Monday, July 14, 2014

Deceptive Numbers, 473th Edition

Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont, has been raising a stink about how the veterans have been treated.  And good for him for doing so.  We need to take care of those who were put in harm's way.  But he is getting his numbers wrong:
The six trillion dollar estimate for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars include not just the salaries from 2001-2016 (or whatever), the fuel, the logistics, and all that, but also .... the cost of taking care of the veterans from now until they die. 

I was at a talk at a recent APSA by Linda Blimes who presented a series of graphs depicting the costs of wars.  It turns out, if I remember correctly, that the U.S. is still paying some of the costs of World War I, and the annual costs peaked in the 1970s (I think).  That the costs of WWII are still quite significant, as the U.S. is paying the medical care of the veterans of that war.  The costs of Vietnam will be with us for quite a while.  The veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan will be living for another sixty years at least.  So, the six trillion dollar figure is based on the costs of the wars AND the costs of taking care of the vets. 

The key point may be that we are not treating the vets well right now (the VA controversy is a mess of conflicting reports, but this quote is just deceptive.  If Sanders does not know the source of the estimate, then he is not doing his job.  There are good arguments to be made about the treatment of vets, but $6 trillion vs a few billion is not one of them.

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