The Joint Economic Committee, an advisory Senate-House body, is predicting that the ultimate cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be $3.5 trillion under scenarios outlined by the Bush White House.
This figure is more than triple the number forecast by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The committee report forecasts a scenario, using the budget office's 10-year window, based on statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, that the U.S. will mount a long-term "Korea-like" presence in Iraq. Gates' projections involves a reduction of troops by 66 percent by the year 2013.
A reduction of 33 percent of American forces in Afghanistan by 2013 is also envisioned, according to the Joint Economic Committee.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the committee chairman said "the backbreaking costs of this war to American families, the federal budget, and the entire economy are beyond measure in many ways."
The war, the committee says, is financed by borrowed money - money that could be used to pay for new stateside industrial and commercial investment, and housing.
The committee issued its findings the day before the House narrowly approved a short-term $50 billion appropriation for the two wars, funding it through Feb. 1. The legislation carried non-binding clauses requiring the president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq next month, which he already is, and bringing "most" of the remainder home by the end of next year.
With the president threatening to veto it, there is little chance the bill will pass the Senate.
Bush did veto a spending bill increasing funding for Pell grants and research money for the National Institutes of Health, saying that congressional Democrats are acting "like a teenager with a new credit card." The appropriations bill contained too many congressional earmarks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., fired back: "If President Bush applied for a credit card, any bank in America would turn him down as a bad credit risk. He has put more foreign debt on the nation’s credit card than all previous presidents combined — saddling our children and grandchildren with $3.3 trillion in new debt."
The $50 billion war spending bill is only an installment. The White House will return in January with a request for another $200 billion to pay for the war through next Sept. 30.
The committee's report can be found at this link.
-- Douglas Turner