THE REAL PRICE OF WAR by Joshua S. Goldstein


How You Pay for the War on Terror
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Spoiler alert: the answer to the subtitle is “through the nose, forever.”

Imagine, writes economist Goldstein (Watson Institute for International Studies/Brown Univ.), that a coin-fed meter collects your part of the US government’s war-related spending. “Put a quarter in the meter and you get twenty minutes of security against foreign threats to our country; six quarters gets you two hours. Keep feeding the meter around the clock, 24/7, year-round. That’s what war spending costs the average U.S. household.” Put another way, Goldstein writes in this engaging if depressing work, that household spends $500 a month on funding war, directly and indirectly, half taken from income and other taxes, the rest borrowed against the future. Some of those taxes are taken silently: the three percent excise tax on telephone service, Goldstein notes, is a war tax, perfectly fulfilling the mantra, “almost invisible, politically beautiful.” Some have historically been just as silent because applied only to the well-off, such as excise taxes on luxury automobiles, estates, and gifts—all done away with under the Bush administration’s tax-cutting giveaway, “a regressive trend [that] runs counter to the government’s actions in past wars, when it has tapped the resources of the rich most heavily.” So: Bush makes war, and his cronies don’t have to pay for it, while veterans now have to pay a fee just to sign up for eligibility for a visit to a VA hospital, and while social services are cut to the bone; New York’s emergency services, Goldstein notes, have been so severely stripped that the city could not handle another 9/11. Will there be relief from outside? Probably not, he offers: Foreign investors—on whom the US is now more dependent than at almost any point in history—“are being asked to fund Bush’s tax cuts and the war in Iraq,” and they’re not buying it.

Be prepared to shoulder a burden, then, one likely to grow heavier and heavier for years and years to come.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8147-3161-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2004


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