Students: The Latest Casuality of War
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz articulately disproved the Bush administration’s prediction that the Iraq War would cost $50 to $60 billion. Stiglitz pegs the true cost of the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan and the “War on Terror” at around $3 trillion, and that, Stiglitz says, is being conservative. Congressional Democrats fiercely criticize the White House over war expenditures, but it is virtually certain that it is the Democrats who will approve tens of billions more in a military spending bill next month. Some Democrats are even arguing against attaching strings, such as a deadline for withdrawal.
The debate raging on Capitol Hill, on the presidential campaign trail, in research institutes and in academia touches on such esoteric factors as the right inflation index for veterans’ health care costs, the monetary value of the deaths of over 650,000 innocent Iraqis and 4,000 U.S. soldiers and what role the war has had in higher oil prices.
Back when Hillary Clinton was a presidential contender, she spoke frequently about how money for the war would be better spent at home: “That [money] is enough to provide health care for all 47 million uninsured Americans and quality pre-kindergarten for every American child, solve the housing crisis once and for all [and] make college affordable for every American student.” Other policy makers have yet to acknowledge the struggles of the working class and students.
In a move that shocked millions of California students, the UC Board of Regents voted to raise tuition 19 percent and threatened to increase tuition and fees, or what Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi called “student taxes,” by 30 percent next summer if there are cuts to the education budget because of the war. The regents, who are mostly elderly and upper class, rejected proposals for capping fee increases on students and continued their support for costly nuclear weapons programs. Many students in the anti-war movement expressed their shock and disillusionment at the regents’ decision to continue spending for weapons known to kill and injure innocent Iraqis while simultaneously increasing fees at home and cutting desperately needed educational services. Addressing a Tulsa Community College audience, legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem stated that “tuition has gone up 30 percent under the Bush administration.”
Author and scholar Naomi Wolf cites the growing crisis in education as symptomatic of the Bush administration’s larger goal of closing down society through privatizing the public sector. “It’s the vision of the hollow state,” Wolf stated at a lecture in early 2008. She makes the case that just like pre-fascist Germany, Americans are letting the pillars of democracy crumble, such as public education. As American society becomes more privatized, the cost of necessities – like heating, oil, gas, education and health care – rises and only the richest can afford them. The cost to educate someone at UC Irvine is far more than what many students throughout Europe pay.
CampusProgress.org also detailed how spending less on education, due to an enormous war budget, has affected college students. For instance, over 6 in 10 college graduates are burdened with educational debt. Total student debt in the United States is more than $471 billion—and that’s not including private loans. Between 2001 and 2010, two million academically qualified students will not go to college because they cannot afford it.
The average student today graduates with debt twice that of graduates a decade ago, and enters a job market where the average job pays less than it would have in 2000. College textbooks have tripled in price since 1986 and the average college senior now graduates with $3,200 in credit card debt and $18,900 in student loans. Graduates of public colleges and universities accumulate almost as much debt as their peers at private institutions.
The repercussions of the war in Iraq aren’t isolated in the Middle East. They resonate throughout the U.S. Students are particularly affected and are hit in more ways than one. It’s time to get serious, wake up and start mulling over the true costs of the war.
Nathan Tumazi is a fourth-year international studies major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.