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. Adam (From Chicago)'ll be here soon.

    Listen if you want to stop throwing money away on a hopeless war...stop. But please, please, please STOP treating us like the parents of irresponsible teenagers.

    November 29, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. RyanVM

    And for those of us who believe that this war is immoral and should never have been fought in the first place, we're now going to be forced to help subsidize it?

    November 29, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. DNC, hating America

    The only problem with this is that it would end up being a middle-class tax, just like most everything else.

    November 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. ATL Guy

    I've always felt that George Bush and the Republicans put the brunt of the Afghan war responsibility on the members of the military and their families. Instead of telling the country that we should share in the sacrifice, they told us we should just go shopping and live our lives as if nothing was going on. We as a country should've personally contributed to the cost of this war. Had we been called to do so, we would have never gone to war in Iraq as the public wouldn't have the stomach for the additional cost of that war. Not only did Iraq distract us from the war in Afghanistan, it contributed significantly to the deficits.

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

    If the rightie-tighties want to keep up their insipid wars, then they should be the ones paying for them, not us. We could care less and aren't interested in the partisan rhetoric. Nor do we care what caliber Jesus would have carried. These nuts can fund the wars without the help of the sane people.

    November 29, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  6. Cnn please post my comment! 1 love!

    Republicans want war let them pay for it!!! For once can US tax Dollars borrowed or not, be spent on Americans and on American soil since we and our great grand children will be re-paying? Why is it ok to send our children into debt to pay for unjustified wars yet cant leave them a legacy of Universal affordable health care/public option? on what universe does that even make a shred of common sense? At least the Obama plan will keep our children and nation healthier as we pay off our debt! Shame on the Republican war mongers!

    November 29, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  7. Four and The Door

    The “Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010” would impose a one percent tax increase on most Americans.
    How about a "Share the Pork Act of 2009" where Americans can really get a feel for the purely Democratic Party $1 trillion Stimulus Bill which has been completely ineffective? It was an insult to American taxpayers brought to you by Nancy, Harry, Barry and Joe.

    November 29, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  8. Stu- SW Florida

    Any real tax burden should be on all of US as it is US and our freedoms and a more stabilized world that are to be gained by these sacrifices. I suggest a .5% Federal sales tax NOT going to the General fund, but specifically for this war fund. Not many will feel an additional half a penny on the dollar. We are all responsible...
    Personally I'd just rather we just not have war, with the costs in dollars and the human sacrifices. The profit must be removed from it!

    November 29, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. terry,va

    Military expenses are to come out of the budget fool. Keep taxing and you haven't seen a tea party.

    November 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Jonathan Mayhew

    Okay, maybe this exactly Taxation without Respresenatation, but a War Tax? Not so sure that our representatives are representing us anymore.

    November 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. jarjarbinks

    I don't see this happening. The Dem leadership is bought and paid for by the top 1%.

    November 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  12. David Evan

    It's kind of bizarre that we just got a stimulus check last year and now there's this proposed a tax increase this year when we're still climbing out of a recession. I agree that maybe in a year or so this might make sense once the economy has recovered.

    One question I always have: why is the working class always left holding the bag? The democrats in the Senate have cowered to the wealthy.

    November 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Jon

    On the one hand, a new tax is the last thing the economy needs at the moment. On the other hand, we all know that we need to pay the piper for these wars sooner or later... it's a tough call to make.

    But I digress. Cue multiple Republicans screaming about no new taxes and small government, even though they all voted for the guy who started this whole two-front war in the first place – because apparently they all thought it was going to be easy.

    November 29, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. No more war

    Of course he's right – if you are a war supporter then put your hand in your pocket to help support it financially – a 'Support the Troops' bumper sticker is not enough – and everyone knows it. Americans seem to want the best standard of living in the world – until they are actually asked to pay for it.

    November 29, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. Michael Arnaud

    Mr. Obey is on to something here. In the War on Terrorism, it's the military and thier famalies that have been making the sacrifices for the rest of the country. I served in Iraq, and I saw many good people come up to me and my fellows and say 'Thank You for serving.' One time, me and three fellow soliders had our lunch paid for by a couple we didn't know.

    That being said, there are many more people who this war is just a news item to be listened to, till something better comes on the tv or radio. Besides this war tax, maybe there should be rationing like during World War 2. Ration how many times people can go to Starbucks, and the money saved sent to the USO. For the women who have thier hair and nails done every week, ration that to once a month, and take the savings and send to to a group that takes military spouses to get thier hair and nails done.

    Since the military is fighting to protect the US, it might be nice if ALL the US supported them.

    November 29, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. terry,va

    The threat of a tax is a back door approach to cut and run. We don't need a redistribution of income to become a socialist/welfare state like Obummie care. What we need is national security. Of course, Obummie and his administration could not protect/secure a nail driven in a tree.

    November 29, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. Is this the change you voted for?????

    More expanded unending is Obama different from Bush? He isn't.

    November 29, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    Whatever President Obama does, he is going to be critized by 50 percent of the population. According to a CNN poll, 50 percent are for sending more troops, 49 percent are against the idea of sending more troops. Whatever he chooses, we Americans have to get behind his idea. We should have focused only on Afganistan in the first place in 2001, came up with a logical war strategy, and a way to pay for the war, so it did not add to our debt. Now almost 8 and 1/2 years has gone by without any strategy, and no offense to President Bush or anything, but he had enough time to come up with a strategy in a period of over 8 years. Lets get the job done this time; we have to get behind President Obama with this, and every other isse. It is the only way, the future for me and every other child will be guarenteed. Thank you.

    November 29, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  19. Bob Jones

    What a horrible situation we're in! The bozo Bush got us into this stupid financial crisis and war with no way to pay for it, and now the Democrats have to come in and clean up the mess and look like the bad guys. It's good that taxes will be raised. Especially on those who benefited off of the housing boom. They should get taxed extra heavily!!!

    November 29, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. terry,va

    Don't you Obummie nuts see a pattern? Anytime the dem's want to do something they raise taxes. Oh I forgot, most that voted for Obummie don't pay taxes anyway.

    November 29, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Harry A. Berry

    WE are taxed enough, and with unemployment as bad as it is, people out of work. I say get out of Afganistan and Pakisatan and bring our troops home and quit policing the world. We have hungry people in the U.S. Why doesnt the government help them and the native Americans fisrt. Tahnk You.

    November 29, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. Dave C - NJ

    I think Health Care is a better way to spend it.

    Of course the conservative goons will continue to cry about Health Care, yet are fine with footing this worthless war.

    November 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Steve

    i would not pay a red cent for this useless war. Maybe Obama should start listening to the people and not his blind advisors.

    November 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. juge

    Tax those profiting from the wars we have been waging – THE INDUSTRIAL MILITARY COMPLEX and THE CONTRACTORS!

    November 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. Andrea

    A war tax is a great proposal. There are many people who support this war who do not contribute or sacrifice. Most hardly understand it.

    If they have to pay for it they will educate themselves and far fewer would support it. Bin Laden is not in Afganistan. Sadam Hussein is gone too.

    We owe these country's some rebuilding and some school building considering our destruction of their infrastructure, livelyhoods and lives lost.

    Please pay for continued war if you support it. It will only create more terrorists by continuing with a military approach.

    November 29, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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