War at Any Price?: The Total Economic Costs of the War Beyond the Federal Budget

The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States in many ways. For the American Armed Forces, the human toll has been profound: as of November 9, 2007, 4,578 American soldiers have lost their lives, and 30,205 have been wounded, many of them gravely. The damage to our international reputation at a time when the United States faces grave security challenges all over the world has also been severe. And the full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported. These “hidden costs” of the Iraq war include the ongoing drain on U.S. economic growth created by Iraq-related borrowing, the disruptive effects of the conflict on world oil markets, the future care of our injured veterans, repair costs for the military, and other undisclosed costs.

In this report, the Joint Economic Committee estimates the total costs of the long war in Iraq to the American economy as a whole:

• The total economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far have been approximately double the total amounts directly requested by the Administration to fight these wars.

• The future economic costs of a prolonged military presence in Iraq would be massive. Even assuming a considerable drawdown in troop levels, total economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with the vast majority of costs a result of in the war Iraq) would amount to $3.5 trillion between 2003 and 2017. This is over $1 trillion higher than the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Federal cost forecast for the same scenario, which counted only direct spending and interest paid on war-related debt resulting from that spending.

• The total economic cost of the war in Iraq to a family of four is a shocking $16,500 from 2002 to 2008. When the war in Afghanistan is included, the burden to the American family rises to $20,900. The future impact on a family of four skyrockets to $36,900 for Iraq and $46,400 for Iraq and Afghanistan when all potential costs from 2002 to 2017 are included.

The American people and Democrats in Congress have urged a dramatic change of course in Iraq. This war has cost Americans far too much, in terms of lives, dollars, and our reputation around the world. This report also demonstrates that a change in course would bring substantial economic savings to our country.

For the full text of this report, please click on the file listed under "Related Resources."

Related Files