November 29th, 2009
04:55 PM ET
4 years ago

Obey questions Afghan war, explains his war tax proposal


Washington (CNN) – A leading congressional Democrat who is the chief proponent of a new tax that would fund future military operations in Afghanistan suggested Sunday that continuing to fight the Afghan war under current conditions is “a fool’s errand” and, at the same time, said that his tax proposal would create a sense of shared sacrifice that has been missing in the last eight years.

Rep. David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is expressing serious reservations about the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan - just days before President Obama is expected to announce a substantial increase in U.S. troops in the country.

“The problem is that you can have the best policy in the world, but if you don't have the tools to implement it, it isn't worth a beanbag,” Obey said on CNN’s State of the Union, “And I don't think we have the tools in the Pakistani government and I don't think we have the tools in the Afghan government. And until we do, I think much of what we do is a fool's errand.”

Although Obey praised the process the president has used to revamp military strategy in Afghanistan, the Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said his differing opinion of the war is caused by consideration of the country’s long term fiscal resources and needs.

“The Pentagon has only one job, and that's to talk about this war and this war only,” Obey told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “But [Obama] has, and I have jobs that require us to look at everything else that's tied into it.

“I have to look at the entire federal budget, as chairman of the committee, for instance. I have to see what $400 billion or $500 billion, $600 billion, $700 billion, over a decade, for this effort, will cost us on education, on our efforts to build the entire economy. And - and when you look at it that way, I come to a different conclusion than [Obama] does.”

To fund continuing operations in Afghanistan, Obey has proposed what some observers are calling a “war tax.” The “Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010” would impose a one percent tax increase on most Americans. Obey’s proposal exempts service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 along with families who have lost an immediate relative in either military conflict.

The point of the proposed new tax, Obey told King, is “in this war, we have not had any sense of shared sacrifice. The only people being asked to sacrifice are military families. They've had to go to the well again and again and again. And yet everybody else in society - you know, they're essentially told to go shopping by the previous president.”

“I just think that, if this war is important enough to engage in the long term, it's important enough to pay for,” Obey said Sunday.

Discussing the hundreds of billions of dollars that a possible long term commitment in Afghanistan could cost, Obey also linked funding the war to how President Obama and Democrats have chosen to pay for health care reform, one of the top Democratic policy initiatives in Obama’s first year in office.

“We've been told for a year that we need to pay for every dollar that it's going to cost us to reform our health care system,” Obey told King, “That's about $900 billion over 10 years. If we wind up being committed in Afghanistan for eight to 10 years, that's also going to approach $800 billion to $900 billion. And if we're going to do that, it seems to me that if we're being told we have to pay for health care, we certainly ought to pay for this effort as well.”


Filed under: Afghanistan • David Obey • Extra • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    No Democrat ever has to explain wanting to impose yet another tax–it's always the same explanation: Fundamentally, Democrats don't believe in private wealth. They do believe that anything you think is yours is theirs for the taking.

    Unfortunately, latter-day Republicans, the neo-cons, seem to have adopted the same philosophy, the only difference is that instead of taxing money away from people, they simply inflate the money supply, thereby transferring real wealth away from individuals and into government.

    November 29, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    Supporting your president means hoping his ideas succeed even if you do not agree with them. I am afraid though that we have become too divided to even do that. I hate to pick on people, but the GOP decided to walk out on the job two times so far. During the climate change debate, still are; during the healthcare vote, still are. We Missourians HATE it when people walk out on their jobs, no matter who they are. Senator Kit Bond, you walked out of the climate change debate, and voted "no" to debate the healthcare bill. You are lucky that you are not running for re-election; you would lose big time. Again, senator, we Missourians absolutely HATE people with a passion who walk out on their jobs, no matter if they are Dem or Repub. Please can everyone put aside their good for NOTHING partisan politics, and at least agree to disagree?

    November 29, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. CBR

    It is time for all Americans to support the war. The cost of this war is unbelievable both in loss of life and financial obligations. The last administration tried to pay for guns and butter and here we are deep in debt. Our country is whirling from this depression which was brought on in part by the costs of the war.

    Not all of us have family members who have made untold sacrifices for this war. If we continue to send in troops then those left at home have to be willing to sacrifice as well. We cannot continue to financial support the war unless we make changes in how we pay for it.

    November 29, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. Bill

    War tax proposal: ---------------–

    Directly Taxed – From your pay Check.

