A group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced a bill that would impose a temporary war surtax beginning in 2011 to pay for the war in Afghanistan.
Known as the Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010, the bill aims to end the practice of paying for the war in Afghanistan with borrowed money. That war is expected to undergo an expansion soon, and how much depends on the outcome of President Obamas war deliberations.
The Democratic lawmakers want to apply to wartime troop surges the same kind of PayGo formulas that have been used to keep score of the various versions of health care legislation floating around Capitol Hill. Or maybe they just want to tweak their Republican colleagues for continually harping on the high cost of health reform.
For the last year, as weve struggled to pass health care reform, weve been told that we have to pay for the bill and the cost over the next decade will be about a trillion dollars, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., in a statement. Now the president is being asked to consider an enlarged counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, which proponents tell us will take at least a decade and would also cost about a trillion dollars. But unlike the health care bill, that would not be paid for. We believe thats wrong. Regardless of whether one favors the war or not, if it is to be fought, it ought to be paid for.
The bill is not likely to get very far, given the anti-tax mentality of many in Congress, but its worth taking a look at some of the tax provisions, in case the deficit hawks join in with their support. For joint filers who make less than $22,600, the surtax would be calculated at 1 percent of their net income tax liability. If they make between $22,600 and $36,400, the surtax would be $226, plus the applicable percentage of the excess over $22,600. If they make over $36,400, the surtax would be $226, plus the applicable percentage of $13,800 and twice the applicable percentage of the excess over $36,400. There are similarly confusing rules for individuals, trusts, estates and corporations.
Obey is opposed to expanding the war in Afghanistan and believes that the extra cost could end up draining away the money that might be used to pay for the presidents domestic policy goals. He proposed a similar war surtax in 2007 to demonstrate his opposition to expanding the war effort then, but at that time his bill did not go far. Now concerns are mounting over increased troop deployments, which could cost an extra $1 billion for every additional 1,000 troops. Those are only the economic costs, of course. The cost in lives, catastrophic injuries, post-traumatic stress and other casualties would be incalculable.
Now with concerns mounting over deficits and the cost of health care reform, financial considerations may play a greater role in determining whether a troop surge occurs in Afghanistan and how it will be budgeted. Obama wants war costs to be included in the federal budget from now on, and that could make the war surtax more appealing to some as a way to make the budget deficit a little less astronomical. Obey has attracted a number of high-profile co-sponsors to his bill, including Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa.; House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.; and Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn.
The move is not without its pitfalls. Paying taxes may be a form of shared sacrifice, but proposing to raise taxes on the masses can be a form of self-sacrifice come election time.
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