November 29th, 2009
04:55 PM ET
13 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. clr

    EXCUSE me... but NATIONAL DEFENSE is one of the FEW things actually called up for our Central Govt to PAY FOR with our tax money. All this other social garbage and funding of entitlements, benefits, etc etc etc is NOT.

    If they don't want to increase the deficit – THEN CUT SPENDING on the non-essentials – like PELOSI'S $10M planes (for which she STOLE the Troops money to pay for that was desperately needed for training, supplies, etc).

    Cut the Healthcare mess, cut the social benefits, cut the politician's salaries, cut the pork going to the States (like the $300M used to BUY Louisianna's Senator's vote for HC). CUT IT ALL OUT. But the Govt PAYS for NATIONAL DEFENSE. You did not see the Republicans saying they wanted to tax liberal organizations etc to pay for the war when they were in office did you? Geezzzzz [eyes rolling]

    November 29, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  2. Hendrik

    I really like this idea. If we are going to continue to support this idiotic war, let all of us, including those who support this war, pay for it outside the regular budget process. Let's see where the hawks are then. No more hiding behind our soldiers. Stand up front and say that if you support the war, we will all pay for it.

    November 29, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  3. Max in NY

    How will republicans complain about this now? They complain about the deficit but would never dare to cut military spending...oh yeah except if its a democratic president.

    As a democrat I wonder why we don't hear about just cutting the budget instead of paying for it...this talk of more taxes is just going to rile up republicans.

    Lets stop these false wars...we spend more than the rest of the world combined on military spending

    November 29, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  4. Doug Osborne

    Obey and this war tax makes sense

    November 29, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. College Student

    With all these taxes being thrown around, will anyone have any money left after this administration?

    November 29, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  6. Ancient Texan

    Another wimpy pacifist Liberal that goes from pushing the "right war" to "maybe we should surrender" mode. Is he so sure that the war on Terror no longer exists, that he's willing to gamble?

    November 29, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  7. valwayne

    With the Democrats any reason for a new tax or tax hike is good enough. Does anybody think the Democrats are champing at the bit to fund the war in Afghanistan. Don't be silly for that they would just print some more money. But if they use the war as a reason to raise taxes they'll have some extra money to spend on other things, and spend it they will. You can be sure that for every dollar they collect in a new or increased tax they will spend 3 to 5 more dollars. 10.2% UNEMPLOYMENT, and more corrupt spending and debt than in the entire history of the world. Aren't Obama and the Democrats doing a crack up job?

    November 29, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  8. Brandon

    Shared sacrifice! What shared sacrifice Rep. David Obey had to share for this???

    Also any veteran after 2001 should be exempt. All of them in one way shape or form support the war effort. Instead of a tax increase on already struggling American's how about our politicians dip into their deep pockets, give up some extravagant benefits, and maybe sell a house or two....this way they can make some sort of real sacrifice to this nation...or how about a real contribution that has been lacking for a long time now.

    You make the sacrifice Mr. Obey, along with your other cronies.

    November 29, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  9. Bob in Pa

    A top Democrat explains how he will soon be out of work like so many other AMericans.

    November 29, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  10. Big_D

    They should put the bulk of the responsibility on oil companies because they have benefited from the security we have provided. Paying for a war with deficit spending is moronic.

    November 29, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  11. Debbie

    I agree with Obey. Had Bush/Cheney not taken their eye off of the prize and got Osama when he was within sight we would have the money for this. But reality is that war is a cost. It costs $$ and it costs blood. Both have to be weighed carefully. Thanks to Bush we have few choices and taxing for the war is one of them.

    November 29, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  12. Don

    Someone should tell this idiot that do not need another tax at the moment. I haven't worked in almost a year and don't need more taxes.

    November 29, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    How about taxing the 47% of Americans who pay no federal tax? Oh that's right, they're mostly minorities, therefore Democratic voters. It's about time EVERYONE contributed something, rather than taxing more and more those who actually work for a living.

    November 29, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  14. Wait a minute........

    I thought Bush was the war it turns out that Obama has a taste for blood also......beefing it up in Afghanistan, a place where no foreign power has ever come out successfully......putting another 30,000 troops in harms this the change you voted for?????
    Feel betrayed????

    November 29, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  15. Jack L

    I'm for it! Just make the tax progressive so thte rich who benefit the most will pay the largeer share. Start the draft with no exemptions so that they will also share in the dying!

    November 29, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  16. David Winstead

    When you talk about sacrifice in Congress, you talk about everyone but yourselves. When you are ready to sacrifice your son or daughter to the cause, then talk about a tax. I am a vietnam veteran and I made that sacrifice and I promise you I will not be taxed by you to fund a war you all so deliberately ensure your family is not in. When your son and daughter is ready to defend their freedoms that you so willingly allow everone else to do, only then you can you talk to the American people about doing their fair share.

    November 29, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  17. Tax_Protester

    This idiot proposes new tax for Afghanistan? Do we really know what is going on there? Do we really care?
    If we suspect them to help Taliban – carpet bombing will help. And then – take our soldiers out of there. NO NEW TAXES!

    November 29, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  18. Bill

    There they go again! I thought we were already paying taxes that were paying for the war(s). Its just out of control government looking to reach further into our pockets. The White House got us into this mess, let them pay for it out of their pockets!
    In my opinion, there is only one way to get government back on track. Break the hold of the special interests groups and the only way to do that is to put congressional term limits in place. No more career politicians! New blood every two terms will end the back room power brokers that put their own pocket books and personal interests above the American society.

    November 29, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  19. Malone

    Leave it to liberals to propose a special tax to fund one of the few Constitutionally-legitimate areas of federal spending.

    November 29, 2009 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  20. Keith in Austin

    When (if ever) will Democrats stop their vicious thirst for more and more taxes? Answer: When we vote them out of office! Wake up America!!

    November 30, 2009 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
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