Tales from the Trail

U.S. stimulus to cost more than Iraq, Afghan war so far

US/WASHINGTON – Republican critics of the Democratic-backed landmark stimulus package are pointing out that its 800-billion-dollar-plus price tag would — “in one fell swoop,” as Republican Representative Todd Akin put it — consume more resources than have been laid out for two wars, so far.

The Pentagon says the United States has committed $524.6 billion to the nearly six-year-old conflict in Iraq and $120.9 billion to the fighting in Afghanistan since 2001.

“I almost have to pinch myself, gentlemen, to think that just standing here a couple of hours ago, we just voted to spend $800 billion, more than the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Republican Akin declared Wednesday after the House of Representatives passed the stimulus without a single Republican vote in favor.

“Can our economy handle that?” he asked.

For years, Democratic opponents of the war in Iraq have questioned its cost and the fact that the 2003 invasion under the Republican Bush administration and the occupation that followed were done on borrowed money, adding to U.S. debt that ultimately must be paid by taxpayers.

Now Republicans, who largely supported the Iraq war, are trying to turn the tables on their Democratic critics and ask whether it is wise to borrow as much cash again all at once, taking on even more interest costs. “I know the Bush administration was savaged for the money that’s spent on the war in Iraq,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, said this week.

The First Draft: Tuesday, Jan. 6

MALAYSIA

On a dark and drippy Washington morning, President-elect Barack Obama meets with his economic advisers to discuss the 2010 budget.

At the White House, President George W. Bush will create the biggest protected marine area on the planet, a trio of national monuments in the Pacific.

The new U.S. Congress convenes today, with clouds hanging over two Democrats: Roland Burris of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota.

McCain meets human face of “earmark” spending

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain frequently rails against “earmarks,” the special spending projects that members of Congress procure for thmccainthis.jpgeir home districts, often with little or no oversight. 

But Wednesday he admitted he sometimes admired the results. 

On a visit to an Allentown hospital during a week-long campaign swing featuring health care issues, the Arizona senator met a woman with ovarian cancer who was treated in a $80 million clinical trial program funded by an earmark. 

McCain praised the woman’s treatment and later said some earmarks were clearly worthy.