Do you get the impression that this country is being run by a college kid who just got his first credit card and that somewhere deep in a cave on the Pakistan border, Osama bin Laden is rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally because his plan to bring down the American economy is working perfectly? In a few years, terrorists won't have to invade our country. They can simply buy it for 10 cents on the dollar.
President Bush this week announced that he needs another $87 billion to finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's about $3,000 for every man, woman and child and, before it's over, probably every dog and cat as well living in the United States. Personally, I don't have $3,000, and if I did, I wouldn't want to give it to a bunch of people who are still going to hate me after I fork it over.
Let's put $87 billion into perspective. Being a college student myself, that would just about pay for my education and pay off my own credit card debt as well as about 100 million more like me. As Sen. John Kerry pointed out after the president's address, $87 billion would provide free health insurance for everyone in the country. Eighty-seven billion dollars would go a long way toward infrastructure improvements in our own country where the federal government currently spends only $29.3 billion on highway maintenance and construction.
And what about our own states? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than half the 50 states had budget shortfalls last year, forcing cutbacks in services and jobs. According to the NCSL, the combined budget shortfalls of all 50 states last year totalled $17.5 billion, and that was before Arnold takes over California, which alone has a $3-billion deficit. Seventeen-and-a-half billion is just chump change compared to $87 billion, but did the federal government, which is known for bailing out failing corporations, offer to help out its own provinces?
Washington says about $100 million of the $87 billion would be used to buy new Humvees for the military. For $87 billion and at about $50,000 a whack, the government could buy every driver in the country a Hummer. But, of course, none of us would be able to afford the gas.
The thing that really disturbs me about ponying up $87 billion we don't have - we're already $480 billion in the hole - is what we get for our money. The president seems to think that the only way to solve a problem is to throw money at it. But will the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, most of whom already live in tents and drive late model donkeys, suddenly become our best friends and allies just because we turned their lights and water back on?
Despite what some Nevada establishments would have you believe, the Beatles got it right about 40 years ago. Money can't buy you love.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at P.O. Box 909, Tupelo MS, 38802 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org