Great countries fall because their economies fail, our pal Ezra Klein writes today. Osama bin Laden set out to bankrupt America, betting that American leaders would spend trillions – every last cent in the Treasury – on trying to defeat him:
[I]t isn’t quite right to say bin Laden cost us all that money. We decided to spend more than a trillion dollars on homeland security measures to prevent another attack. We decided to invade Iraq as part of a grand, post-9/11 strategy of Middle Eastern transformation. We decided to pass hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts and add an unpaid-for prescription drug benefit in Medicare while we were involved in two wars. And now, partially though not entirely because of these actions, we are deep in debt. Bin Laden didn’t — couldn’t — bankrupt us. He could only provoke us into bankrupting ourselves. And he came pretty close.
All told, we lost twice as many American troops in the two declared wars that followed 9-11 as we lost people on 9-11 itself. We’ve spent an approximately crazy amount on the wars themselves. To recover from this, Republicans now want to cut taxes for the wealthy and end Medicare as we know it. And that’s where we are, year 10.