    Indirectly Taxed – Job Loss; No affordable Healthcare; Drop in the Value of your homes; No funds for Schools; Shut Down of Industries; Economy goes down the drain.

    This is Called Double Taxation.

    Is there a way that we can let the Govt. suck our blood?

    November 29, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  5. andy

    The DemaTaxs need to be reeled in. The Obama admin is the biggest tax and spend bunch in the history of govt. We can't survive Obama spending. Come on 2010 and 2012..

    November 29, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Dilligaf

    This moron is concerned about fiscal resources now?! He authored the $1T Stimulus package, which has nothing but create more gov't jobs and paid off his Duhmocratic cronies. What a buffoon! I look forward to how many other Duhmocrats suddenly become "fiscally responsible" (LOLF!) as we get closer to the 2010 elections. Of course, the public will be sucked in again so they can keep their jobs for another 2 years. Just like clockwork in this country.

    November 29, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Aaron R. Schmersahl

    Totally agree. Show me the money. Everyone in this country should be emotionally, and financially vested in the war effort just like in wars past. Share the sacrifice and lets finish what they started.

    November 29, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. Worried Democrat

    Let's hope that this tax is NOT going to be imposed on the military and their families.....after all aren't they already sacrificing more than any one else in this nation.

    Instead of applying a war tax on everyone they should be taxing the superficial and elite items such as Plastic Surgery, Botox, Lip Implants, Butt Implants, Breast Implants, Face Lifts, etc.

    The industry of the superficial is well funded and outrageously expensive and will do a great deal in helping fund any war or social program.

    November 29, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. Concerned Iowan

    I would rather pay a war tax (which I am not in favor of doing) that may or may not make me more secure, than pay a tax to fund another person's health outcomes (such as type two diabetes) that are most often based on personal health choices.

    November 29, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  10. Fed Up

    If its so important that we share the sacrifice, why not tax all Americans the 1% and quit trying to split the Country??? Because in the end its still all about the politics and votes. Sickening.

    November 29, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. Another Reformed Republican

    Obey is right on the issue of paying for the ongoing wars. Bush kept the wars off budget and never lifted a finger to pay for them. Rather, Bush pushed the payment for the wars down the road so that our grandchildren will pay for them. It is interesting that the Republicans are accusing President Obama of saddling our grandchildren with debt but they were silent during the Bush years when Bush doubled the national debt. Republican Congressmen and the non-thinking Republican party members who support them have nothing to offer except excuses for their failure to govern. They accept no responsibility for the economic meltdown, their flawed war policy, their userpation of citizens rights, their violation of the the Constitution and criminal and civil, and other failings too numerous to mention.

    Although Obey is right about paying for the Afghanistan/Pakistan war, the current economic condition (caused mainly by Republicans) precludes a tax increase at this time.

    November 29, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. Jeremy

    I believe we need to do one of two things: give the military what they need to win the war or pull the troops out. MIddle-road tactics and playing politics never worked before and will never work. Does Korea or Vietnam ring a bell? They were lost because the President refused to listen to the military commanders or decided to play middle-road politics. We do not need to do a war tax because I know some of the tax would go onto the middle class, who do not need any more taxes. If we go this middle road, we will definitely lose the war and thousands of our soldiers as well. It is time to stop the bloodshead. We need to make a decision now and give the military what they need to win the war or pull our troops out, not leave our troops in harm's way and play politics.

    November 29, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. JES

    When is enough on taxes. I am already working for over five months to pay taxes now.

    Learn how to balance a budget and stop making more money and raising taxes.

    Vote them all out next election.

    November 29, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Blake

    Like Obey, I've been saying this country has lacked a sense of self-sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. The World War II generation sacrificed a lot for the wars in Europe and Japan and we've sacrificed nothing. The only exception are those who have kids, parents and other family members over there right now.

    I mean, it's easy to put bumper stickers on your car or tell everyone and their mom that you "support the troops." But until you have a personal stake in it's success or failure, these gestures are meaningless.

    While I don't like the idea of a "war tax," I think it's about dang time the American people be held accountable for the realities of waging war. If anything, it'll show who's really willing to support the troops and who is nothing but talk.

