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War in Iraq a bargain

Reported by Chrish - December 27, 2005

Host John Gibson was absent from the Big Story today 12/27/05, probably nursing his self-inflicted wounds from the war on Christmas massacree. Gregg Jarrett substituted, and had regular FOX correspondent Major Garrett on for a segment on a simplistic breakdown of government spending.

Jarrett asked if the viewers ever wonder where all that money (you) pay in taxes goes? Garrett said he couldn't break it ALL down, but he can paint a picture that may surprise some of (us). He asked, what costs more, the war in Iraq or entitlements at home?

His phrasing was a liitle more loaded: "What do you think costs more: prosecuting the war on teror in Afghanistan and Iraq, or paying out the required benefits for America's retirees? The war IS expensive. The tab since 9/11: $357 billion dollars. That cost, spread over four years, palesnext to the one-year, yes Gregg I said one year, cost of nearly one trillion dollars to pay for just three mandatory federal programs that benefit primarily seniors. Those are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These costs, Gregg, are rising at an alarming rate. '

An unidentified man is shown on videotape saying that in ten years those (latter) costs will more than double to 2.2 trillion/year. Garrett says "The big culprit: healthcare. Medical breakthroughs are extending lives" and new treatments are never cheap. Bob Greenstein of the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarized the two-fold problem - an aging population plus newer, better, more expensive treatments will equal higher costs. Garrett then said that another factor is the new prescription drug plan, effective January 1, 2006. 21 million seniors are already signed up, and that program will add "even more costs to Uncle Sam's bottom line."

The unidentified man returns and is identified this time as Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute. He says the prescription drug benefit passed in 2003 will increase Medicare costs by one-third, hundreds of billions of dollars.

Garrett wrapped up the segment: We have costly programs, with rising costs. Next year the first wave of baby boomers turns sixty, bringing them closer to these federal benefits. the implication for the federal budget: analysts say we can expect higher deficits if Congres doesn't step in, and those higher deficits could effect the overall US economy. If history is any indicator they won't get involved until the crisis is only a year away, not several years away, as it was with Bush's failed effort to "reform" Social Security.

Comment: I love the way he diminished the cost of the Iraq war by emphasizing the cost is spread over 4 years. There is no end in sight and some analysts predict the cost could rise to $570 billion by 2010. This is not what we were promised, and had the forecasts been more realistic Bush would not have gotten his blank check.

The so-called "entitlements" (I heard Garrett use the loaded term in his segment at the very beginning of Special Report) are guarantees that no American citizen will have to live the end of his/her life in poverty without basic healthcare. The implication of this piece is that Congress needs to rein in runaway healthcare costs (cuts, cuts, and more cuts) to bring the deficit down, and the war is a real bargain.

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