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National Debt

War Tax, U.S. Budget, and Afghanistan

  • December 14, 2009

    As the administration finds itself caught between Republicans and factions of their own party over the future of the war in Afghanistan, a wide range of issues have managed to shoot off this central lightning rod to form their own perfect storms in our nation’s capital.

    The war tax, an idea that has been around for centuries (and even enacted, albeit a different name: the Revenue Act of 1861, signed by President Lincoln to help pay for the Civil War), has recently grabbed headlines as it has been suggested by Democrats in both chambers of Congress as a means for funding the now eight-year operation in Afghanistan, with no clear end in sight.

    A tax on war has a multi-pronged purpose.  First, it ensures that conflicts the U.S. enters into are just and with a clear purpose, goals, and exit strategy.  While most would agree that Afghanistan deserved our attention after 2001, the same people would also probably agree that had there been a war tax in place prior to 2003, we would not be entangled with Iraq, spent the roughly $708 billion  there, nor have had the country turn into a haven for Islamic terrorist whom would have most likely been executed by Saddam’s regime in a very unpleasant fashion.

    Secondly, a war tax prevents public apathy amongst not only elected officials, but citizens whom too often are easily distracted by the day’s events to remember or inquire about the large numbers of soldiers we send into harm’s way repeatedly.  This almost aversion to the reality of the situation becomes a burden to the efforts to win conflicts quickly and decisively, as well as sends a demoralizing message to the troops routinely burying their fallen while we as a nation are held captive by sex scandals and the “balloon boy”.

    Lastly, a war tax provides for that purpose which we, as a nation, decide is virtuous and necessary when taking up arms.  Instead of entering wars that are going on 10 years with no means to fund them other than spending money we as a nation do not have, a war tax would help to offset the financial burden and keep our nation from the continuous brink of default.  Congress again raised the debt ceiling to around $14 trillion, the ninth time since 2002 our nation has essentially run out of money, due largely to our continued war efforts that look, walk, and talk a lot like nation building.

    And for those who believe that our involvement in Afghanistan will truly begin to wind down in 2011, Afghanistan’s President Karzai recently announced that his country would be unable to pay for its own security forces until at least 2024, which must blanch even the biggest hawks in Congress.

    While times are difficult for the majority of us in the U.S., times are tougher for those fighting overseas for murky causes and with less than the full-throated support of this nation.  A tax to finance those whom have volunteered to fight the fights we ourselves cannot or will not fight is not so great a burden as to be deemed unreasonable, nor should rhetoric effused by profiteers of ideology block anyone from the simple fact stated by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Holmes that “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”


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