BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was half right – at least once. When the senator demanded that the special appropriation for the military, paying for the cost of conducting war operations abroad, not be added to the nation’s deficit but be paid for in some fashion, he was right. He was wrong when he demanded that it be paid for solely by cutting some unspecified expenditure.
Had Coburn demanded that the war, for the first time, be paid for by an actual tax levy upon corporations and citizens, he would have been fully correct. Just demanding in some fuzzy way that something or other – who knows what – be cut out is grandstanding and not a sincere, productive move. If the senator had specified something specific, like children’s school lunches or highways, be sacrificed, he would have at least been candid and honest about it.
First of all, one could legitimately question whether either of the two wars in which we have been engaged the last eight years was either necessary or appropriate. If indeed there is really any question about that, then we should extricate ourselves as quickly as possible. A tax might cause that.
During the Memorial Day period recognizing all those who have died in our previous wars, one realizes more fully what an awful price has been paid by families through the years. Some of us know this personally in our own family. That any of these shall have died for poor cause, or not in necessity, is appalling to us. Yet that may have been happening now for eight years, with no end in sight.
We should stop and evaluate fully just what our national interest really is in forcing regime changes and occupying obscure lands on the other side of the earth. We learned the folly of supporting an unpopular government against a motivated insurgency in Vietnam. Or did we? We may be repeating this mistake in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When we leave, the population most probably will relapse into violence and a regime hostile to us may eventually emerge. What have we accomplished?
We need to realize that our enemies are not necessarily nations, nor contained within borders. Although there are governments who do not like us, we are not at war with them. Our enemies have been networks of cells of terrorists that now exist in a dozen different nations, with governments both friendly and unfriendly. Even Muslim religious fanatics may not be our enemies unless or until they become organized into cells with terrorist goals toward us.
Just as we are finding that we can accomplish much with the unmanned drone flights in attacking specified targets, so it has always been that we could accomplish much with well aimed missiles from long distances. It may not be unnecessary to have “boots on the ground” to combat these terror cells in obscure places. Remember that President Clinton may have actually come much closer to hitting Osama bin Laden with a rocket than President Bush came with an army on the ground. Good intelligence information and well-placed missiles may be the better strategy.
We ran up $1.8 trillion in deficits during Bush’s administration by deficit financing of the war and actually cutting taxes for the wealthy. This was fiscally foolish. But we are still making the same mistake.
If these wars are not popular enough to support by a tax levied upon all the people, then why should we be sacrificing our young people on the battlefields in places of little consequence or significance to us. To recognize a valid truth, during the Bush era the wealthy received the tax breaks and the young people from working class and minority families have born the major burden of fighting the wars.
This inequality should stop. Since it is unlikely we will institute a draft to spread the burden of service to the upper classes, then we should be certain that they pay their share of the financial burden.
After putting these wars onto a pay as you go basis, we should look next at the deficit. We may be able to cut expenditures some, but not a lot during this fragile period of recovery from a severe recession. Nevertheless, expenditures should be examined critically to cut waste in areas not contributing to recovery. Then we should levy a deficit reduction tax.
There is no way out of a deficit, nor toward debt reduction, that will not eventually demand a tax increase. It is just not feasible. So much of our expenditures are entitlements [Social Security and Medicare], both of which have their own special tax levies of support which can be adjusted upward if required for continued solvency. Then the other big budget bite is military. Beyond these, there is not enough left to cut in sums great enough to make any substantial change.
Any new taxes must at this time avoid cutting into that pool of income out there that drives the economy. This means minimizing taxes directed toward lower and middle class families, who spend nearly all of their income. For economic reasons, not class warfare, much of the new tax burden must fall on those with greatest discretionary income, much of it from sources other than wages and salaries such as dividends and capital gains. Remember billionaire Warren Buffet’s remark about paying a LOWER TAX RATE than his secretary?
Mentioning tax increases is never popular, but it is a necessary part of any “bite the bullet” approach to a balanced budget and debt reduction.
We have not yet observed the political will within either party to face these problems honestly and directly. With the new “populist” Tea Party bunch gathering steam among the gullible and uninformed on basis of an anti-tax platform, there seems little hope the nation will recover is fiscal senses any time soon.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer