Whenever there is mention of adding funds to social welfare programs, or infrastructure improvements, you can count on the political right to cry out, "We can't afford it!" But when talk turns to war or prisons, their financial concerns quickly disappear.
What the political right really means when they say "We can't afford it!" is that they would prefer to spend on policies that address their anger and soothe their fear. This preference was recently put under a bright spotlight when right-wing hero Dick Cheney said of military & defense spending, "That ought to be our top priority for spending. Not food stamps, not highways or anything else." The political right holds dear the common defense clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But the general welfare clauses? Neh, not so much.
To the great detriment of our culture, many Americans have a far greater capacity for anger & fear than they have for sympathy & care. And this goes a long way towards explaining why we've wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, when we could have improved things--on a gargantuan scale--within our own borders.