Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Quickest Way to End the War & Save America from Fiscal Collapse: Tax the Rich

Over the weekend CBS News carried a rather interesting report that caught our attention:

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat and the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is arguing that wealthy taxpayers should perhaps shoulder the cost of sending additional troops in Afghanistan. In an interview for Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," the senator suggests funding additional troops with an "additional income tax to the upper brackets, folks earning more than $200,000 or $250,000."
White House Budget Director Peter Orszag has put the cost of each additional troop at $1 million. The top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has reportedly requested 40,000 new troops to be added to the roughly 70,000 U.S. troops (and 40,000 troops from other countries) there now.
First of all we would like to point out that folks earning ~$200,000 are not exactly rich, given the enormous cost of funding one's children’s education, personal retirement and healthcare. Having said that we would like to state that we wholeheartedly support the tax for the following reasons:
  1. For most Americans the war has become a surreal movie that we watch comfortably seated on our couches, while our brave soldiers fight on foreign soil. Because the battle ground is thousands of miles away, our daily lives have been unaffected by the "theater of war" and the stark reality of resultant human suffering has never really hit home. We are no closer to solving the problem of terrorism but our soldiers are exhausted from having served 4-5 active duty missions. Despite their weariness we still want to push them back into the battle field, because many of us think that, that is the only way to support our troops. It is not. Patriotism is not the blind support of endless wars.
  2. As the highly regarded ex-army Colonel Andrew Bacevich (who lost his son in the Iraq war) has pointed out, America's response to the problem of terrorism has been disproportionate. Rather than engaging in endless and costly wars, we should have addressed the problem by beefing up border security and immigration. To target terrorists on foreign soil, we should have set up elite global counter-terrorism and intelligence task forces (in conjunction with our allies) that would smoke-out the terrorists wherever they were hiding.
  3. However, instead of focusing on terrorism, the goal of the war has morphed into impossible and indefinite projects such as bringing democracy to the Middle East. This was never our goal, and we definitely cannot afford such a lofty mission. Throughout history the Middle East has been beset by warring factions of tribes that rule based on regional and religious boundaries. Democracy is a concept that is alien to the region and nearly impossible to implement. And since when did imposing democracy become the goal of America? China is not democratic and our government is fine with that set up.
Bill Moyer's in a recent documentary drawing parallels between Lyndon Johnson’s deliberations on Vietnam with Obama’s on Afghanistan poignantly concludes:
"Once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.
Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the [Afghan] government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.
And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.
And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision. We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes".
In the face of a $12 trillion national debt soon going to $14 trillion, 10.2% official unemployment and 17.5% unofficial employment, a rapidly declining dollar and rapidly worsening housing and economic crisis, can we really afford to spend hundreds of billions of dollar fighting these wars? Wouldn’t all this money be better spent trying to stop domestic problems from unraveling our country?
Which is why we support levying a war tax. Although such a tax would be vigorously opposed, it will serve an important purpose - by bringing the reality of war into our wallets it will finally force us to answer the tough question - Can we really afford it?

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