Cross-posted from Blue News Tribune.
Alan Khazei gets credit for bringing this idea to the Senate race, though I didn’t see it on his website.
City Year co-founder Alan Khazei kicked off the primary campaign’s final televised debate by saying he would support a special levy to fund the 30,000-troop buildup outlined by President Barack Obama.
Attorney General Martha Coakley also said she would consider it, but Rep. Michael Capuano and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca said they would not.
“I would vote for a tax for a moral war, if I thought it was right,” said Capuano. “I will not vote, not only for taxes, I will not vote for funding for this surge, either, as I have not voted for the funding in Iraq, either.”
I like this idea. Here’s why.
1. Capuano’s point about a moral war is taken, but we haven’t had a war everyone agreed was moral in my lifetime. We still have wars, though, and we still have to pay for them.
2. I like to say “We should have a draft” to remind people of the real costs of war, and theoretically make us less casual in the use of our military. However, I find this idea goes over like a lead balloon with people who are draft-eligible, and I can sputter all I want about “18 to 50” but really, the old school 18 to 26 version is much more likely if we get one at all. A war tax accomplishes much of the goal: Obama’s numbers seem pretty abstract in the context of the federal budget, but $30 billion (the cost of the new boost in troops numbers) divided by 300 million people is $100 per person.
3. But wait, we can’t stop there: By the president’s own estimate, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost well over a trillion dollars. So we’re up to about $3,330 per person. And since the cost must be borne by those paying the taxes, roughly 50% of the population, you’re looking at $6,670 per person: $20,000 for my family. That is real money for a middle class family.
4. There is one easily identifiable risk: There would be a push to itemize other items on people’s tax bills, notably Social Security, interest on the deficit, military spending in general, the cost of operating Congress, etc. That’s risky because of the endless Pandora’s box of debates about it, but I’m not entirely convinced that that is a bad thing. It happens anyway, just not in so literal a fashion.
6. If I ran the world, people who served in the military would be exempt from paying this.
But the biggest advantage?
7. Republican heads would explode. It would a be a lot harder to puff your chest about patriotism and talk about cutting taxes at the same time.