Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Think America can't manage its money? Read this

Stupid and stupider. That's us.

According to a study at Brown University, the total cost of the war on terror, including our forays into Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have run to between $3.2 and $4 trillion. All right, let's just say that the estimates were way too high. I'll leave my liberal instincts behind on this and admit that we need a strong military no matter what. So we would've spent gobs of cash just fielding an army even without invading/rescuing foreign nations. Let's say for the sake of arriving at a reasonable figure that the Brown report overestimated by half. Let's just call it an even $2 trillion to be safe.

Now think about two things: the TARP bailouts of the banks and the auto companies. It was expected to run to $700 billion, but it was far less since the troubled assets actually repaid yours and my generous loans. We are still comfortably under a trillion dollars, anyway you do the math. Still real money, I admit, but nowhere near what it costs to trudge around the Middle East for a decade or so in the name of making the world safe for democracy.

Now, let's talk about what's going on today in the European economy. Greece is a mess; every day I wonder when they will begin selling the Parthenon to the Chinese (not a bad idea, really) to keep from going under. But what's more troubling is that Italy's bond market has gone to 7 percent, indicating that the domino theory of the ever shaky European economy is spreading throughout the continent. My guess is that Spain will be next. Unemployment there is twice what it is in the U.S. -- yes, folks, near-Depression level at 20 percent. Who's willing to argue that Spain's finances are not also in peril?

The U.S.-European economy is joined together at the hip. No need to explain that. Greece, Italy, Spain and the other European Union member nations generated 20 percent of the world's GDP in 2010. As the U.S. goes, so goes Europe. As the U.S. and Europe goes, so goes the rest of the free world.

Like it or not, one way or another, the American taxpayer is going to be on the hook for the European economic crisis. That's one reason the stock market is bouncing up and down like a Spaldeen every other day.

So my modest proposal is this: what if we still had some of the money -- say just half of what it cost, a trillion bucks -- that we blew in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and used it for a TARP-like bailout of the European countries now in distress? If the U.S. could get 7 percent on its loans to help our allies, I could live with that kind of risk. Couldn't you?

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