By Will Lester
WASHINGTON - The growing cost to the United States of fighting the war in Iraq 'is not only linked to our economic skid, but is a leading cause of it,' a Democratic congressman said Saturday.
John Yarmuth of Kentucky linked the costly, unpopular war with the growing economic troubles -- some say recession -- in this country.
Yarmuth said in the Democrats' weekly radio address that the testimony this week of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the Iraq war served as reminder of the billions of dollars being poured into Iraq as the U.S. economy struggles.
'General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker failed to offer a plan to change direction in Iraq and redeploy our troops,' Yarmuth said. 'Instead, they offered more of the same, with U.S. troops and taxpayers paying the price.'
The U.S. government has spent 'more than half-a-trillion dollars' in support of the war effort, while that money could be spent on pressing needs in this country, he said.
In February, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that pulling out of Iraq was the most named remedy for fixing U.S. economic problems.
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said a withdrawal would help the country's economic problems 'a great deal' and 20 percent more said it would help somewhat. Some 43 percent said increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs would help a great deal; 36 percent named cutting taxes.
'Across America, our roads and bridges are crumbling and are in desperate need of repair, yet taxpayer dollars are being squandered on an Iraqi government that is riddled with waste, fraud and corruption,' Yarmuth said.
He said 'the cost of one month in Iraq could extend the Children's Health Insurance Program, which the president vetoed, to 10 million children of working families for a full year.'
He noted that Congress has passed an economic stimulus package to send millions of Americans up to $1,200 that could provide a boost to the economy.
But Yarmuth isn't satisfied.
'We know we must do more,' he said, adding that Democrats are pushing for a second economic stimulus package to aid workers, their families and businesses.
The White House said the first economic stimulus package should be given a chance to work before a second is passed.