They told us "We're dropping about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan so we can catch that Bin Laden guy but, eventually, we're gonna catch him and as soon as we do you can imagine that folks will be wondering why we're still over there," and I gotta tell ya, I'm one of those people.
I mean, we're over here talking about how we're so broke that we have no choice but to cut a couple of billion from heat assistance for the poor, and a billion-and-a-half from the Social Security operations budget, and money from food stamps and childcare assistance and tornado forecasting in Alabama but every single month, just as regular as clockwork, we seem to be able to find another $10 billion to spend in Afghanistan, even as we have an economy that could badly use another round of truly productive stimulus.
And I don't think y'all even realize just how much money $10 billion really is - but today we're gonna see if we can't fix that with a bit of a thought exercise.
Imagine if we set up a program that took that Afghanistan money and spent it right here at home for a year or two - and it was spent in the form of a lottery, where we stimulate the larger economy, help fix the mortgage crisis, and create a more energy-independent nation, all at the same time.
I got all we need except a catchy name; with that in mind let's move on to the description of how the Happy Super Fun Day Peace Lotto Stimulus Thingy works.
...In this world, the two cities - the earthly and the heavenly - are commingled; but hereafter the predestinate and the reprobate will be separated. In this life we cannot know who, even among our seeming enemies, are to be found ultimately among the elect...
--Bertrand Russell, explaining St. Augustine, in the book "A History of Western Philosophy"
So it couldn't be any simpler: what I have in mind, to illustrate our point, is a giant national lottery, and it wouldn't cost a dime to enter.
First prize would be directed toward cleaning up the mortgage crisis by either getting folks out from "under water", lowering their current monthly payments, or converting them from renters into homeowners: if you're one of the 10,000 first place winners, you get $250,000 to spend on either paying down your mortgage or to buy a house of your choice if you don't have one now.
Second prize involves "greening" America's homes; the idea being that if we cut America's heating, air conditioning, and hot water bills, we free up billions of newly productive dollars to create long-term self-sustaining consumer demand - and that means you can take some of that power bill money and go out and have a nice dinner with the kids again.
10,000 winners would each get $50,000, and with that you could easily replace a whole lot of windows with better-insulated ones...or you could get some solar panels, or put up that rooftop wind generator you've been thinking about, and you could pay for the electrical connections to get you in the business of selling power back to your utility. Don't own your house? That's OK, we'll "green" it up anyway, with the owner's permission - and if that can't be arranged, then maybe we'll have to just award you third prize instead.
The idea behind our third prize is to lower the amount of money we spend every year on imported oil; to that end we would give 50,000 third place winners $40,000 to spend on a vehicle that gets 40 MPG or better - and because we don't want to "disincentive" inexpensive green cars, if you can arrange to buy two cars for $40,000, we'll do that, too. (And hey, just to be fair: if you were "bumped down" from second place, let's make your "car credit" $50,000.)
That's 70,000 winners, folks, who could end up with a new house, or a new car, or a newly energy-efficient home - and that doesn't give a complete picture of just how much we're really spending right now blowing up Afghanistan.
You see, we're spending so much right now that we could give away all this stuff every single month of the year with all the money we're dumping "Over There" instead - and even that doesn't tell the whole story, because all that stuff - all the houses and all the cars and all the energy improvements - represents only 50% of what we're spending every month Over There.
And all that money doesn't even include what we're spending on our other wars, overt and covert, in Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, the Philippines, Yemen, Iran, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, and, of course, the one we fight right here in the good ol' USA: The War On Drugs.
So whaddaya think, America?
Should we continue the endless war and keep on looking for those last 100 or so Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, to the tune of $100 million a month for each guy, for the next decade or so - or would you rather do a giant lottery for a couple of years, for half the cost of what we're spending every month over there now, that creates lots and lots of jobs and permanently lowers our national energy bill?
I think I know which one you want - and that's just too bad, because we aren't gonna get it anytime soon, now are we?