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DC, the Core

How Much Have You Paid for the Wars?

Posted April 12, 2024 at 5:00 PM EDT
It’s been half a year into the war in Gaza and over two years since the war in Ukraine began. Have you ever wondered how much these two wars have cost you?

As of this week, the Israel-Hamas war has stretched on for half a year, while the Ukraine war has surpassed its grim two-year anniversary. In the backdrop of these conflicts, the US has been backing the wars with real money. Governments primarily derive money from tax revenues.

There exists a stereotype suggesting that all Asian Americans excel in maths. Today, we will do the maths for you: let’s calculate how much each average person in the US has contributed to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza through their tax dollars.

First, let’s examine how much the US has spent on the two wars separately.

I’d like to start with the most recent war in Gaza.

According to data from the Council on Foreign Relations, Israel and the US have a 10-year memorandum of understanding. This agreement stipulates that the US provides Israel with $3.3 billion annually in foreign military financing, along with $500 million for Israeli and joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs. Altogether, the US offers Israel $3.8 billion each year.

According to updated data from the Department of State, the US has allocated $115 billion to Ukraine since the war began. The conflict has persisted for two years, which means the US provides Ukraine $57.5 billion in annual financial aid.

To put these numbers into perspective, let's make some comparisons.

The $3.8 billion provided to Israel annually by the US is greater than the annual spending on veteran homelessness prevention. The financial aid to Ukraine is roughly equivalent to the amount the US federal government has spent on highways over the same period.

Then, let’s calculate how much money the average people living in the US spends on the wars.

Many married individuals file jointly, making it challenging to accurately determine the total number of taxpayers in the US based on tax return files alone. It's important to note that taxpayers include not only US citizens but also residents who may not have income. Even individuals living in the US without citizenship or income still contribute to federal tax revenue through consumption, as sales tax is applied to purchases. As a result, we roughly estimate the average by considering the number of adults in the US.

According to data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021, the estimated number of adults over the age of 18 living in the U.S. is 258.3 million. Additionally, the non-partisan think tank Center for American Progress indicates that individual income taxes account for approximately 77% of the tax money the government takes in that it can actually spend however it wants.

So, the average spending by individuals in the US on the Ukraine War is:

$115 billion, divided by 258.3 million people, then multiplied by 77%, equals approximately $343; that is about $170 per person per year.

$115 billion ➗ 258.3 million ✖️ 77% 🟰 $343

$343 ➗ 2 🟰 $171.5

The average financial aid by individuals in the US to Israel is:

$3.8 billion, divided by 258.3 million people, then multiplied by 77%, equals approximately $11.

$3.8 billion ➗ 258.3 million ✖️ 77% 🟰 $11.3

That's a rough estimate, so it's important not to take it too seriously. However, these numbers do give us a better understanding of the financial impact of the wars on average people living in the US. It comes out to about $360 per person. Were you expecting the figure to be that high? Does it resonate with you?

Don't underestimate your ability to make a difference, whether you're willing or not. You can weigh in through your votes.

It is Congress that determines how the US government allocates funds. After a two-week recess, Congress is back in session this week. One of their immediate tasks is to decide whether to extend financial aid to Ukraine. In terms of foreign affairs, the President of the United States is responsible for numerous decisions.

Both federal lawmakers and the President of the United States are elected officials. We can express our preference towards their policy through voting. Similarly, we can pick our representatives through voting to impact policymaking, no matter whether it’s domestic issues or foreign affairs.

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