Years ago, when he almost seemed more important than the president, Newt Gingrich said something like “the Republican party is the party of ideas.” Is that true? I wonder.
The current war grew out of a right-wing think tank that has been promoting the idea of a war for about ten years. Say what you will, stirring up a war certainly qualifies as a big idea. And of course, war on Iraq is just the first phase of the operation. The next phase, according to these guys, is Iran. (I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that they’ll go for the Axis of Evil hat-trick and invade North Korea after that.)
Don’t Democrats ever have big ideas? Clinton did: his nationalized health-care plan. Which was shot down in flames, of course. Is that as big as the war on Iraq? Depends on the metric you use.
In terms of expense, it’s hard to compare a one-off like a war with a permanent program, but George II has already asked for $75 billion as a first round of funding for the war (which, if memory serves me right, is supposed to cover six months of operation). For the rebuilding of Iraq (which may be paid for largely with Iraqi oil money), I’ve heard numbers from as low as $50 billion right on up to $1 trillion. Let’s be wildly optimistic and stick with the lower figure, but assume that the whole thing is paid by the USA. That’s $125 billion to prosecute a six-month war and rebuild the country.
I had a hard time coming up with clear-cut numbers on Clinton’s health-care plan, but a critical, right wing summary of the Clinton plan suggests that the plan would have cost somewhere in the range of $4 billion per year. That seems suspiciously low–I figured it must be missing something–it seems to cover only the cost to administer the program, not the actual cost of benefits. Other critics have suggested that the government would take over all medical spending, which would remain at existing levels–about $700 billion a year. Now that’s big. The real number is probably somewhere in between. In fact, from what I’ve heard, U.S. health insurers skim slightly over 1% out of the system, so thats $7 billion. If that were removed and replaced with the government sucking up $4 billion, that would actually be a savings of a few billion.
A better metric would be the value to the American people. A nationalized health-care plan would instantly (ok, perhaps not instantly) solve a major problem for 35 million Americans who have no insurance, and many more (like me) who are worried about their ability to afford insurance long term, or feel chained to a bad job so that they won’t lose their current benefits (pre-existing conditions are a bitch). The war on Iraq will benefit manufacturers of military hardware, giant construction companies like Halliburton, and armchair generals (psychologically, at least). The rest of us need to put up with increased harassment by the government in the name of security, increased risk of terrorism, a weaker economy overall, concern for friends in the military, and so on. Our troops have much bigger problems to contend with, of course, and a few of them aren’t coming back.