By John Harley

Blink. In the moments before you next bat your eyes, the United States will spend over $15,000 on the war in Iraq.

Two weeks ago, the White House announced its proposed military spending for 2009, which includes a $70 billion emergency allowance to support the Global War on Terror for only the first quarter of the fiscal year. If approved, it would mean that American citizens would pay more towards the military in 2009 than at any time since World War II.

Thus far, the United States has spent over $493 billion on the war in Iraq, and the taxpayers of Santa Cruz alone have paid over $99 million of that cost through 2007. The full scope of these numbers may be difficult to grasp at first, but consider these statistics when put in a local context. For the same amount that Santa Cruz taxpayers have spent on the war effort: 15,237 Santa Cruz high school students could have received university scholarships, or 8 new elementary schools could have been built in our city, or 1,497 elementary school teachers could have been hired, or 40,751 Santa Cruz residents could have received health care coverage.

If we apply the same arithmetic to the state of California, whose residents will have paid $57.8 billion for the Iraq War through 2007: 23,728,801 Californians could have received free health care, or 8,872,491 students could have received scholarships to a California university, or 4,381 new elementary schools could have been built in the state, or 172,946 affordable housing units could have been built, or 871,622 elementary school teachers could have been hired.

The Boston Globe recently issued a report in which it examined what could be bought with the $611 billion that will represent the total spending for the war in Iraq after Bush’s latest appropriation request is voted in. The paper determined that the money spent on the war in Iraq so far could have provided every American citizen with free health care for over a year.

It’s something to ponder the next time you close your eyes.

_These statistics were provided by the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research group._