The 1988 Republican Party primary contest was a titanic struggle between several party heavyweights seeking to carry the Grand Old Party’s banner in the post-Reagan era. The campaign featured Vice President George H.W. Bush, Kansas Senator Bob Dole, New York Congressman Jack Kemp, 59th Secretary of State Al Haig, former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont, and televangelist Pat Robertson. In the heat of battle Kemp charged that Dole had a history of taxing and spending, opining that "Bob Dole never met a tax he didn’t hike."
The same can be said about a vast number of politicos in Washington these days from both parties—the Pirates of the Potomac—who prescribe new taxes in just about every possible situation. They’ve called for taxes on soda pop, higher tobacco taxes designed to levy a legitimate industry into bankruptcy, and are always looking for backdoor methods to tax the internet. They’ve proposed taxes on plastic bags, fatty foods, higher payroll taxes, and have levied an insane telephone excise tax that the National Taxpayers Union says cost Americans almost $5.6 billion in FY 2001 alone.
Leave it to Michigan Senator Carl Levin to pile another duty onto the towering tariff mountain: a new tax on so-called "high-income Americans" to pay for President Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War. Levin suggested this on the Al Hunt program, proposing an "additional income tax to the upper brackets, folks earning more than $200,000 or $250,000" as a way of financing expected increases in war costs.
The gentleman from the Wolverine State must have missed Courtney Schlisserman’s Bloomberg News report just 24 hours earlier regarding new Labor Department numbers indicating that Michigan’s 15.1 percent unemployment rate is the nation’s highest. Michiganders have greater concerns than the feeble Detroit Lions this Thanksgiving. Over 15 percent of Levin’s constituents have to worry about putting the turkey on the table in these very trying times.
The same network reported on Nov. 21 that Obama’s Budget Director Peter Orszag "estimated that each additional soldier in Afghanistan could cost $1 million, for a total that could reach $40 billion if 40,000 more troops are added." It is a sad reflection of things since this is the likely policy choice of the man who ran as the peace candidate in 2008. Obama, you will recall, chastised Hillary Clinton and John McCain as status quo choices that complicity supported Bush’s follies in Iraq that let Afghanistan fall into chaos.
Once the dust settled, the inaugural balls concluded, and the rhetoric dissipated, the new president picked up where Bush left off by piling on more debt, expanding the trade deficit with China, complacency on manufacturing policy, impractical spending increases, and military escalation. "Change" voters never knew they were electing the man who now represents the Bush Third Term.
The National Priorities Project reports that as of the start of Thanksgiving Week the total fiscal cost of both wars stands at almost $935 billion. Afghanistan, Obama’s present policy conundrum, accounts for over $232 billion of that total. Icasualties.org, which tracks coalition casualties in both conflicts, has tallied 4,682 coalition fatalities in the Iraq War and over 1,500 fatalities in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires. Projections based upon combined data from sources like CENTCOM, the Department of Defense, foreign media, and local body count estimates suggest that over a half million people have died in both American-invaded nation-states since late 2001.
8 years of combat without intelligible results indicates that it is no longer rational or prudent to defend the continuation of either war. The cost of human life and the climbing fiscal cost to the taxpayers are simply too great to continue. Jack Kemp was right. Career politicians rarely meet a tax they don’t hike. Nor, however, do they have the courage to face reality and admit when their decisions have met disastrous consequences both financially and ethically. This is the case with Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rather than considering Levin’s recession-time "war tax" or Obama’s futile troop surge, Congress ought to send the only reasonable message it can: it’s time to come home. It’s time to close the bases, hand over control to the Afghan government, and give them their country back. This Thanksgiving we should show our gratitude for our nation’s military personnel by bringing them home from the untenable situation they face and begin the restoration of a responsible, ethical, and economically feasible foreign policy which sees the world as it is and not the way the Wilsonian internationalists, utopians, and war hawks wish it to be.
Nathan R. Shrader is a political strategist living in Philadelphia. He holds an MS in Political Science from Suffolk University and can be reached through his web page, www.NathanShrader.com