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. Sean

    Actually, I think only Republican taxpayers and should pay the war tax .. after all, they wanted the war, let THEM pay for it.

    The same way they don't want to pay for abortions, I don't want to pay for the mistakes of the last republican administration.

    What's good for the goose ...

    November 29, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. Dan

    This sounds like a very reasonable plan. It introduces a very concrete consequence of funding this war on people that normally only consider it in a very vague sense.

    November 29, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  3. Dan

    The War Tax is a great idea, but with this caveat. All veterans who have served in combat (and spouses of those who have died in combat) in any war or police action engaged in by the US should be exempt from the War Tax, as well as those who have served or are actively serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    November 29, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. Jane

    This is crap. Tax, tax, tax that's all these idiots can say. See you at the polls in 2010 and 2012. It's time to take our country back.

    November 29, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Jimmy R Smith

    There's JUST ONE PROBLEM. Most of us don't want the share in the sacrifice AT ALL. In fact, we should not be there. We need term limits in congress!!!! NO MORE RULING CLASS!!!!!

    November 29, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  6. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    "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.”

    Touche' Obey!!!

    November 29, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  7. Chris

    The bottom line is there should be no more New taxes until the 530 members of congress go beyond a 2-3 day work week and stop flying privately chartered flights to and from there home states on the tax payers dime . I mean we already pay for the private g-3 luxury jets to shuttle them everywhere, along with paying for the fuel , upkeep, and flight crews. Then of course they get a car service to take them to the Hill , which we pay for I'm sure .... I mean if the airports are so covenent and hassle free why arent congress flying commerical on their own dime ... That would free up millions right there .... O no but they want to tax us , and tax us , and tax us ....

    November 29, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. diamond965

    Can someone tell me why the U.S. Americans are the ones having to pay the tax? Since we have been in both Iraq and Afghanistan over our scheduled time frames and because these countries cannot development their own military security so that ours can leave, shouldn't the U.S. be charging Iraq and Afghanistrans for our military services, not its citizens. Haven't we given enough.

    November 29, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  9. Mickey

    If the Republicans and the rich want this war, let them pay for them...

    November 29, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  10. George Synan

    Why don't we pay for this war the same way we did (are) paying for the that useless waste of time and life called the Iraq war?

    We can hide the costs away from the general budget and just pretend the oil will pay for it.

    I didn't want the Iraq war... it was needless, a waste, and unjustified. We should have sent 140k troops to Afghanistan on Sep 12, 2001. Every neocon and congressperson who voted for the Iraq war should pay for the Afghan war.

    November 29, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  11. 1silentknight

    Are all of the elected people in Washington completely disconnected from reality? All we need is the proposed war tax. Tax, tax, tax, is the only thing that Congress is thinking about. Why not save the $65BILLION + that we are currently sending down a rat hole, bring our troops home and the world just might be a much safer place. At least give it a try.

    November 29, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  12. C Spurgeon

    I agree. We need to start paying our way nand the Republicans need to stand up and put their money where their mouth is....

    November 29, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  13. tucker Irvin

    all my support to David Obey. I will send him money for his 2010 campaign even though I live in Massachusetts.

    I agree with everything CongressPerson said on John King's state of the union.

    Support our troops. Pay the 1% surcharge on your income tax.

    I also agree with his exemptions for men and women who have served in these 2 miss-managed wars.

    Congratulations to CNN for reporting and following this story.

    November 29, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  14. Recovering Democrat

    No shared sacrifice? This country hasn't "shared sacrifice" in any conflict since WW 2 and never will again until a terrorist pops a nuclear bomb on us.

    I would point out our military is the best in the world and it's an all volunteer force. They know about sacrifice, not like these elitist, mush-mouthed politicians who think they know what's best for the masses.

    Finally, PLEASE quit running against President Bush. He lost. He went home. You complain about him urging consumers to shop to stimulate the economy, what two years ago? Did he fork out billions so people could buy golf carts and new gas guzzlers? Did he shovele billions of tax dollars into rat holes with no accountability? No that was your guy.

    November 29, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. David

    How about this: we leave Afghanistan AND Iraq and quit spending money on that part of the world and bring our troops home. Next, burn these stupid health care and cap and trade bills and throw everyone out of Congress and start over. Oh yeah, and Obama can take a hike, too. He is as incompetent as the last president.

    November 29, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  16. Rebecca

    Why would I be forced to pay for a war I don't believe in?

    November 29, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. Moe, NY

    I have already commented on this article, but doubt very much if CNN will print it...BUT...just want to say something I forgot: Rep. Obey you can put this Act where the sun doesn't shine.

    November 29, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. Jim

    Obey, be prepared to be voted out of office. No more war money

    November 29, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  19. Shana

    This is what I've been saying all along! If we want it, we have to pay for it (no matter what "it" is). If we don't want to pay for it, then we can't have it. Thank you Rep. David Obey!

    November 29, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  20. Dave

    I agree 100%. We need shared sacrifice and this war needs paid for.
    We need to make every attempt to get Bin Laden and make him pay for his dastardly deeds. It's a shame that the troops did not get the support they asked for when they had him cornered in Tora Bora. It's a bigger shame that Bush & Cheney lied about their failure. The only good news is that 8 dark years of those 2 in office are over.

    November 29, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  21. terry horn

    Oh look a new tax ! But dont worry when the stimulus bill, and health care bill, and cap and trade bill all come due , You wont even notice the new tax.

    November 29, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  22. Preston kathy

    preston kathy obey you sound to me like your trying to be just like your friends in the gop tax the people so i000 soilders will die and the numbers will not mean a nothing to you

    November 29, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. Wise Latina

    Forget any campaign promises. Dems = higher taxes; outrageous and uncontrolled spending; socialistic command over every aspect of your previously free life; noxious stench of corruption; incredibly weak defense; and moral decay. They are now explicitly promoting such policies.

    Any reason why these incompetents should remain in Washington??

    November 29, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  24. Joshua College Station Texas

    I agree completely with Obey's basic premise. Nobody likes more taxes, but requiring us to pay for the war now will force the American public to be responsible for its action in Afghanistan and the world. We can't go around starting wars and not paying for them.

    That said, I support Obama in his decision to pursue continued conflict in Afghanistan. We must finish what we started. And if Republicans say no to the tax, I hope that demonstrates how irresponsible, politically motivated, and one-sided they are.

    November 29, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. Steve

    Nobody in history has won in Afghanistan due to its tenacity. Now that Al Queda moved the bulk of its operations to Pakistan, I see no reason for us to be there. Why spill more American blood? Wars need to be fought in totality. When we as a nation decide to go to war, the cause needs to be so great as to expect sacrifice from all walks of life. On the homefront, civilians need to be willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience for the greater cause. When no such cause exists, we should not fight period. It is a sin for American and foreign lives to be sacrified for half-measures. In short, in terrms of war it should be all or nothing with the cause great enoguh for us to be willing to pay the price, ie a draft and heavy taxation.

    November 29, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
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