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. A. Smith, Oregon

    Iran appears to be moving ahead with their construction of 9 more Uranium refinery plants.

    Apparently the Iranian Ayatollahs, Mullahs and Islamic Clerics are literally begging Israel and America to destroy all of Iran's Nuclear facility's.

    Israel and America should oblige Iran and if the British, France and Germany want some payback for the Islamic led massacres upon civilians in their country's, they should each directly take parts in that mission.

    I support the Swiss people that have banned Islamic minarets which they felt represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system – Sharia law – which they determined was totally incompatible with Swiss democracy.

    I support the Australian people that are permanently deporting all Muslims that preach, extol and work to enable the ideology and Islamic legal system known as Sharia law from their country.

    I urge all Western Country's to follow the leads by Switzerland and Australia to enact the same or similar laws against Islam enacting Sharia law in their own country's.

    November 29, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  2. Carl Justus

    Obey is absolutely correct.
    We say we support the military and they do a great and yet WE HAVE MADE THEM ACCEPT THE ENTIRE SACRIFICES OF THE USELESS CONFLICT IN IRAQ WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN AFGHANISTAN AND FINISHED THE JOB THERE 8 YEARS AGO.
    But we had an idiot as president and a moronic congress that invaded Iraq which had nothing to do with the terrorists that took down the World Trade Center.

    November 29, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  3. God n' Country

    Obey is short for Obama. I mean, it must be. Only Obama would do this crap.

    November 29, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. Tax and spend is now tax and die

    The Dems have now crossed the line and are way out of touch with Americans on all sides. The Democrats, historically the party of tax and spend politics, now wish to become the tax and die party – with the dying being done by our own American troops.

    I have a sure fire way to end both the Iraq War and the Afghan War and get all the troops home in 6 months -- Reinstitue the Draft and do not permit education deferments – everyone goes in. When we start drafting the sons and daughters of politicians, celebs, union members, and big business, there will be such an uproar that will end this conflict over night.

    But a War Tax -– even the dems are not stupid enough to do that - or it will be one and done for Obama and the GOP will control Congress

    November 29, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. Maria

    I see no sense in being forced to pay for a war that the general population is against. Most were and are against the war in Iraq, and most were and are against the war in Afghanistan. The solution is not more taxes, but bring our troops home! I'm so sick of public officials putting the lives of our brave men and women on the line for foolish wars that we have no business fighting. Now they wish to tax us for their foolishness, I say HOGWASH!

    Tax us for better care for our Veterans and currently serving troops, tax us so families of those who died can be better cared for, these taxes would be ok and I would rejoice at paying them, but taxes so that even more can die???? HELL NO THIS WILL NOT FLOAT!

    Tax me to pay Judges for murder trials against those who have caused the deaths and bloodshed of so many of our brave men and women, I'll pay that tax and jump for joy while forking it over!

    November 29, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  6. W. Sccott

    I think we should have a war tax also. My war tax would only be accessed against those who want to fight the war. Those who don't think this war is essential or warranted or moral would not have to pay a penny to keep it going.

    November 29, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  7. Joe

    Yes yes!! And congress as well as the president who got us into the war should pay an additional 10% of their income to pay for the war that the majority of americans do not want but has been escallated anyway. Also another 10% should be taxed to congress to pay for the banker "bailout" which the majority of america did not want but was passed anyway...this despite a 300:1 ratio of emails and calls against. And since congress gets a "special" healthcare system apart from the nightmare they're trying to foist on the american people of which they will be exempt...let's tack on another 10%. That totals 30%...that doen't begin to pay for the damage congress is causing to the average american's pocketbook and their constitutional freedoms. Great idea Mr Obey...you should pay for your mistakes and they are the misakes of congress and the president....not the american people.

    November 29, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  8. Kai

    They can create the war tax AFTER they figure out a strategy. I'm done with the 'my government wanted to be impulsive and only think about it for a split second before acting' wars. The future looks bleak enough as it is.

    For those who hate the tax idea, think about all the spending Bush did on Iraq and Afghanistan. Think about how many billions that were spent irresponsibly and how many companies committed fraud against the government yet went unpunished for their crimes, even though they stole millions of dollars from you.

    America, this is the punishment for you allowing your representatives to jump the gun, and for not holding people accountable for their actions when they were caught red handed. You learn as a kid.... if you're irresponsible, you have do deal with the consequences of your actions.

    November 29, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  9. Kai

    They can create the war tax AFTER they figure out a strategy. I'm done with the 'my government wanted to be impulsive and only think about it for a split second before acting' wars. The future looks bleak enough as it is.

    For those who hate the tax idea, think about all the spending Bush did on Iraq and Afghanistan. Think about how many billions that were spent irresponsibly and how many companies committed fraud against the government yet went unpunished for their crimes, even though they stole millions of dollars from you.

    America, this is the punishment for you allowing your representatives to jump the gun, and for not holding people accountable for their actions when they were caught red handed. You learn as a kid.... if you're irresponsible, you have to deal with the consequences of your actions.

