Monday, August 30, 2010

American Power And Imaginary Numbers

My conservative counterpart Donald Douglas of American Power breathlessly cuts and pastes the following from FOX News in his recent post "Total Costs of Iraq War Less Than Obama-Democrats' Economic Porkulus Package":

As President Obama prepares to tie a bow on U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Congressional Budget Office numbers show that the total cost of the eight-year war was less than the stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009.

According to CBO numbers in its Budget and Economic Outlook published this month, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.

The projected cost of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009, and is expected to have a shelf life of two years, was $862 billion...
And how's that "stimulus" working out?
Now I've mentioned on several occasions that economics is not my strong suit and that I even find that field of study fairly boring but I do speak English pretty well and I'm no slouch when it comes to basic mathematics so I was able to detect a few flaws in Don's argument here. Ignoring the fact that I automatically take people who use cute little nicknames like "Porkulus" when discussing serious political topics less seriously than those who speak like actual grown ups, the operational word one should really pay attention to in the above article is "projected".

The cost of the Bush administration's war in Iraq is stated flatly and in the past tense, as if the final bill has arrived in the mail and therefore will not increase past the stated $709 billion price tag while the final $862 billion cost of the stimulus is "projected" well into next year. Now this disparity might prompt an honest (or at least curious) person to ask, "Say, is there also a 'projected' final cost for the Iraq war as well?" Interestingly enough, there is:
As of February 2010, around $704 billion has been spent based on estimates of current expenditure rates[1], which range from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimate of $2 billion per week to $12 billion a month, an estimate by economist Joseph Stiglitz.[2]...

According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion dollars by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money. The CBO estimated that of the $2.4 trillion long-term price tag for the war, about $1.9 trillion of that would be spent on Iraq, or $6,300 per U.S. citizen.[9][10]

Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, has stated the total costs of the Iraq War on the US economy will be three trillion dollars in a moderate scenario, and possibly more in the most recent published study, published in March 2008.[11] Stiglitz has stated: "The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions...Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq."[11]

So the projected cost of Bush's war (which he never paid for in any of his budgets because apparently deficits didn't matter back then) is actually conservatively estimated at almost four times that of Obama's stimulus bill, which he passed in order to pull the country out of the economic recession and possible depression he inherited from Bush and company. And it seems that FOX News is having a little trouble with their own research as well. From the AP last week:
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s stimulus measure has created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs and continues to boost economic growth in the second half of 2010, but it’s come at a higher price tag than originally billed.

Congressional analysts released new figures today estimating that the law enacted in January 2009, when it projected to cost $787 billion over a decade, would cost $814 billion. But that’s still less than the Congressional Budget Office estimated in January, when it said the measure would cost $862 billion.
So FOX's difference was only off by $48 billion or around 6% (maybe their researchers haven't read the news since January) but admittedly the stimulus did go over its projected budget by $27 billion or almost 4%. Now everyone knows that government spending almost always goes over its estimated costs so the 4% run over isn't surprising but noting that the stimulus went over its original projected cost might also prompt an honest (or at least curious) person to ask, "Say, was there also a 'projected' original cost for the Iraq war as well?" Interestingly enough, there was:
WASHINGTON — At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.
Based on the time periods cited those numbers are from 2 1/2 years ago so they've obviously increased since then but if we use the higher original Bush administration estimate of $60 billion as well as the older CBO estimate of $1.9 trillion (much lower than Stiglitz's own current conservative estimates) the Iraq war will eventually go over its original projected budget by at least 3200%, again estimating extremely conservatively. Not only is this scenario the exact opposite of what Don tried to claim above but it's cost overruns are higher by several orders of magnitude.

