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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 5, 2006

Soaring war costs hurt poor and needy

Here's one of the unexpected casualties of the Iraq war: the poor and elderly who depend on government services.

We had clues last week. That's when Bush spent about half of his State of The Union Address speaking in grand terms about the U.S.'s leadership role in fighting terrorism and spreading democracy, part of a strategy to bolster sagging support for the war.

But Bush evaded practical matters in particular the cost of war. And now we know why.

The tab will cost billions more. Bush plans to ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that since Sept. 11, 2001, both wars have cost taxpayers $320 billion that's just about equivalent to this year's $360 billion deficit.

And the war costs are separate from Bush's Defense Department budget, which is expected to increase by 5 percent to $439.3 billion. That includes $84.2 billion an 8 percent increase for weapons programs.

It's no surprise then that Bush's domestic proposals are so modest. We can't afford much.

The House passed a budget package this week that cuts nearly $40 billion over the next five years from the federal budget in Medicaid, welfare, child support and student loans. That leaves millions of Americans, including the poor, the elderly, and college students, in a bind.

The impact on college students is the largest cut in the package $11.9 billion over five years. But single parents relying on child support, seniors who need nursing home care, low-income families on Medicaid, will all be negatively affected.

And it will get worse if Congress later passes Bush's plan to make permanent tax cuts that favor the wealthy. If that happens and the cost of war continues to rise, most assuredly, more pain is ahead.