    November 29, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Ray in Phoenix

    So bag Obamacare and use that money to pay for the War.

    Obama's healthcare "reform" will be MUCH more costly than a ten year war, and will do massive long term damage to our country.

    PERIOD.

    November 29, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  11. Martin Stab, Sr

    Why not initiate a War Bond program? Just like was done in WWII

    November 29, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  12. 1GregM

    Does it occur to anyone else that the major duty of this or any other administration is the defense of this country. Not cash for Clunkers, Not bailouts. Not owning car companies. Not being a nanny state to care for people from cradle to grave. If these maroons in DC would get out of our wallets, there would not be a need to add ANOTHER tax to the already oppresive attitude they posses. I think it is interesting that the current administration is looking at the American public to offset OBlunder's desire to simply vote "Present". If they don't raise enough tax money and the war fails, it has nothing to do with the Grovelor-in-Chief being totally inept as CIC, it has everything to do with he didn't have enough money to do what he needed to do and if anyone is to blame for the shortcoming it is going to be the citizens of the country. Great dodge, huh. He needs to be known as "The Teflon President II" right after 'ole Billy Clinton.

    November 29, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  13. Joe

    Rep. David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is expressing serious reservations about the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan..."...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.”

    Great idea Mr. Obey. If you don't believe in a war or have "serious reservations" about it obviously you should concentrate your efforts on passing a new tax INSTEAD of trying to pass legislation to END the war. How do these unintelligent, zero-logic individuals get elected? Oh yeah...we elect them. Well people can we please start un-electing them immediately?!? We need to clean house and start over. These guys have completely lost touch with both reality and their own God given intelligence. My third grader could out thinks these special-interest representing fools.

    November 29, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. E

    the people who started this war are the first in all of human history to do so without raising taxes to fund it. Why? because they knew their supporters liked shedding brown people blood, but not enough to pay for it. There should have been a tax from the start.

    November 29, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  15. Tom

    Tax and spend. Spend and tax. Always the creative solution offered up by democrats.

    November 29, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  16. Del & Walt Miller

    This guy is out of his mind!!!! No way this 80+ couple is going to pay a "war tax"! Been there – done that over and over! Support our troops – BRING THEM HOME – ALL OF THEM!

    November 29, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  17. Chris

    I believe that we pay too much of our hard earned money in taxes as it is now. Our government should be held to a balanced budget and that doesn't mean to balance it by raising taxes, but by controlling spending such as welfare and other aid to those who refuse to work, limiting how we help other countries can be done by putting the cost of a partnership on that particular country, and staying out of the healthcare program that Obama wants to give to all of those who voted for him. If our government can't manage with common sense then it's time to get another group (as in a third party) who believes in treating the working class people with better respect than they are receving from Obama.

    November 29, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  18. kevin

    Although conservative, I would support a 1% tax on all individuals to pay for the war. However, I know that would not be the plan. The tax would probably resemble a 1% tax starting at individuals making 30,000 or more and the percentage would increase as the income went higher.

    November 29, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  19. John

    A shared sense of sacrifice would be to start with is that everybody ,including the washington congressmen and women and the president and their families have the very identical universal health care coverage that they feel American families should have. What better way to set the example and lead this country .

    November 29, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  20. Shabba Rommel

    Typical Congress, authorize the Pentagon to go on fools errands and then tax citizens to pay for it. Screw that! This Congress, correction, this goverment has not been for the citizens of the US since 1913 and the passage of both the Federal Reserve Act and the Federal Income Tax Act. Since then, this Country's leadership has been about money, greed, and power. Even the premise of the Civil War had more dignity and honor than today.

    November 29, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. M. Townsend

    No health care for fellow Americans is what requires paying for because the GOP has conjured up the images of minorities without jobs and worse immigrants getting free health care (when the jobless actually already had Medicaid) and millions feed from taxpayer trough in emregency rooms. The people are sheep and they've been manipulated against health care reform and thus we are actually beginnning to now ruin the reform that's coming out.

    November 29, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. dave d

    I have an idea to solve all the budget shortages...figure out the deficit and divide it by the number of politicians and tax them each equally. That way, even big business can't afford to buy them either.

    November 29, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  23. kr

    How is this a "shared sacrifice" when it targets, if not discriminates, a selected group? We are fighting this war because Congress and its diplomacy efforts FAILED, yet no member of Congress is targeted in any part of this burden. As with the healthcare bill, Congress also excludes itself. Congress has refuse to accept any responsibility for the failed Community re-Investment Act and the lack of oversight that destroyed the Housing Market. Congress is setting laws in place to repair the damge IT has caused yet expects everyone else, mainly the Middle Class, to take the burden on its shoulders. It's time Congress be held accountable for its miserable efforts!

    November 29, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  24. dave d

    and on a follow up..if politicains were personally responsable for deficits, maybe there would be less of them (politicians or deficits...less of both would be better)

    November 29, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. cgillette369

    Obey is a Marxist, extremist and socialist.
    quite frankly he may be Wisoconsin's twin for Obama.

    taxes all of DC is for that.

    November 29, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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