Previously unreported data from the Department of Defense released this summer shows that the average American taxpayer has spent $7,500 on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001.
That means this fiscal year, your average taxpaying American citizen will spend about $289 on wars overseas.
The data, first reported by Defense One, was mandated as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Representative John Lewis (D, Ga.) added a piece of legislation to the bill that requires the Department of Defense to tally up and publicly post the dollars and cents cost of the primary battlefields in the War on Terror.
It should be noted that these data do not include the classified programs which directly support military action overseas, such as those from the Intelligence Community or from the State Department, and they do not include the ‘hidden costs’ of healthcare and support services from the Veterans Administration for veterans and their families for the rest of their lifetimes.
Still, laying down a number, however incomplete, adds a certain level of clarity to the debate over America’s military use of force abroad. Few other things get people’s attention like that which directly affects their finances.
All Americans understand that a significant amount of their paycheck goes to the federal and state governments to finance healthcare, defense, and other key government services. But few, if any, truly understand where that money is going.
While it may have been Representative Lewis’ intention to illustrate the huge amounts of cash the U.S. has dumped into the wars over the years, the unfortunate reality is that these numbers pale in comparison to many other government programs, and are almost insignificant when compared to other bills Americans unquestioningly pay.
After all, $289 a year is only $24 a month. Most guys my age don’t think twice running up a bar tab double that on any given weekend night. $24 a month is cheaper than a television streaming service. If anything, these numbers may encourage Americans to actually think less about wars fought overseas than they already do. All things considered, it’s a drop in the bucket.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps