Single day of Iraq War money could completely reshape San Juan Island

As the war in Iraq enters its sixth year, I wonder if there just might be a better use for the $380 million* a day it costs.

For the sake of fantasy, let’s say the war shut down for just one day and all that money was sent to San Juan Island for islanders to use as they see fit. Here is how I would spend it:

First, I’d give every man, woman and child who resides on the island a real tax rebate check, at $20,000. (Cost: $15 million)

Next, I’d build the hospital we’ve dreamed about, only I’d make it bigger and stock it with high-paying jobs for islanders. (Cost: $40 million).

To help the housing shortage, I’d put the 23 houses currently on the market for less than $400,000 and give them to Homes for Islanders. (Cost: $8 million)

Those school-age kids, who represent our greatest natural resource, deserve a little attention. How about we give every teacher and administrator a 20 percent raise, increase the school budget by $2 million a year and establish a $5 million scholarship fund for deserving graduates? (Cost: $20 million)

A lot of good work is done on the island by non-profit organizations. How about we give each one a check for $200,000? (Cost: $20 million)

Lastly, for families like Matt Johnson’s, who are either underinsured or not insured at all, to deal with medical emergencies! (Cost: $10 million)

Adding up what I just spent comes to a little over $100 million, or in money spent on the war about seven hours’ worth. I suppose I could get really wild spending the rest and spring for a couple of new ferries and buy everyone a month in Hawaii, but why not give the dough to the other islands and let them have fun too?

— * According to economics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, the federal government will have spent more than $800 billion by the end of 2008 on the combat operations, which by my calculations comes out to roughly $380 million a day. (Try entering that number into your calculator.)

Mike Buettell
Friday Harbor