Monday, November 30, 2009

Call Their Bluff

Tuesday, President Obama will lay out his plans for the war in Afghanistan (or rather a 'police action,' war having not been declared.) There is some understandable concern among liberals/progressives- the majority of those who voted for Mr. Obama last November- and Digby suggested one more yesterday. She quotes from an adoring portrait of General David Petraeus in Sunday's Parade magazine, concluding

All I do know is that when I read that glowing article in Parade over my toast and coffee this morning, I could hear millions of Americans saying, "that guy would make a great president." I'd be very surprised if The Man Called Petraeus couldn't hear that too.

But before that, Digby speculates

2012 seems too soon and he's so firmly involved in the war planning that if he were to run against Obama he would have to quit because Obama wasn't following his recommendations.(I wonder if that might be playing into Obama's decision making?)

But it need not play into the President's calculations. After much "dithering" (after all, why consider pros and cons when we can just rush into a war in which American men and women would be killed?), Obama can make a considered, rational decision balancing the perceived advantages to national security of escalation and the cost to the American taxpayer.

Health care reform, according to President Obama, must pay for itself, and as fashioned, will be favorable to the budget. Now, through months of CBO estimates, GOP attacks on health care reform as being financially irresponsible and a budget-buster, and efforts by the Democratic President and the Democratic Congress to prove otherwise, a portion of our attention now turns to Afghanistan. A few Democrats, most notably House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin

have proposed a graduated surtax, beginning in 2011, to pay for the war. Their bill would impose a 1% surtax on people earning less than $150,000. The tax hike would be higher for people earning between $150,000 and $250,000 a year, and double that for people with higher incomes. The bill does not give exact figures for what upper surtax rates would be, but says that they would be high enough to cover the previous year's war costs.

It would exempt veterans of combat since Sept. 11, 2001, their families, and the relatives of those killed in action. The president could delay implementation of the tax for a year if he concluded that the economy was too weak.

Opposition to the idea already has surfaced. California's Jerry Lewis (apparently far more humorous than his namesake), a supporter of the Iraq War- which thus far has cost over $705 billion- has cried

Americans are already being taxed to death. . . . It's time for them to understand that we don't need yet another job-killing tax. We need to better prioritize the resources we have.

Some Republicans- not all- would cry foul. Let them. It is time to "put up or shut up." Republicans ultimately would have two choices- vote in favor of the "job-killing tax" or lay bare their claim that they support military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Let them choose between their holy grail- low income tax rates- or national security (as they see it). President Obama, meanwhile, would be able to claim fiscal responsibility and consistency, given that in April

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that Obama has been critical of Bush's use of similar special legislation to pay for the wars. He said it was needed this time because the money will be required by summer, before Congress is likely to complete its normal appropriations process.

"This will be the last supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan," Gibbs said.

If conducting a war in Afghanistan is essential to the west's security- as it might be- it is worth enacting a requirement that it be honestly financed, notwithstanding the provision in the bill enabling the President to delay implementation of the tax for a year. It should not be done on the cheap, and the American people should be treated as adults. Disclosure of the war's cost- unlike that in Iraq (how did that turn out for you?)- should be made to the public, which then would acquire a stake in the military action of our nation. Anything less, and the President and Congress will have determined that the security of the nation and the lives of its combatants are less important than avoiding temporary inconvenience to the American people.

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