By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
If I had a trillion dollars
Boyum Phil
Earlier this week, I was invited to witness the local American Legion Post #90 presenting Congressman John Barrow with over 5,800 signatures supporting Statesboro as a potential future site for a Veterans Administration community-based, outpatient clinic.  It was great to see the community come together to work toward fulfilling promises made to our former soldiers.
    Afterwards, I was able to grab the congressman and ask him about the disconnect between sending our young men into new battles while failing to take care of the wounded from old conflicts.
    Barrow said, "It’s the disconnect between how we’re treating today’s veterans while we’re trying to recruit tomorrows veterans. We’re sending an awfully strong message to folks we’re trying to recruit to the colors today by the way we treat folks who have served in the generations before them. It’s not a wise policy to be nickel and diming veterans."
    "We’ve had to fight this administration to get more money for veterans' health care and veterans' services in general. It shouldn’t be that hard but we’ve had to do that. We had $1 billion put in the war supplemental [bill]...the administration said was not needed...but they need the extra money."
    Apparently we've got plenty of money to wage a war, but not enough to pay for veterans who have already served and have already been promised they'd being taken care of for protecting the liberties of this country.
    Then, it really got me thinking, "Exactly how much darn money have we spent on this darn war, anyway?"
    Well, after a little digging, I discovered that total cost estimates range anywhere from $500 billion for Iraq alone, up to $2 trillion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Some numbers were higher. So conservatively, we could say that this Middle East activity has cost Americans around $1 trillion dollars (give or take $100 billion).
    A trillion. That number is almost incomprehensible to most people, including myself. There's almost no everyday application for a number that size. It's a million times a million. A million millions.
    A trillion dollars - needless to say, a lot of dough. Most can only dream of being a millionaire, which makes it especially hard to fathom a trillion dollars making millionaires out of you and 999,999 of your closet friends.
    So what does one trillion dollars buy beside a Middle East conflict? Where could we have better spent one trillion dollars?
$1,000,000,000,000 gets you:
- one million additional teachers for 25 years, each paid $40,000 per year
- 175,000 miles of new, four-lane roadways
- 40,000 new high schools with an average cost of $25 million dollars
- 20,000 bridges around the country, at $50 million dollars a piece
- a 162-fold increase in the annual budget for the National Cancer Institute (2006 budget was $6.17 billion)
- undergraduate degrees for 44.5 million students
- $318 million for every county, parish and independent city in America
- three Splash in the Boros for each person in Bulloch County
- 83 pairs of World Trade Center towers, at today's prices
- a check for $3,333 in all 300 million stockings in America
    Just like the unfathomability of the number "one trillion," it is unfathomable that this administration has ratcheted up the national debt to over $9 trillion dollars.  That's $30,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and makes the sub-prime market look like chump-change.
    What's lost in all these numbers are the "unfunded liabilities" relating to the war. Many more soldiers are surviving devastating injuries due to the modern advancements in battlefield medicine. But much like a premature baby, the long-term costs for these individuals could be in the millions. Per soldier. How are we supposed to take care of these vets, when we're not even taking care of the veterans we have now?
    The Barenaked Ladies sang a song entitled "If I Had a $1,000,000" to which the last line answers "I'd be rich." America is poorer now because of this war: politically, socially and monetarily. If we keep borrowing from our children and grandchildren to fund this war, there's no telling just how poor we'll get.
    Phil Boyum may be reached by calling Soundoff at 489-3733 (or his office at 489-9454).
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter