The Iraq War: What It's Costing Us Here At Home Part 3: Transportation Infrastructure - As Prepared For Delivery

The Iraq War: What It's Costing Us Here At Home Part 3: Transportation Infrastructure - As Prepared For Delivery

M. President,

This is the third speech I've stood up to give in a series about what the Iraq war is costing us here at home, beyond the 3,839 lives lost and 28,327 Americans injured.

Since I started giving these speeches two weeks ago, $5 billion more is gone from the treasury and has been spent in Iraq. It brings the total amount taken from the American people's pockets to $455 billion. Next month, we'll be taking another $10 billion will be, sentding it off to Iraq-and it'll be gone forever.
Americans trusted the government with that money. When the numbers are that outrageously high, we all have to be constantly asking ourselves a simple question: what's going to make a bigger difference in our lives, using the money to fix the major problems we have to face every day, or fighting a war that has achieved nothing for any of us?

Could America have gotten more out of that money spending it on hospitals, life-saving cancer research; schools and universities; food for the needy; roads, train tracks, bridges and airports-or on the catastrophe that is the War in Iraq?
The Bush Administration likes to parrot the line that "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." But Americans have figured out that what they mean is, "We're spending all our money over there so we don't spend it here."

M. President, I've already spoken about the massive holes in homeland security that the war funding could have closed. I've spoken about the difference that funding could have made for millions of Americans who have to play Russian roulette with their lives because they don't have health insurance. ...
including the millions of children who would be covered under the bill currently before us - a bill the president threatens to veto while asking for $200 billion in war funding this year alone.

Today I'd like to talk about what America would look like if we spent the money George Bush is spending on failing to rebuild Iraq, to repair our battered infrastructure at home. {CHART 2}

There is no way to put a price tag on the immense frustration we all can feel with our systems of transportation.

If you've ever slammed your hands on your steering wheel because traffic is unbearable, so you're going to miss your meeting or be late to pick up your child at school;
if you've ever had your train delayed, or been jammed inside a subway car that was not built to carry the number of people who are stuffed in there;

if you've ever been stuck waiting in an airport terminal, or trapped in a plane sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off for hours-then you know our transportation systems are stretched to the limit.

And sometimes they just break. Thirteen people paid the ultimate price and a hundred more were injured after the terrible, tragic collapse of a bridge in Minnesota a few months ago.
It's scary how easily that could happen again. Here's a truly shocking statistic: the number of bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in this country is enormous: it's about 160,000 bridges, or 25% of all bridges. That means if you've driven over four bridges, the odds are one of them was not in great shape. That's incredibly scary.

So what does it cost to stop another tragedy like the one in Minneapolis from happening? The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the cost of maintaining and replacing obsolete or deteriorating bridges is about $7.4 billion a year.
And that's just the cost of staying even and not allowing the overall quality of our bridges to deteriorate further.

If we spent on transportation what we spend on the Iraq War, we could pay off that entire cost in twenty-two days. Twenty-two days.

That's what the War costs. Bridges you can feel confident driving over.... confident that you'll get home safe with your family. Versus less than a month in Iraq.

Today, construction is beginning on the Minneapolis bridge that will replace the one that collapsed. The cost: $234 million. We spend that money in Iraq in less than one day.

{CHART 3} Americans are feeling the hassle of commuting by car or plane, especially for long distances. Oil prices are hitting record highs. Many fear that petroleum production is reaching a peak. Burning oil thickens our air with smog and stokes the fires of the global climate crisis, threatening to drown buildings on our coastlines under water and create massive droughts inland.

If we don't create viable transportation options that will end our dependence on oil, America is going to be in big, big trouble.

With all this in mind, yesterday the Senate passed a bill to boost funding to Amtrak. We passed that bill so the great American relationship with the railroad could be restored and brought to new peaks of excellence.

Funding for the Amtrak bill would be $19.2 billion over six years. That money would make passenger transportation easier. It would improve rail security. It would make our air cleaner. And it would be a boost to the economy.

But just like every appropriations bill that has come to the President's desk under the Democratic Congress, the Administration has argued that we just don't have the money for good public transportation.

While George Bush's mouth is moving, his hand is signing checks for other things. What the Amtrak bill would spend in 6 years, the President spends in Iraq in under two months.
That's what the war costs. Vastly improved American railroads. Versus two months of bloody chaos in Iraq.

The costs of this war are unimaginable. The Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that the Iraq War will cost $1.9 trillion dollars.

It is incredibly hard to put that number into perspective. Just so we get an idea of how vast that sum is: paving the entire Interstate Highway System, over the course of three-and-a-half decades, only cost $425 billion. And some estimates say the Interstate Highway System returns $6 for every $1 spent.
The Iraq War has returned zero dollars for every billion dollars spent.

Just so we get an idea of how vast that sum is, with the money spent in Iraq, we could pave a 4-lane American highway from Chicago to Milwaukee with an entire inch of solid gold. If you made the thickness less than one inch, you could easily gild a highway from sea to shining sea.

That's what the war costs. It costs so much, the amount of money starts to exceed what it would cost to pay for even our most ludicrous dreams.

We have to use our imaginations as to where that money could go, because for a lot of it, we really don't know where it's going.
Billions of dollars have just gone missing in Iraq. And according to a report released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq earlier this week, the rest has largely failed to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. Meanwhile, infrastructure in American still needs serious help. {CHART 4}

M. President, it is time for us to make a choice: will we put this country on the track to recovery, or watch it barrel down the rails to deterioration?
Will we pave the highway to success for our people, or leave that road to rust and rot?

Will we watch our economy take off, the aspirations and dreams of our people soar to new heights, or will we ground our nation, leaving thousands to face the congestion that gridlocks so many forms of transportation in so many places, leave thousands waiting in the terminals of frustration-waiting, for something to change, for something finally to change?

Thinking about our transportation needs is another way to think about what we want the United States of America to look like as a nation. And those needs are yet another reason it is time to end this war.
Because when it comes to the failed War in Iraq, American families are tired of being taken for a ride.

M. President, it is time to soar again. It is time to reinforce with the strongest iron and steel the bridges to safety and success, time to clear off the barricades from the road to opportunity, time to put America on the highest-speed track we can, and to make sure we are always first in flight, high above the clouds.