Thursday, December 03, 2009

War Surtax: 'Pay as you Fight'


After months of listening to conservatives caterwaul over deficits and health care, senior House Democrats want a graduated surtax on individuals and corporations to pay for another big drain on the treasury: the Afghanistan war.

Three full committee chairmen — including the House’s top tax writer, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — are backing the initiative together with the chair of the party caucus, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), and close allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The speaker has been silent thus far, and many dismiss the idea as more rhetoric than real legislation. But with President Barack Obama due to make a final decision soon on adding more U.S. troops, the initiative testifies to the growing restlessness among Democrats over the costs of the American commitment in Afghanistan.

Today’s jobless rate — far worse than during the height of the Vietnam War in the '60s — adds to this angst. And Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who oversees the Pentagon’s budget and supports the surtax, went so far as to send Obama last month a copy of Yale historian Paul Kennedy’s “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”

U.S. military spending in Afghanistan had reached $3.6 billion a month this summer — or more than $43 billion a year, according to estimates by the Congressional Research Service. And in the course of meeting with lawmakers, Obama has used a rough measuring stick that every 1,000 troops added will add another $1 billion to this annual basis.

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