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. Paul H

    This is Bull. A new tax, on top of higher tax hikes already. Also on top of other higher cost on proposed Climate change bills, and the health care bill they are pushing for.
    They say this only affects the rich, but they are wrong. This will effect everyone. It comes out of all of our pockets.
    The government gets enough of our money, they need to learn how to spend it wisely.

    November 29, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  2. mike

    I think we should increase the tax rate of Congressmen and Senators to 75% and remove 10% of thier future pension distributions for each year that the war continues. Maybe force them to liquidate thier accumulated wealth if more money is needed.

    November 29, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  3. Wanda

    I am not interested in continuing a war in afganistan unless there is a plan to get osama bin laden.

    November 29, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  4. JTN

    Here's a novel idea Obey: How about you guys CUT something else to keep this war going? Congress under Bush didn't do it so I guess that makes it OK for you guys to just keep spending and taxing? Guess what brain trust, this country is still deep in a recession, the recent sales numbers about the black Friday weekend are not exactly positive and the economy, no matter how many different government stooges try to tell us otherwise, is NOT recovering. We the people of America are unemployed, running out of money and PISSED... at YOU. QUIT the wars, QUIT the spending! Get this country back on track before another sucker punch knocks us ALL out for the count.

    November 29, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  5. sal

    Use the stimulas money, it is being given away for no reason but political payback.

    November 29, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  6. Michael

    Another typical Democrat. Never met a tax he didn't like. If it really is a fool's errand, Comrade Obey, why don't we just bring all of the troops home. Then your president can go on a world tour apologizing for American imperialism or something similar. Now, that's change you can believe in.

    November 29, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  7. Susan, AZ

    Even with so many idiotic Republicans, its no wonder why so many people still support GOP. Dems are obsessed with taxes.
    I see everyday that my hard eraned tax dollars are given to lazy people in forms of food stamps, welfare etc.. No, these people are not unable to work, they don't want to work. I am seeing them for years, even when economy was great.

    I am on verge of loosing my Dems loyalty. Its sad to say that Palin seems very bright now to me when taxes are concerned.

    November 29, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |

    NO!!! Not one red cent for this war NOTHING. Get our soldiers out of there NOW. I don't understand something we bomb the hell out of Pakistan with unmanned drones, we have satalites that can read license plates, we spend trillions on these little toys lets start putting them to good use. Evacuate our troops and keep an eye on Afghanastan and when we see a threat or spot Bin-laden or Omar send in a drone and kill them, whats the problem?

    November 29, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. Jenn, Philadelphia

    We're being told to "go shopping" by this President too. Don't single out the last administration, this one hasn't asked any one to make sacrifices either.

    November 29, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  10. James, Ho. TX

    The U.S. does not need to be in Afghanistan and we certainly don't need a "War Tax". Bring our G.I.s home now. Frankly, only Congress may declare War on an invader; It slips me when thus a war has been Declared !

    November 29, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. jab

    just another far left loon trying to bilk more money out of the american public for their ill-gotten social programs. lets vote this idiot out of office and into the unemployment line!!

    November 29, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  12. Annie from WI

    Right on Obey! Finally someone talking straight.

    November 29, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  13. Idiot_Pelosi

    Which part of NO NEW TAXES do you DUMocRATS not understand?

    Thanks to OBOZO's record defecits, we'll be in a hole for many decades.

    November 29, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  14. indy

    Don't my taxes already go to support any battle the President deems necessary to enter? Will there be a new 1% tax for every battle that a President sends the military to? Is it only long-term battles? Who determines the length of time appropriate for another tax to fund a war? Let's hope there aren't many conflicts that we engage in. If the cost is 1% per conflict, plus the cost of funding healthcare, plus the taxes we already pay, there's not going to be much money left to help spur the economy along.

    November 29, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  15. joyce

    Thank you Senator Obey!

    November 29, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  16. NOOO

    Another windbag in Congress who's paid to sit around and dream up idiotic policies. Why don't you actually roll up your sleeves and work on balancing the budget instead of coming up with these gimmicky schemes?

    November 29, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  17. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    I actually agree with this guy. During WWI and WWII, EVERYONE was made to feel as though they were a part of the war effort. Everyone was told by the commander-in-cheif that they had to do their part to support our soldiers. They were told they must SACRIFICE. But during his so-called "War on Terror" (snicker), not one time did Bush ever suggest that any civilian not connected to the military should be sacrificing anything. As a matter of fact, he encouraged us to splurge financially in order to stimulate the economy in order to give it the false appearance of fiscal health and robustness. It's refreshing to hear someone in D.C. (especially a democrat) actually preaching common sense. If we are going to fight wars, we have to pay for them. Of course it would be just a lot cheaper to just STOP LETTING TERRORISTS (MUSLIMS) INTO OUR COUNTRY!

    November 29, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  18. Ken in NC

    Obey is right but 8 years into this war is not the time to decide how to pay for it. If we have fought a war for 8 years and not won yet then it is time to get out. In 8 years we either could not win or wasted our time there and as such it is time to bring our boys home.

    We have the ability to strike there in Afghanistan at anytime so make the country aware that should it become necessary for us to strike at a group within their country for causing harm to Americans any place on this earth, we will do it without warning. We will not say we are going to bomb in 72 hours giving them time to move. Just do it. But for this war, bring our boys home. If we find ourselves in the position where we have to go to war again then we should do this tax up front.

    November 29, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  19. Gerry

    Since congress is screwing up the country let everyone in congress gove up there pay until it is paid for. There are 234 congress millionaire it look like they need to sacrifice.

    November 29, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  20. bubba

    Now they want a war tax? Time to impeach Obama, what happened to his promise to pull out the troops? LIAR !!! How about this, STOP GIVING OUR MONEY TO OTHER COUNTRIES !!!! Idiots.

    November 29, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. joyce

    Thank you Representative Obey!

    November 29, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. warmonger

    Since congress proposes to continue the war and are deciding to raise taxes to fund it maybe they should fund it with each of their $148,000 + a year salaries.

    November 29, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  23. Bpin

    Just the begining. The US is broke. We do not have any cash. Living from folks paychecks to folks paychecks. Out of credit with our owner, China. In 5 years, the 57% of us (in 5 years that will probly be less than 50%) that pay taxes will be looking at least 8% more in taxes. Yes, that includes all you rah rah libs. Course, it is Bush's fault.

    November 29, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Preston kathy

    pwm come on obey why did you not listen to your father in may berry he said you can not tax floyd gober and gomer to death if you cut out the waste you can give all the people in may berry health care and save 500 soilderns from dyeing vietnam veteran

    November 29, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. backtomarx

    Great idea! Tax the people for a war they have been and still are against! I don't care what you conservatives out there say, but all reliable polls show that most Americans are agains both wars the country is waging. I say rather tax the companies who are investing in Iraq, the oil countries who get contracts, the construction firms who are making millions.

    November 29, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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