Eighty-seven billion. That’s one billion, with a B – more money than you’ll ever have, multiplied by 87 times. $87 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bush requested this the other night, on top of a $350 billion tax cut earlier this year, from which I’m still waiting to see a single penny. Meanwhile, the federal deficit climbs over $500 billion, and the rest of the world is still waiting on those promised “weapons of mass destruction” to turn up outside Baghdad before they contribute to our Axis of Evil piggybank.

Is it worth it? The very same Mr. Bush vetoed over $2.6 billion in homeland security funding to protect our ports and first responders.

We’re still waiting to see how much it will cost to deal with North Korea, which has apparently gone nuclear on Bush’s watch and looks to be selling actual WMD technology to the highest bidders.

Of course there is no oil in North Korea, so we must not worry about that. And besides that minor problem of guarding American shores from terrorists, what else could we use $87 billion for?

The federal government in fiscal year 2003 is scheduled to spend approximately $90 billion on higher education, with about $65 billion going to direct financial aid.

So, if we had not needed to spend all that money helping Halliburton dig oil wells in Iraq or on scavenger hunts for non-existent WMDs, or on blowing up Saddam’s palaces with the “mother of all bombs” – before we let him get away, like Osama Bin Laden – perhaps that money could have been used to double your student aid.

Or perhaps it could have provided health insurance coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans, including eight million children, which one recent plan estimates would cost $88 billion. Perhaps each of the 2.8 million Americans who lost their jobs in the Bush recession could get extended unemployment benefits – $87 billion would provide over $30,000 for each of them.

I’m sure you could think up even more reasonable uses for $87 billion, like maybe covering a year or two of tuition at UR.

Perhaps if we limited those monster tax cuts, or just eliminated the $85 billion thrown away yearly in corporate subsidies to the Enrons of America, we could pay for it.

But all that might require actual sacrifice for Ken Lay and the rest of George Bush’s friends, and wouldn’t that be positively “un-American?” Heck, anyone who suggested that must hate America and hate our freedoms, like those gosh darn evil-doers. And you don’t really need that extra financial aid anyway, right?

Croston is a senior and can be reached at scroston@campustimes.org.

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