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. Nea

    The Republicans is so worried how to pay for Health Care but i guess its never mind how to pay for a war we been in for 8 years and have not accomplish anything but debt. One question for the republicans how are we going to pay for this continious war?

    November 29, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  2. Andy

    Before Congress raises taxes to pay for Afghanistan, they should agree to forgo all earmarks for the duration of the Afghan campaign.

    November 29, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    A change of pace from the Dem tradition of imposing taxes to further the cause of "social justice."

    Just more money in the gov's hands. "[M]ost Americans" translates as "the lion's share coming from whites." As usual. Screw it.

    November 29, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  4. steve Loudon, TN

    he would rather give more entitlements to moochers and failures rather than give our brave servicemen and women the tools they need to protect his unworthy ass.

    November 29, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  5. kennis

    Well, we may not have "tools" in the Pakistani government – but we certainly have plenty of them in the U.S. government.

    This tax proposal is ridiculous.

    November 29, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  6. ran

    If Bush had not given away the surplus he had from Clinton and had not gone into Iraq, the way in Afghanistan would be over now and the cost would have been covered.

    Just like the economy, energy, immigration and health care president Obama has to clean up the messes of bush and the Republicans.

    Just want others to not forget how all our troubles started which was when the Supremer Court selected Bush in 2000. Lest we forget and give the Republicans another shot at it in 2010/2012.

    All that being said we all need to do our part in this or any war.

    November 29, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  7. 60 driver

    A shared sacrifice? Does that mean that those of us who have already sacrificed by actually fighting the battle instead of just debating it will be exempt from this new tax? Instead, how about reducing congressional pay and pensions, plus free medical care, pork, and unlimited trips everywhere to help pay for the war?

    November 29, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  8. Albo58

    If it was a cause for the "arts", you can bet Mr. Obey would find the pork barrel funding like he did with the grotesque Tarp bill that this party hack President signed earlier this year! Here's an idea: why don't we put the word out world-wide to terrorists that the U.S. can't afford a war right now so they should just keep things quiet for awhile? What a jerk!

    November 29, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  9. whaley41

    The hollywood elite that supported obama will be more than happy to pay more for a war tax. They won't mind that at all.

    November 29, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. Nate

    Love the idea by Rep. Obey, there is no sense of sacrifice by 99% of americans. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are an every day concern and sacrifice for less than 1% of the US population. If these wars are to continue, lets ensure everyone feels some burden.

    November 29, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  11. Craig

    As a former Marine who served until 2004 I can say that this notion of "share the sacrifice" is ridiculous. What it should be called is "share the fiscal irresponsibility of the US government". I can't wait until these Democratic tools are voted out of power (no I'm not republican).

    November 29, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  12. mz. t

    Its not a matter of sacrifice, I think most of us would have no issue paying a lil extra for a war of necessity considering what military families sacrifice, problem is neither of these wars are necessary and the majority of Americans dont support them. Especially in a time of economic hardship, we shouldnt have to shoulder the burden of paying for their civil war and building up their country while ours falls apart. Enough is enough, I'm so tired of Obamas goons who do nothing but try to invent new taxes everyday.

    November 29, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  13. kelly

    I assume Obey wanted to make a point–which I think he has done very well. However, I think a War Tax is something that should be looked at...if we are going to continue to engage in this war, then we should make sure we pay for them and not our children and grandchildren whom have no say what we decide to pursue.

    November 29, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  14. AJ

    Obey is a complete moron. We elected Obama and a democratic Congress to get us OUT of the wars tht Bush got us into. We did not elect democrats in order to prolong the war or share any sacrafice. It's idiots like Obey who will ensure democratic defeat in 2010 and 2012.

    November 29, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  15. mark

    We should consider a specific "war" tax just as soon as we consider a specific tax for all the other "optional" government activities like bailouts...

    November 29, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. Mike

    Another tax when I'm already stretched to my financial limit? No thanks.

    November 29, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  17. John S

    Why do Democrats solve every problem by TAXATION!?

    November 29, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  18. diane

    I think his logic is correct. No one thought out how the Iraq and Afganistan wars would be paid for in advance, how the financial firms' bailout would be paid for and yet the most basic of human needs- that being health care- is being required to pay for itself over the long term. What is wrong with us? I think if most Americans have to pay a war tax, they won't take for granted the cost of war and sacrifice and perhaps won't support that as the first course of action like the previous administration did. Not many can afford the 1% tax increase, myself included, so it certainly may help us put things in perspective and decide what our true priorities are. We can't pay for everything and taking care of our own tax-paying citizens with health care coverage seems like a more heroic and patriotic act than fighting any foreign war. I bet we lose more people in this country from lack of health care coverage and treatment than we did on 9/11. We have to take care of our own- both citizens and military soldiers who need to be brought home.

    November 29, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  19. Steve

    You don't expect us to take this guy seriously? He votes to waste 800 billion on a phony stimulus package, and now we’re supposed to be concerned about a measly 30 billion a year for the war? Sounds like a bargain “blue light special" to me.

    November 29, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  20. DallasMarine

    How about you tax the politicians that vote for the war, especially since it's not a critical war? The American people are not the ones who vote for the war, if voting for the war even happens. 40% of their income sounds right considering they already live better lives than the people they represent.

    November 29, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  21. Darryl

    While are we paying the price that benefit so few... Stop the bleeding and bring our troops home Now...

    November 29, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  22. Wayne Messer

    Isn't enough that taxpayers have had to bail out companies that clearly stole money from investors while becoming even more richer that, we have to pay for a war I never agreed too.

    The war wasn't just wrong it was illegal. There will never be a logical reason to legitimately have a pre-emptive attack on a legitimate government regardless of your beliefs.

    I am tired of the government screwing up and the taxpayer paying for it.

    I realize the government things we have unlimited resources but, since they've created the highest unemployment since the seventies maybe it's time these genius come up with a way to end the war instead of continuing it.

    November 29, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  23. Michael Newman

    Right on !.... all those wing nuts who want to fight wars but not pay for them.... need to be called to the line. No tax increase to pay for the war.. NO WAR!!..... the days of adding to the national deficit to pay for dumb wars needs to be over... good luck in making it happen!

    November 29, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  24. James

    Isn't the military what I pay for in my regular taxes? I went to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm in 1990-91 and did my part when I was still in the military. Why should I have to pay an extra tax for the war? Make better uses of the taxes that we already pay. Cut out your pork and maybe take some fiscal responsibility. Perhaps you will have to cut some programs that we already fund (foreign aid perhaps). Quit looking at me to rob so you can spend more money. The congress only seems to try to fund special items for their own states so they can blow their horn and be reelected.

    November 29, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  25. Gretchen A. Hoad

    Wait a minute! Aren't we going to tax those who make above $250,000.00 to pay for health care? Now, we are going to add another tax on those higher earners to pay for troops for Afghanistan? THAT idea should be laughed at, not seriously discussed!

    November 29, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
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