Rich Tucker

· $22.5 billion to increase the federal government’s role in education -- a 49 percent jump in spending since the year 2000.

· $400 billion for a Medicare prescription drug benefit (this proposal is before a House-Senate conference committee).

· A 4.1 percent raise for all federal employees (the administration had requested only 2.2 percent for civilian employees) and a 2.2 percent pay raise for members of Congress.

Clearly, there are plenty of places we could reduce spending if we wanted to, and we’d still have enough left over to invest in Iraq and make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. And the investment in Iraq is especially important, because the war on terrorism is one we can’t afford to lose.

If another terrorist incident like Sept. 11 occurs, the likely economic damage is estimated at $480 billion. So the $87 billion, if it helps prevent another attack, would be paying big dividends.

Now, consider what we’ve spent on a different “war,” the war on poverty that started in the 1960s. Through 2002, federal and state governments have spent $9.1 trillion on means-tested welfare payments.

Virtually all of that money was wasted, because it did little more than foster dependence and encourage single parenthood, two outcomes that are universally bad for society. If we can afford to throw that much money away over that many years, surely we can afford an investment that may well make us all safer in years to come.

$87 billion is a lot of money, and, sadly, it’s only the start. We’ll have to be ready to spend tens of billions of more, across many years, to win the war against terrorism. But -- when we’ve won the war -- we’ll look back and realize the investment was well worth the cost.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for