As President Obama pondered anew his strategy for winning the war on terror in Afghanistan, the antiwar crowd unleashed an odd new tactic to force a retreat: a tax. Not a new tax on the terrorists which, while obviously uncollectible, would at least be properly targeted. And, thankfully not a new tax on the men and women leading the fight. The far left, as explained by Senator Levin in a November 20 interview on Bloomberg Television, is targeting Americans making more than $250,000 with a new surtax.
As with most slippery slopes, Politico reported this morning that some policymakers just introduced a “Share the Sacrifice Act.” Going a step further than Levin, this bill would tax middle-class households earning between $30,000 and $150,000 and force them to pay 1% on top of their tax liability.
The left’s approach to tax policy is nothing if not consistent. When it comes to taxing family farms and small businesses, investors and professionals, their approach is reminiscent of a famous poem, “How can I tax thee, let me count the ways”.
The President has proposed higher taxes on those who have had the audacity to succeed in his budget. The House and Senate have proposed to tax them in their health care reform bills. Then there’s the cap and trade legislation; and now, they propose a new hypertax to cover the costs of the war to secure America against terrorists.
The left has long proposed raising taxes to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not because the wars are imposing a great burden on the economy or are particular consequential for the deficit. After all, Obama and his Congressional allies appear to be doing everything they can to increase the deficit, and are succeeding by last count — $1.4 trillion in 2009 and more expected for 2010.
The primary purpose in proposing this war tax seems to be bringing additional pressure on Obama not to escalate in Afghanistan and forcing conservatives to take a public position. For now, thankfully, the President is having none of it. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on November 23, “No, that is not a specific proposal that has been talked about in a meeting that I’ve been at.”
The only question policymakers should be asking is: “How do we successfully win this war?” Failing to fully resource the strategy presented by Obama’s hand-picked war General and not approving all necessary reinforcements could jeopardize success on the ground. As General McChrystal has warned: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term—while Afghan security capacity matures—risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” By shortchanging his commander, President Obama has greatly increased the risk of failure, not only in Afghanistan but in the struggle against Islamist revolutionaries in neighboring Pakistan. It could result in a downward spiral of security in Afghanistan: a resurgent Taliban, eventual collapse of afghan government, an even bloodier civil war, renewed humanitarian crisis, and a refugee exodus. Resorting to half-measures would be courting disaster.
Congress should keep their focus on the safety and security of Americans instead of diversionary debates on war surtaxes.
Heritage National Security Research Fellow Mackenzie Eaglen contributed to this article