The economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to total $1.6 trillion — roughly double the amount the White House has requested thus far, according to a new report by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee.
The report, released Tuesday, attempted to put a price tag on the two conflicts, including "hidden" costs such as interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars, lost investment, the expense of long-term health care for injured veterans and the cost of oil market disruptions.
The $1.6 trillion figure, for the period from 2002 to 2008, translates into a cost of $20,900 for a family of four, the report said. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report stated.
For the Iraq war only, total economic costs were estimated at $1.3 trillion for the period from 2002 to 2008. That would cost a family of four $16,500, the report said.
Democratic leaders in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., seized on the report to criticize Bush’s war strategy.
The White House countered that the report was politically motivated.
“This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill. This committee is known for being partisan and political. They did not consult or cooperate with the Republicans on the committee. And so I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino.
“I haven’t seen the report, but it’s obvious the motivations behind it,” she added.
Future economic costs would be even greater, the report estimated, figuring that both wars would cost $3.5 trillion between 2003 and 2017. Under that scenario, it would cost a family of four $46,400, the report said.
Oil prices have surged since the start of the war, from about $37 a barrel to well over $90 a barrel in recent weeks, the report said. "Consistent disruptions from the war have affected oil prices," although the Iraq war is not responsible for all of the increase in oil prices, the report said.
Still, the report estimated that high oil prices have hit U.S. consumers in the pocket, transferring "approximately $124 billion from U.S. oil consumers to foreign (oil) producers" from 2003 to 2008, the report said.
High oil prices can slow overall economic growth if that chills spending and investment by consumers and businesses. At the same time, high oil prices can spread inflation throughout the economy if companies decide to boost the prices of many other goods and services.
Meanwhile, "the sum of interest paid on Iraq-related debt from 2003 to 2017 will total over $550 billion," the report said. The government has to make interest payments on the money it borrows to finance the national debt, which recently hit $9 trillion for the first time.
War funding experts contacted by the Washington Post cautioned that some of the numbers should be met with skepticism.
The experts said it is difficult to calculate the precise impact of the Iraq war on global oil prices. They also said it was speculative to estimate how much the war will cost over time because situations change daily on the battlefield.
House vote coming up
The report comes as the House prepares to vote this week on another effort by Democrats to set a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq as a condition for providing another $50 billion for the war.
"What this report makes crystal clear is that the cost to our country in lives lost and dollars spent is tragically unacceptable," said Joint Economic Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement prepared to accompany the report's release.
The report, from the committee's Democratic majority, was not vetted with Republican members, said Israel Klein, a spokesman for the panel. An earlier draft of the report had put the economic cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at a slightly lower, $1.5 trillion.