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U.S. economy under attack

For more than 40 years after World War II the two remaining superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were engaged in a struggle which became known as the “Cold War.” On the surface the Cold War was a military arms race to develop nuclear missile superiority and a contest for political dominance throughout the world. But underneath, it was a war of attrition between the two country’s economies. In the end, although our national debt mushroomed to $4 trillion (over $40,000 per U.S. household), it was the Soviet economy which collapsed under the strain.

We won that economic showdown, but we are now faced with an attack on our economy of an entirely different nature. Terrorism is far more than solely a threat to our lives and infrastructure. It has the potential of bringing down our economy. Just the continuing cost of attempting to defend ourselves against unknown types of attacks from unknown sources in unknown places and at unknown times will place a staggering burden on our economy, at a cost to the terrorists which is a pittance by comparison. We will be spending untold billions in this conflict, which could go on for decades – billions for a huge new federal bureaucracy, billions for security forces in all aspects of our lives, billions for detection of and protection from chemical, biological, and radiological threats. And all the terrorists have to do to goad us into redoubling our efforts, and the accompanying financial burden, is to step up their level of messages among themselves. Unfortunately all of these expenditures will add absolutely nothing to our productive capacity, and will be a never-ending drag on our economy.

Add to that the cost of the damage which terrorist attacks can cause, and the emotional impact on our society and productivity, and you have a cost burden of gargantuan proportions. The question is how much of this can our already weakened economy tolerate?



And what is really tragic is that our economy is also under attack from within our own country by our own people. Unimaginable uncontrolled greed has led to corporate corruption on a massive scale, which has precipitated trillions of dollars in loss of personal income, retirement savings and stock values so a few fat cats could get far richer than there is any reason for. These financial losses and resultant loss of confidence in our system have been another major blow to our economy.

Sadly, even our own government is making a bad situation even worse. Can the Bush administration really believe it can fight a war which could cost hundreds of billions of dollars followed by unknown billions of dollars per year to support occupation forces for up to a decade, while at the same time cutting taxes, without having an adverse effect on our economy? A mushrooming national debt is certainly no strategy for strengthening an ailing economy. And every time our president pounds the drum for war the stock market takes another hit, uncertainty discourages business investment which could expand job opportunities and slow or reverse growing unemployment, and the price of oil jumps – still another blow to the economy.



Taken altogether, how many of these hits can our economy take without going the way of the Russian economy? Instead of adding to our troubles, the administration should be seeking ways to strengthen our economy by reducing rather than increasing the threat of terrorism, and avoiding the adverse impacts of a war which may be our undoing and no one seems to want.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday.


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