Now I don't blame Don for foolishly stating what is an extremely obvious falsehood about the comparisons between the Bush administration's profligate wartime spending and the Obama administration's relatively modest depression averting spending. I actually had to Google complicated phrases like "original cost iraq war", "original cost stimulus", "projected cost iraq war" and "projected cost stimulus" to gain access to all of this esoteric information. And I don't know if you noticed but those phrases contain several words each, some of them are even multi-syllabic! So I guess Don can be forgiven for lazily cutting and pasting a story from the propaganda media wing of the Republican party rather than doing actual minimal research to make sure that what he's posting isn't an outright partisan lie. The man only has one PhD. after all. Hey, it's hard out here for a hack.


Kevin Robbins said...

Thanks for saving me from looking around for that info from Stiglitz.

Take it easy on Don and Fox. They're just practicing journalism as they learned it at the Ministry of Truth (no offense 101).

: smintheus :: said...

Excellent post. A characteristic piece from Fox News, what with the half truths, cherry-picked facts, inaccuracies, and, oh yeah, a partisan slant.

JBW said...

You're welcome. And Don knows I'm just kidding, ex DLB. OK, I'm not just kidding but I am laughing a lot.

JBW said...

Thanks, smintheus. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've been linked on Memorandum. Kinda cool, I guess.

AmPowerBlog said...

JBW: All you had to do is look at CBO, which is what Fox News cites. Total spending as measured by annual appropriations though 2010 is $708 billion. That's not "past tense" that's total "current" appropriations. See, 'Estimated Appropriations Provided for U.S. Operations in
Iraq and Afghanistan and for Other War-Related Activities, 2001 to 2010'

The rest of your analysis is superfluous and a waste of time. I didn't make an "argument." I looked at the Fox report and posted. There's nothing that you've written here to change the fact that dollar for dollar, as appropriated, Obama's porkulus way exceeds the outlays on the Iraq war. Tonight the president lauded the consolidation of democracy in Iraq. But he also suggested that he'd much rather dole out the massive porky kickbacks to phony economic "stimulus" projects around the country that would fatten Democrat fat-cat constituencies, bilking the taxpayers and delaying economic recovery. This is why Dems on are target for an even bigger rout that I suggested earlier. Good thing you didn't take me up on my challenge to wager that Dems wouldn't lose seats in November, since you claim Obambi is so great. If he's so awesome, Dems should not only retain their majorities, they should be picking up seats.

You. Are. Fail. Bro.

And you are really jonesin', JBW. I don't flash my credentials, although I can guarantee you that, based on the sloppy analyses you routinely throw out, you'd be struggling in my courses. But I go easy on you since your abusive family background has put you in an emotional state.

Move on for a while dude. Debate someone who'll actually give you a chance of winning.

Kevin Robbins said...

Don, the bottom line is that the stimulus money was money that was put into improving the economy of the United States.

The money that was put into destroying Iraq also led to the destruction and theft of artifacts and texts from literally the cradle of civilization. This is without even addressing the lives that were maimed and lost. Stuff happens, right.

You can call us nihilists if you like, but you neocons are fucking barbarians. Which was money better spent?

JBW said...

Hey Don, thanks for stopping by!

The Iraq war has been an extremely expensive disaster that Obama is having to clean up for the neocons while every economist worth their salt agrees that the stimulus headed of an economic depression and if anything should have been larger to be more effective. You cut and pasted an article that made false assertions in order to take a cheap shot at Obama; don't start crying about it when someone points that out (and Memeorandum thought it was good enough to link to).

Of course it's a good thing I didn't take your fantastical bet. As I've said, only a great fool would do so and only a greater fool would expect him to. The irony is that if you had had any sack at all and taken me up on mine about the Dems not losing either of their majorities you'd most likely be looking at a crisp new C-note this November. Savvy...

And thank you so much for taking it easy on me, "bro". I know you probably have all manner of names to call me in lieu of trying to actually win an argument and I appreciate that you just stick with "loser"; it suits you. I so wish the technology existed to be able to transmit a wet paper bag digitally because I would pay good money to watch you try to debate your way out of it.

And actually you're wrong on that last count: I win every time you write something stupid/hilarious and then come here to puff out your chest and defend your inanity. As always, you're my favorite caricature, Don. Cheers.

