The post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have been fought with borrowed money, enough to require up to $8 trillion in interest payments in coming decades, a new report says.
Unlike America’s previous wars, its 21st-century conflicts have been paired not with a tax hike or massive sale of U.S. bonds, but a tax cut. The federal government has been operating at a deficit since 2002, accruing a national debt that now totals $20 trillion and counting.
“We have to recognize that we have been borrowing for 16 years to pay for military operations,” said Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s the “first time really in history with any major conflict that we have borrowed rather than ask people to contribute to the national defense directly, and the result is we’ve got this huge fiscal drag…that we’re not really accounting for or factoring into deliberations about fiscal policy as well as military policy.”
The 2017 report from Brown University’s Costs of War Project arrives as U.S. lawmakers and President Donald Trump strive to enact tax changes that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt.