October 5, 2007

Why Not Just Cut Other Spending?

Even though Democratic leadership has run as fast as possible from David Obey's "war tax" proposal, E.J. Dionne wants it reconsidered. In today's column, Dionne wonders why conservatives who support the war don't support using a surtax to pay for it. He suggests that fiscal responsibility would demand a "yes" vote from Republicans, but fails to recognize the hypocrisy from the other side of the aisle:

But it's a shame that Democrats remain so defensive on the tax issue that they aren't willing to bring this proposal to the floor. What if the price for passing President Bush's supplemental appropriation were a tax to cover its costs? What if opponents of the war voted no because they are against Bush's policy and Republicans voted no because they think low taxes are more important than national security as they define it?

That's an aggressive way to frame any such antitax "no" votes, but it's also accurate. If a war appropriations bill with a tax included went down to overwhelming defeat, wouldn't that tell us something about the depth of commitment to this war?

The Obey surtax, co-sponsored by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and John Murtha (D-Pa.), envisions a sliding scale running from roughly 2 percent on the taxes paid by lower-income Americans to 15 percent on upper-income Americans. Since wars are waged, in principle, on behalf of the entire country, this is the rare Democratic tax proposal that does not put the entire burden on the rich.

Rare? Dionne goes on to use George Bush's veto of S-CHIP as an argument for this tax, but Dionne seems to forget that the S-CHIP expansion championed by Democrats gets funded by a highly regressive cigarette tax. That particular fundraiser would take money primarily from poor and working class people and transfer it into subsidies for middle-class families to avoid paying for health insurance for their children. Other proposed taxes would bite at capital investment, which creates the jobs needed by the non-rich. Nothing the Democrats have proposed puts the "entire burden" on the rich.

The war surtax died of its own silliness and hypocrisy. The Democrats have proposed new spending that total in the hundreds of billions of dollars since they came to the majority in Congress. Their presidential candidates propose hundreds of billions more in government programs if elected. If Obey wanted to find the money for the Iraq war, why not just cut some of that spending, rather than increase the tax burden on any class?

We have massive entitlement programs that have careened towards bankruptcy for years. Have Democrats done anything to solve those problems? On the contrary; they spent 2005 and 2006 denying they exist. They want to add more entitlement programs, expand those which already exist, and drag more money out of the private sector to pay for all of these pandering disasters. Then they have the nerve to demand that Americans pay for a tax on one of the few actual functions of the federal government because they can't find $150 billion out of $2.7 trillion to cover it.

This is the argument that Dionne neatly avoids. The truth is that national security should get higher prioritization than subsidizing middle-class health insurance. It should get higher prioritization than everything that Democrats have proposed adding to the national budget. If Obey and the Democrats think that Iraq has nothing to do with national security, then they should defund the deployment, not slap new taxes on the American people for the sake of sophistry. If they don't want to do that, then do what Americans across the country do -- live within their means.


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» Democrats: Working to Turn Americans Against the War from QT Monster's Place
For the past few years, now and then, Democrats like Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York have tried to saddle our country with an unnecessary military draft. The reason, IMO? To turn public opinion against the war. Last week, Democrat David Obey proposed a... [Read More]

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