I had a very pleasant dinner this evening with a group that included David Carlson and Jeanne Schroeder, two professors from Cardozo law school, who were in Miami this week to give talks to the law school. The stimulating papers are unpublished, and I forgot to ask if they were ok to blog, so I won't. Profs. Carlson and Schroeder are, like Caroline and me, members of the rare group of married law faculty members who teach at the same school as their spouse.
Dinner conversation included a discussion of the Administration's $87 billion supplemental budget request for Iraq. David and I wanted to figure out how much this was per Iraqi, and how it compared to Iraq's pre-war GDP. But we realized we didn't know some basic facts about Iraq, so I promised to look them up when I got home. According to the CIA Factbook, Iraq today has an estimated population of just over 24,683,000, and (in 2002) had a GDP estimated at US$58 billion in purchasing power parity, giving it an estimated GDP per capita of about $2,400. (David's guess as to GDP was much better than mine, but I had a better guess as to the population.)
The Administration seeks $87 billion, but not all of it is for Iraq. According to the New York Times, “Of the $87 billion, military operations in Iraq would account for $50.5 billion. Military operations in Afghanistan would take up $11 billion, Iraqi reconstruction $20.3 billion, and Afghanistan reconstruction $800 million.”
Counting just the reconstruction grant, that makes a subsidy about equal to 40% of Iraq's former GDP, and about $960 for every Iraqi. Throw in what we are spending to occupy the country, and it's more than last year's Iraqi GDP, and about $3,230 per Iraqi.
Having seen these numbers, I've now cooked up a modest proposal for a US exit strategy from Iraq. Bring all the troops home. Give each Iraqi $3000 a year for the next year or two, and count on the free market to conduct the reconstruction for us at much greater efficiency than we would otherwise achieve.
Ok, I'm kidding. I think I'm kidding. Yes, I'm kidding. Definitely kidding. We can't do that until shortly before the election….
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This got picked up by Eschaton and they are discussing this idea over at Atrios’s discussion forum.