War funding is problematic, even when we’re talking about funding a war that only lasts a few months, like the one in Libya last year. It still cost over $1 billion.
And while it would be wise to pay for these wars up front when we can and even better to avoid them if possible, it’s often not feasible to do either: particularly if the war is a retaliatory one (which the war in Libya was not).
Recently, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) raised this issue, but did so in a way that allowed him to bash President Bush without, of course, criticizing the current thin-skinned occupant of the White House. With what could only be described as a leading question, Leahy asked Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: “What would be the impact of going to war again without committing to pay for that war with upfront taxes, something we did not do in either Iraq or Afghanistan, for the first time in the history of the country?”
As I alluded to earlier, Leahy missed the retaliatory aspects of Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, both wars came as part of the larger War on Terror, which was thrust upon us on 9/11. (Leahy also conveniently overlooked the fact that portions of some previous wars were financed by “war bonds” rather than taxes, but that’s another issue.)
To be fair, my initial reading of Leahy’s comments made me wonder whether he was using the threat of an added tax as an incentive to keep us out of war, or whether he was using war as a justification for reaching deeper and deeper into our pockets. My gut feeling is that it’s the latter, and that the myriad wars Obama has us in or pending toward at this very moment, including Somalia and Yemen, could prove just the ticket for the tax hike Democrats have been seeking.
And if they follow the war surtax Democrat House Leadership tried to implement for Iraq in 2007, they’ll be able to levy progressive taxes that look a lot like the ones Obama talked about, when he pledged to “spread the wealth around.”