What I learned from reading Robert J. Samuelson's column {"Don't Worry About the War's Cost," op-ed, Jan. 30} was that I shouldn't worry about the cost of the Gulf war because it is bearable. What I've learned from watching the war is that America is willing to spend an additional $200 million to $1 billion every day for an indefinite time in order to defend countries in the Middle East.

But U.S. leaders insist that we cannot afford to spend anything like that to better educate and feed American children, construct sufficient low-income housing for the poor or provide adequate health care for all our citizens. Apparently, given current priorities, such increased domestic expenditures would not be bearable for most Americans and in fact would prove worrisome to those financial experts who control or monitor domestic and economic policy.

When the war is over and thousands of Iraqi, American and allied soldiers are dead, I expect that we will hear that we must reduce expenditures on domestic social programs, because we need to build new and even deadlier weapons or rebuild the Third World economies that the war has wrecked.

I just want to get this straight. This nation is capable of and willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars each day and untold lives in a distant desert, but it won't designate similar resources to improve the quality of life of its own citizens. And we have the silly notion that our nation is in the advance guard of world civilization. What has happened to our priorities, America?

JIM KEIL Silver Spring