The Trillion Dollar War of Choice and the Constraints on Macro Policy

by Guest Author Menzie Chinn

The cost of the Iraq War has reached almost trillion dollars – at least $805.6 billion as of the end of September, not including debt service and additional reset costs; around $940 billion including interest payments.

As the US economy faces the prospects of stagnant growth or recession, it is of interest to see why the scope for fiscal policy is so circumscribed — that is, why is the debt level so high given that in the last year of the Clinton Administration we were paying down debt? Figure 1 depicts part of the answer (other parts, here).