Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities “squabble over crumbs,” as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon’s coffers and into America’s wars. He’s so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he’s decided to do something about it. He’s planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the faÃ§ade of City Hall with a large, digital “cost of war” counter, funded entirely by private contributions.
That counter will offer a constantly changing estimate of the total price Binghamton’s taxpayers have been paying for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. By September 30, 2010, the city’s “war tax” will reach $138.6 million — or even more if, as expected, Congress passes an Obama administration request for supplemental funds to cover the president’s “surge” in Afghanistan. Mayor Ryan wants, he says, to put the counter “where everyone can see it, so that my constituents are urged to have a much-needed conversation.”