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Poll: 71 percent think Iraq spending hurts economy

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  • Only 36 percent polled said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over
  • Washington Post: Iraq war will wind up costing the U.S. government about $3 trillion
  • President Bush disputed notion that the war was negatively affecting the economy
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(CNN) -- More than 7 out of 10 Americans think government spending on the war in Iraq is partly responsible for the economic troubles in the United States, according to results of a recent poll.

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President Bush meets with his economic team at the White House on Monday.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last weekend, 71 percent said they think U.S. spending in Iraq is a reason for the nation's poor economy. Twenty-eight percent said they didn't think so.

The weekend poll, timed to coincide with the Iraq war's fifth anniversary, also showed little U.S. support for the conflict. Fewer than one in three respondents -- 32 percent -- said they support the war, while 66 percent said they oppose it.

Sixty-one percent of those polled said the next president should remove most U.S. troops from Iraq "within a few months of taking office."

Only 36 percent of those polled said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over -- down from 68 percent in March 2003, when the war began.

The poll surveyed 1,019 adult Americans from March 14 to 16.

The economy question ties together the nation's two dominant political issues in a presidential election year -- the Iraq war, which enters its sixth year on Wednesday, and a faltering U.S. economy that most Americans believe is in recession.

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In a Washington Post editorial column earlier this month, a pair of leading economists projected that the Iraq war will wind up costing the U.S. government about $3 trillion, including factors such as future disability payments for injured veterans, interest payments on money borrowed to finance the war, and the costs resulting from disrupted oil markets.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor who chaired President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, and Linda J. Bilmes, a former chief financial officer at the Commerce Department who now teaches at Harvard University, wrote the column.

They said the combination of the war's cost and a Bush-backed tax cut led to deficit borrowing, and they predicted the economic fallout of that spending would result in the nation's largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

"Others will have to work out the geopolitics, but the economics here are clear," the pair wrote. "Ending the war, or at least moving rapidly to wind it down, would yield major economic dividends."

A White House spokesman said the war had cost the U.S. $406.2 billion through December 2007. The spokesman said the economists "throw everything in the kitchen sink" into the study, including costs like interest on the national debt, and called the projection "exaggerated."

And President Bush, speaking on NBC's "Today" last month, disputed the notion that the war was negatively affecting the economy.

"I think actually the spending in the war might help with jobs ... because we're buying equipment and people are working," he said. "I think this economy is down because we built too many houses and the economy's adjusting."

Most economists say the United States has not officially entered a recession -- which is commonly defined as negative economic growth for two or more consecutive quarters. But some economists disagree, and a recent poll suggested that nearly three out of four Americans -- 74 percent -- think the country already is in a recession.

Nationally, home foreclosures are up as the subprime lending market continues to struggle -- with 223,000 reported last month, compared with less than 140,000 in February 2007.

U.S. employers have cut 85,000 jobs so far this year -- the most in four years -- according to the U.S. Labor Department. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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