1967 and the Vietnam War was dragging on – it had escalated and it was starting to look like a war of attrition. In early 1967 it was learned that the budget for fighting this war had been under-calculated to the tune of some $10 billion in 1966. Already estimated to cost $10 billion, it was soon discovered that the number was off by another $10 billion. In short, the cost of waging a questionable war in Vietnam was estimated at $20 Billion for one year. In 1967 that was a princely sum – a sum so large, it would put a dent in our economy – a sum widely feared would bring fiscal ruin to the U.S. – the cost of waging war was no cheap proposition – but to blow that estimate by double, really took some doing.
But as we found out later, so much of what we wound up doing in Vietnam was grossly exaggerated – even down to enemy casualties – it was no small wonder public sentiment was in the process of turning with regards to continuing the War in Vietnam – and was becoming more in favor of a negotiated settlement and withdrawal rather than drag what was becoming an unwinable and untenable excursion in the Far East. The cost in lives was serious enough – the cost in terms of Americas economic standing had long-term and far-reaching consequences.
In this episode of Meet The Press, Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisc.), the newly appointed Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, is questioned over the release of President Johnson’s Economic Report. In it, the committee reported the findings of this “$10 Billion Goof” – the Meet The Press panel, somewhat incredulous, asks Proxmire; “with all the committees, oversight and cross-checking, how did such a “goof” go unnoticed?” The general consensus of the panel was that Capitol Hill had no clue.
And lest you think wars have changed in the way they are paid for, and where the money goes – you are sadly mistaken.
Here is that episode of Meet The Press featuring Senator William Proxmire, from February 4, 1967.