money for foreign wars and tax cuts for the rich and their corporations, they had to be dragged kicking a screaming about investing a trillion dollars for roads and bridges, but not a penny for anything to give Americans a better life, or a society founded on the public good.