Today America has been involved in its war in Iraq for eight solid years. It’s an engagement that has cost the country thousands of lives and more than $780 billion. Here are some other things we could have done with $780 billion.
1. We could have closed every single state’s FY2012 budget deficit—totaling nearly $112 billion—nearly seven times over. That means no protests in Wisconsin, no mass teacher firings, and no school closures.
2. We could have paid tuition and expenses at four-year, private universities for every single member of the U.S. Armed Forces, both active duty personnel and reservists. There would have been $370 billion left over, $73 billion of which could go toward getting them all master’s degrees.
3. We could have funded the Healthy School Meals Act pilot program, which offers healthful school lunches to America’s increasingly obese schoolchildren, 195,000 times over.
5. We could have purchased decent homes for all of the 107,000 American war veterans who are currently homeless. Beyond that, we could have then treated them for major depression for the rest of their lives. (Though if we hadn’t invaded Iraq, there would also just be fewer homeless war veterans.)
6. We could have opened 19,500 Oprah-style luxury boarding schools in Africa, providing an elite educational opportunity for nearly 3 million children.
7. We could have completely funded the war in Afghanistan thus far and still had $393 billion left over to put a bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head. That amount of money would be really hard to turn down.
9. We could have rescued all of the at-risk social-welfare programs on this chart and still had 740 billion left with which to mess around.
10. We could have given every kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teacher in America a $224,000 bonus. Many of them certainly deserve a little extra compensation.