AmPowerBlog said...

JBW: Kinda puzzled why you'd claim I posted bogus claims when even war opponents are pegging total war costs at less than $750 billion. But I'm proud of you: Google searches are da bomb, dude. And Stiglitz, yo! That dude's got creds in the America-bashing community. But really, so sorry that reality is too much for you. That Cannabis is wilting your thinking abilities, not that you had too much to begin with.

I am sorry too about the emotional/psychological abuse and your failure to develop meaningful male/mentor relationships. Shoot, sorry you haven't developed any relationships. Suzanna's getting married. You're not. (You remember stalking her, of course.) No doubt good folks like that are better adjusted. But all is not lost, JBW. Just check back in with reality once in while --- you know, get your facts straight --- and you'll be on the road to recovery. And since I indulge you so, you might say "I'll there for you."

Ain't that sweet?

JBW said...

Hmm, here's what I found at your link, Don:

- Cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom: $748.2 billion

- Projected total cost of veterans’ health care and disability: $422 billion to $717 billion

So when you use the phrase "total war costs" you don't count the veterans' health care and disability costs that result from this war. Typical. Kind of like how Bush spent like a teenager with his dad's credit card for eight years and your side barely said shit. If you just ignore costs and spending they're not important and therefore don't exist, right? Oh yeah, 'cause deficits don't matter; I seem to remember someone saying that once (only when a Republican is president, of course).

And yes, reality. I've always found that Nobel prizes in economics are much more reality based than partisan accusations of "America bashing" by hacks who use the phrase like a warm blanket but maybe that's just me. And the "cannabis kills brain cells" argument is a classic; when are we gonna have that beer again? You're smart.

I must admit however that your Hannibal Lecter-level psychological profiling is quite devastating. Where will I find the strength to go on? Oh there it is, right next to my lack of a need to believe in a magical protector like some people I know (psst, I'm referring to you). Yes, I know Suzanna's getting married. I have a long list of things that I want to do with Suzanna: getting married ain't on it, chief. I might have brought the corset and banana into our wedding bed but the ceremony isn't required for me to enjoy them.

And do you see that smile on my face at the top of my site? That's my "I'm not married" face. Instead of dragging my fat shrew of a wife and whiny kids to pumpkin patches on the weekend I watch football and play golf whenever I want, imbibe all manner of illicit substances and have casual sex as often as possible. I realize my lifestyle might destroy society for breeders like yourself but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

I do love that you maintain consistency with your black or white, five-year-old outlook on the world though. Relationships=marriage; married folks=good folks. I imagine the inner workings of your brain consisting of two massive rooms: the door of one says "Things That Are Good" and the door of the other says "Things That Are Bad". Rrr, fire bad! DRUGS BAD!!! Thoughtful grey area... nonexistent.

And yes, it's incredibly sweet that "you'll there for me", button.

I've never thered for anyone myself and I'm not exactly straight on the whole thereing thing as a whole but it's sweet nonetheless. What's even sweeter though is that even when you're trying to be somewhat sarcastic and clever your lack of English skills transform what you write into hilarious parody. I'll sometime for you as well, guy. Hell, I'll even have some friends wherever for you because that's just the kind of guy I am.

Did I mention that you're smart? Because you totally are...

Kevin Robbins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You guys are getting way too bogged down in the wrong stuff. What's all this about sweettits?

JBW said...

Yeah one L, Sweetits is getting married, probably to some guy she works with in her inner city youth organization, i.e. a much nicer and more Christian person than myself. Of course judging from the frequency of bible verses she's been tossing out there in her sporadic posting he's gonna have to share her with God 'cause this chick has it bad for that supreme being.

Good for her, I wish her all the best. I'll miss flirting with her (what Don calls "stalking"; imagine how he flirts then...) but since she wasn't throwing herself at me I'm just going to assume that she's a closet lesbian. Why are there so many of them?

Anonymous said...

I ran into a lot of that when I was single too. I still find it amazing that more of them haven't come out yet though.