Paul L. Caron

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sarah Palin, Bruce Bartlett & Joe Thorndike on the War Tax

Following up on Tuesday's post, Democrats Propose Afghanistan War Tax -- "Pay As You Fight"

Really? A tax on national defense? I hear liberal Congressional proposals and I, like most Americans, wonder if they’re serious. We’re going to put a price tag on security?

With Congress and President Obama spending money on everything at breakneck speed, it’s interesting that they are only now getting nervous about spending – but only when it comes to providing the necessary funds to complete our mission in Afghanistan . They don’t need a new “war tax” to fund a strategy for victory in the war zone. They simply need to prioritize our money appropriately.

I find it telling that the Pelosi-Reid Congress is only cost-conscious when it comes to our national defense. Scary. Nonsensical. Unacceptable.

In recent years, Republicans have been characterized by two principal positions: They like starting wars and don't like paying for them. George W. Bush initiated two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but adamantly refused to pay for either of them by cutting non-military spending or raising taxes. Indeed, at his behest, Congress actually cut taxes and established a massive new entitlement program, Medicare Part D.

Bush's actions were unprecedented. During every previous major war in American history, presidents demanded sacrifices from rich and poor alike. ...

The White House has given no indication of how it plans to pay for expanding the war in Afghanistan. More than likely, it will follow the Bush precedent and just put it all on the national credit card. But at least some members of Congress believe that the time has come to start paying for war. On Nov. 19, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., introduced H.R. 4130, the "Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010." It would establish a 1% surtax on everyone's federal income tax liability plus an additional percentage on those with a liability over $22,600 (for couples filing jointly), such that revenue from the surtax would pay for the additional cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan.

It's doubtful that this legislation will be enacted. But that's not Obey's purpose. He will probably offer it as an amendment at some point just to have a vote. Republicans in particular will be forced to choose between continuing to fight a war that they started and still strongly support, or raising taxes, which every Republican in Congress would rather drink arsenic than do. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see those who rant daily about Obama's deficits explain why they oppose fiscal responsibility when it comes to supporting our troops. ...

If it takes the threat of a tax increase to get people to think seriously about whether it's worth continuing to fight wars far from home--wars that have only the most tenuous connection to the national interest--then it's a good idea. History shows that wars financed heavily by higher taxes, such as the Korean War and the first Gulf War, end quickly, while those financed largely by deficits, such as the Vietnam War and current Middle East conflicts, tend to drag on indefinitely.

If Americans aren't willing to follow John F. Kennedy and "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship" to fight a war, then we shouldn't be fighting it.

Will wonders never cease. After ignoring moral and economic imperaives for the better part of a decade, policymakers are finally talking about a war tax. New legislation proposed by Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., would impose a modest, graduated surtax to help fund the war in Afghanistan. Obey offered an obvious -- and obviously compelling -- argument for the proposal: “Regardless of whether one favors the war or not, if it is to be fought, it ought to be paid for.” ...

No, I'm not kidding myself: This tax has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell. But it's a fine thing to see at least a few well-placed few politicians step up to the plate. War taxes are one of the great moral issues in taxation. Historically, they have been a near constant of American politics (see my book for more on that argument). Only the post-9/11 wars have broken categorically with the American tradition of wartime sacrifice. It's time to rediscover a more noble past.

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George Bush sent too few troops to Iraq, without adequate body armor, and without adequate armor, so hedge fund managers could pay lower taxes than plumbers and nurses.

To steal a line from Ben Stein, that is immoral.

(conservative Repub, disgusted with both Repubs and alleged conservatives)

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt | Nov 28, 2009 3:01:19 PM

Why not eliminate unnecessary spending instead? Why not eliminate Davis Bacon which requires the government to pay the highest priced labor for contracting? Why not cut government employees and their pay and benefits? Fire a third of the civilian government workforce and give the rest a pay and benefits cut and there will be more than enough to pay for the war and then some.

Posted by: cubanbob | Nov 28, 2009 12:56:45 PM

Just cut out the Alice in Wonderland liberal spending, and there will be enough funds to fight the war. If that doesn't work, start by firing all the useless"Czars" and their staffs, then put a tax on the congressmen's PAC income. That ought to do it.

Posted by: Colonel | Nov 28, 2009 12:21:50 PM

Does Sarah Palin really think you can fight a war for free? Whether you put the price tag out for all to see (and help pay for) or not, wars cost dearly. IN lives and in greenbacks. It's high time we figured out how we are going to pay for the two Bush wars.

Posted by: Linda Beale | Nov 27, 2009 7:13:18 PM