Monday, August 2, 2010

Calling Out the Hypocrisy of "Fiscal Conservatism" in Current U.S. Political Discourse

Media commentators and U.S. elected officials at the highest levels of government are expressing concern ranging from apprehension to alarm about the federal deficit. Several members of Congress and people who share the Tea Party ideas about government are complaining about federal spending.This concern supposedly was why Congress allowed unemployment benefits for people who had been unemployed for six months or more to expire on June 2.

If the Tea Party, Blue Dogs, and other so-called "fiscal conservatives" such as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Steve Forbes, and others are truly concerned about integrity—fiscal or otherwise—they should be complaining about the billions of dollars spent to wage war in Iraq. According to the National Priorities Project (, the United States allocated $747.3 billion—almost 3/4 of a trillion dollars—for the war in Iraq since 2003. Here is what the same amount of money could have done for Arkansas, my home state:

  • 2,080,756 people—more than the entire population of Arkansas—could have been provided low-income healthcare for one year; or
  • 155,419 police or sheriff's patrol officers could have been employed for one year; or
  • 166,758 firefighters could have been employed for a year; or
  • Scholarships for 1,083,707 university students could have been provided for one year; or
  • 1,261,201 students could have received Pell Grants of $5550 each to attend college; or
  • Head Start could have been funded to cover 1,103,815 children for a year.

Mind you, the $747.3 billion allocated to wage war in Iraq does not include any money that must be spent to treat thousands of wounded and disabled service members. If the Department of Defense website is accurate, 13,982 service members were wounded in action and not returned to duty and 17,915 others were wounded and returned to duty. The Iraq war cost tally also does not include what the nation owes to survivors of the 4417 military and Defense Department civilians killed in Iraq as of August 2, 2010, 10 a.m., EDT (see We should have long ago confronted the hypocrisy of people who profess to cherish human life but never challenge a war that has claimed almost 4500 American lives, perhaps hundreds of thousands more in Iraq, and permanently scarred countless others.

Long before now, ethically sound people should have dismissed the hypocrisy of people who opposed spending money to help unemployed working people survive the current recession but who have never opposed the seven-year-old war in Iraq. And we should have dismissed as moral cowards or moral frauds those who said "I want my country back" when the nation debated enacting national healthcare insurance reform, but who never thought the country was at risk morally, intellectually, socially, militarily, and geo-politically because of the quagmire called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When almost ten billion dollars of the money allocated for the war in Iraq cannot be accounted for, people who understand the difference between integrity and hypocrisy owe God and each other much more than hand-wringing and head-shaking about the nation's budgetary woes. We should be outraged about the hypocritical conduct and conversation surrounding it.