Saturday, November 21, 2009

Carl Levin Has A Surefire Way To End The War: Tax The Rich To Pay For It


Actually, it isn't just Carl Levin who is standing up and saying that if Obama wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan he's going to have to figure out how to pay for it without charging our great, great grandchildren, Bush and Cheney having already bankrupt our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Keep in mind that each additional soldier in Afghanistan costs around $1 million, which means $40 billion MORE if 40,000 new troops are added. Three very senior Democrats in the House, David Obey (WI), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, John Murtha (PA), chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and John Larson (CT), chairman of the Democratic Caucus introduced legislation that would impose a surtax beginning in 2011 to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For the last year, as we’ve struggled to pass health care reform, we’ve been told that we have to pay for the bill-- and the cost over the next decade will be about a trillion dollars,” the three lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Now the president is being asked to consider an enlarged counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, which proponents tell us will take at least a decade and would also cost about a trillion dollars. But unlike the health care bill, that would not be paid for. We believe that’s wrong.”

Discussing the idea earlier this month, Murtha said he knew the bill would not be enacted and that advocates of a surtax were simply trying to send a message about the moral obligation to pay for the wars.

“The only people who’ve paid any price for our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are our military families,” Murtha, Obey and Larson said in a joint statement. “We believe that if this war is to be fought, it’s only fair that everyone share the burden.”

The bill would require the president to set the surtax so that it fully pays for the previous year’s war cost. But it would allow for a one-year delay in the implementation of the tax if the president determines that the economy is too weak to sustain that kind of tax change. It also would exempt military members who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, along with their families, and the families of soldiers killed in combat.

Levin was more specific about where the tax burden should fall: an “additional income tax to the upper brackets, folks earning more than $200,000 or $250,000” a year, could fund more troops, Levin, will announce in an interview on “Political Capital With Al Hunt this weekend.

The impetus and support for the Afghan war is with Republicans but there's no way they'll support a war that has to be paid for, especially not by rich people. The Republican strategy is to run up big bills with wasteful wars in order to kill off social programs like Medicare and Social Security. Last spring when Obama presented his supplemental war budget the first time he had overwhelming Republican support, but when it came back from the Senate with some price tags on it to pay for other Administration priorities, the GOP bailed en masse. In fact, the money would have been cut off if just another few Democratic congressmen who had run on anti-war platforms had stuck to their words and opposed the supplemental. As is only 32 courageous Democrats broke with the war machine and did do that.

This week Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation offers Obama some advice he'd be wise to take: take seriously, very seriously, the letter the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent requesting an alternative to escalation is Afghanistan.
The legislators write that their "perspectives have manifested…via Congressional Progressive Caucus Member-led legislation" including: a timeline for eventual troop withdrawal, prohibiting funds for additional troop surges, reorienting the mission so that 80 percent of US resources are devoted to economic and political development and 20 percent towards security, and prioritizing diplomacy and development over the use of force.

"We now have an opportunity to realign our defense development and diplomatic engagement to ensure political, economic, and social security for a nation deeply impoverished," the letter closes. "This new tack, if taken today, can transform the conflict while remaining consistent with America's strategic interests."

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