    November 29, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  15. GuyInVA

    So, the democratic party has decided on ONE issue for which we in the U.S. need to pay as we go: defending the nation and supporting the troops. Pay as we go on health care reform? Nooooo. Future generations will pick up the tab. How about the stimulus package (all those shovel ready jobs don't you know)? Nooooo. Corporate welfare? Nah. The republicans have been no better on spending in recent years, but this backhanded attempt to defund the military by using the specter of the IRS to turn public opinion against them is ridiculous. Let me guess, this tax is only on "the rich". You know, those evil rich that already pay the lion's share of taxes, and employ people

    November 29, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. Taxpayer

    Obey's comments just show how badly our leaders in Washington are detached from reality. I'm actually a little insulted by his comments(and I even have family serving in Afghanistan and Iraq). They (congress) have no idea what their purpose is. Newsflash, dingbat, EVERY single program you enact in Washington is funded by taxpayers. When congress spends money, no matter what it is for, and regardless of whether it is through debt or increased tax revenue, IT IS ALL PAID FOR BY TAXPAYERS!!! ALWAYS!!! We very well may need to spend more on the war, but Obey and the rest need to know that we the taxpayers already pay for everything this country does, whether it be expanding health coverage or going to war. Spare me the "shared sacrifice" garbage, especially since "taxpayer" doesn't even come close to equating to "U.S. citizen." Taxpayers share plenty in the sacrifice. Congress and the government as a whole is who should be sharing in the sacrifice by slashing its spending and eliminating wasteful and unnecessary feel good programs.

    November 29, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  17. ib

    I have never ever seen a tax the demo's didn't like and they are always coming up with new ways to tax people. spend and tax is all they know how to do besides blame Bush.

    November 29, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. Lynne in CA

    This has to be the biggest bunch of insanity I've ever heard. Congress howls when a tax is proposed to fund health care or domestic needs yet now they are suggesting a citizen tax to fund another senseless, decades long war. These politicians live in an alternate reality, they are completely out of touch with Main St.

    November 29, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  19. Moe, NY

    NO NO NO AND NO. NO Share the Sacrifice Act. Enough is enough, I for one cannot afford anymore taxes. Stop this right now, you politicans are out of hand. If you politicans want this war, or any other...i.e. Iraq, to continue, then pay for it yourselves....the American people are taxed beyond the grave now, and the majority cannot afford anymore. Try bringing our troops home where they belong. I really hope this is the straw that breaks the camels back, and all of the American citizens revolt. You politicans, both Dems and Repubs are just disgusting, and don't even jump on the band wagon you Conservatives, you are the worst of all....you do the same thing, only put God's name to it....NO NO NO AND NO. NO Share the Sacrifice Act.

    November 29, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  20. embarrassed dem

    Obey – you idiot. The Afgan war is the only right war.

    Way to make the dems look like weak/tax & spend liberals.

    If you are going to oppose the war then protest it, don't tax it. You coward!

    November 29, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. Alan

    Like it or not, we will pay for this war – regardless if you agree or disagree with the policy. But, unlike the Bush years, finally someone is willing to take the expenses out of the closet. Shared responsibility is not to go shopping in NYC after 9/11. While I oppose the tax increase directly, either way, the government will get its pound of flesh, so lets be honest about it.

    November 29, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  22. eolufemi

    I agree with this guy. The best way to kill any government program is to propose how to pay for it, which indubitably requires raising taxes. Start expecting the American public to personally sacrifice and suddenly all these advocates and bumper sticker patriots disappear.

    Slap a 5% war tax on all consumer goods, and I guarantee we'll declare victory after a couple weeks and come home.

    November 29, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  23. Rob P.

    Very post-post-modern. Paying bills as you accumulate them.

    Could be a great philosophy class. Let's see if it actually happens.

    Especially that part about everyone paying the costs for war. My country is pulling out of Af because so few others are willing to help (I mean really help with the fighting as opposed to standing aside in their perfect $600 uniforms), and we have made no secret of this for a couple of years.

    Our military budgets come out of current accounts, and it is odd that one country just keeps creating money for war as if there were no consequences. One of the consequences is that you will be left standing alone, unless you start paying your debt.

    Could be one heck of a growing-up party. Germany had one, and so did France. Britain had one too, kind of, until the rest of the world proved that Sterling wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

    November 29, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  24. Fan of Common Sense

    Gosh, I hate it when I agree with a democrat.

    We need the BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT and we need it NOW!

    November 29, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  25. Patriot

    I think it's a great idea! Let's bring back the draft, too, and with NO deferrments! Let the Young Republicans go first....they can serve where their cowardly fathers didn't!

    November 29, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
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