Friday, February 16, 2007

Raise my taxes, please!

I just sent this to my Congressman:

It seems that the idea of cutting off funds for the Iraq war is radioactive in the halls of Congress. Even though it could be done in such a way as to not endanger any troops, Congress thinks that the public thinks that it would result in thousands of broke and abandoned GIs trying to hitchhike their way back to America.

Fine. There's another way Congress can use monetary policy to effectively shut down this misadventure. All you would have to do is enact a tax increase to pay the full cost of the war. If we, as a nation, believe the war is worth fighting, then we ought to be willing to pay for it.

The advantages are many:

First, there would be no question of not supporting the troops. Instead of supporting them and charging it to our credit card, we would be supporting them in reality. In fact, troop morale might increase if the soldiers knew they weren't the only ones sacrificing.

Republicans would be put in an awkward position. How can they say "We support the troops but we want our children to pay the bill"? People who support the war but aren't willing to pay more taxes would be in a real bind.

Democrats would be immunized against the "tax and spend" charge. The spending is already taking place, thanks to Bush and the Republicans. Democrats just want to do the responsible thing and pay for it. The Conventional Wisdom says you don't raise taxes when the economy is weak, but since the Republicans have been crowing about how great it's doing, they can't object to it on that basis. (The Conventional Wisdom also says you don't cut taxes during a war, but there you go.)

Of course, Bush would never sign such a bill, but he would look bad vetoing it. The debate on the bill would generate headlines about how much the war is costing and how badly it will hurt our economy. Faced with the prospect of a tax increase, even some people who now support the war might have second thoughts.

I would suggest that the proposed tax take the form of a levy on imported oil, which would have a nice symmetry: we're taxing our use of the fuels that we're fighting to protect our access to. It's just one small way that we could begin to see the true cost of our oil addiction.

All in all, it could be a winner for Dems, could help end the war, and is, simply, the right thing to do.

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