We've hocked education, now what else have we got? - Diane Wagner

There is undoubtedly some uneasiness arising out of the Bush Administration's request for $87 billion to help rebuild Iraq, but there is one thing people seem to have forgotten.

Congress just gave them $79 billion in April.

That's right: $166 billion is the real price tag, so far.

To put that into a little perspective, we are facing huge increases in school taxes this year and next – along with a probable free-fall in quality education – and the state only needs a lousy $567 million to put everything back where it was two years ago.

It takes more than 200 times $567 million to make the Iraq budget, as it is so far.

And you've got to admire Vice President Dick Cheney's restraint. On "Meet the Press" this weekend, he said he thinks the $166 billion should do it, at least for this year.

It's right nice of him to be so soothing. Especially since his friends in Halliburton have only managed to eke $2 billion out of the rebuilding pie for themselves, so far. Granted, they didn't have the expense of preparing a bid proposal, since the Administration awarded that contract without taking bids. But, still.

However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pretty much said "Whatchoo talkin' bout, Willis?"

As he made the Sunday talk-show rounds, Rumsfeld refused to get boxed into Cheney's corner. Is $166 billion enough for this year? Maybe, Rumsfeld said. You've got to admire a guy who refuses to outright lie to the American public.

State budgets across the country are spiraling out of control from the double-whammy of an economic slump and the federal government's cutback on funding. Seattle's even mulling a (gasp) surtax on lattes to pay for daycare.

On Friday Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn said there are going to be new rules about getting money for local mass transit programs. Instead of a 20 percent match, states are going to have to come up with half the dough in order to be eligible for federal transportation money.

Well, really, the money can only stretch so far and I'm sure Iraq needs a rail system too. Or paved roads, anyway. We shouldn't expect our government to just hand us things on a silver platter.

I'm a little concerned, though, because we're also responsible for rebuilding Afghanistan. Remember, we took out the Taliban in 2001 and promised to make the country safe again for freedom-loving people.

On Friday, leftover Taliban launched a rocket attack on the International Security Assistance Force compound in Kabul. And Kurds are not the only Afghani complaining that their streets are meaner than they were before we came.

And what price Bosnia?

My question is, after we've hocked our education programs, Medicaid and maybe social security, how are we going to pay Halliburton next year?

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.