Dan should be skeptical about the notion that libertarian-leaning Republicans are supposedly rebelling against the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy. The several Republican lawmakers (many of them were mainstream types) who made the somewhat critical remarks during the Petraeus’s hearings were just hedging their bets in case things go from bad to worse to really, really awful in Iraq and their voters get really, really angry. It recalls Hillary Clinton’s conduct on the eve of the Iraq War who wanted to be on the safe side in case the war would prove to be a huge success.
Moreover, as Grover Norquist makes it clear in a recent interview in the New York Times, fiscal conservatives have decided to jump aboard the McCain team. McCain “won, and he’s the tax cutter, so I am with him,” he says. Dismissing the suggestion that spending on the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan, and DHS) have contributed to America’s economic problems, he argues that the “war spending is a fraction of the spend-too-much problem.” Cut our taxes and we promise not to mention the war!
In that context, the debate in Congress over link between the war and the current economic problems, reported in the Washington Post’s on Tuesday, points to the way both some liberal and conservative economists are playing down the impact that the Iraq War, which is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, is having on the economy. As economist Joseph Stiglitz points out:
The federal government has sunk deeply into debt, first with tax cuts, then with accelerating war expenditures that have easily topped half a trillion dollars. That limited the government’s ability to keep the economy on track through tax cuts or domestic investments, so the Federal Reserve Board used low interest rates and the free flow of money to keep the economy growing. Cheap credit sparked rash loans, a housing bubble and the current crisis.
Economists will continue to debate the issue but you don’t have to be a military strategist to figure out that Iraq is still unstable and you don’t have to be an economist to conclude that the war is worsening the economic conditions at home. Indeed, according to the Post, “a CNN poll last month found that 71 percent of Americans say government spending in Iraq is a factor in the economic downturn.” This figure and not libertarian principles may explain why some Republican lawmakers are starting to get cold feet when it comes to the war.