Obey's war surtax would cover 6% of war spending -- but Congress thinks even that's too much
David Obey's effort to fund the expansion of the Afghanistan war with a surtax is running into some opposition. Evan Bayh, who generally presents himself as a paragon of fiscal rectitude, flatly said it's not going to happen. "National security comes first," he said, though it's not clear how paying for a war relegates it to coming second. Ben Nelson wants to sell war bonds, which is to say, he wants us to borrow.
But unlike on health care, Bayh and Nelson don't much matter. They are not the 59th and 60th vote you're going to need for this policy, because they aren't opposed to expanding the war. Liberals, conversely, are. In theory, the hawks should be the ones who need to make concessions here, because the liberals are presumably willing to let the war come to a quick end. Sadly, that may not prove the case: Laura Rozen reports that Obey's bill isn't likely to see the floor of the House, much less the president's desk.
This is, to put it simply, insane. As Annie Lowrey points out, Obey isn't trying to make the Iraq and Afghanistan wars deficit-neutral. He's not even trying to pay for the total 2010 spending on the two wars. The 1 percent surtax would fund one of the wars, for one year. And even that's proving too much. We're not just unwilling to pay for these wars. We're unwilling to pay for 6 percent of these wars. To put that number in context, the Senate health-care bill pays for 114 percent of itself. And people say that's not enough!
As Matt Yglesias comments, nobody seems to really think there are national interests at stake that are critical enough to be worth paying slightly higher taxes for. But if a war's not worth paying for, how can it be worth fighting? And if we don't pay for the war in the FY 2010 budget, we still need to pay back the loans."
On some level, I understand the congressional opposition. Taxes are unpopular. But this town is packed full of deficit hawks. Where are the editorial pages on this? Where's the Peterson Institute? David Walker? The Committee for a Responsible Budget? Politics might stop at the water's edge, but spending certainly doesn't, and nor does debt.
Photo credit: Lawrence Jackson/Associated Press .
December 1, 2009; 3:39 PM ET
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