Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

  Force Bush's hand on Iraq - Raise Taxes

Democrats in Congress continue to run in circles trying to find a way to rein in the Bush administration's open-ended commitment to more of the same in Iraq. The proposals become more and more round-about, week by week, as leaders search for a compromise that can get through both chambers, that won't be subject to a filibuster in the Senate or a veto from Bush. There's also much hand-wringing about the need to limit any initiatives to Congress' power of the purse, so as not to step upon the Executive's Constitutional authority.

It seems to me that they've narrowed their focus so radically so quickly that nothing will be enacted. In any case, the leadership has repeatedly tied its own hands by stripping proposals of real teeth. For example, Murtha's proposal to require that all troops sent to Iraq are fully rested, equipped and trained. It would thwart Bush's escalation by concentrating attention on this awkward fact--troops in all manner of unreadiness are being shipped out. Rather than face up to that fact, Republicans and a few 'Blue Dog' Democrats (plus Sen. Lieberman, whatever he is now) demand instead that Bush be permitted to waive this requirement if he determines that it's necessary to send unready troops. This is the very President who's been sending unready troops to Iraq up until now, even badly wounded troops.

So if any bill does make it to Bush's desk, at this stage it looks like it will be merely symbolic. But symbolic of what? Of the slim Democratic majority's ability to force Bush's hand? Or of their unwillingness to grasp the nettle? Because surely, if the problem is one of political chess, then there are bold moves that could put the oppenents of withdrawal on the defensive now and permanently.

The best tactics in the short and long term usually are those that hew to the heart of the matter. And the unpleasant truth is that this war has been sold to America from the start as one that will be easy. The agony and horror have been swept from the public eye. The longterm damage to US interests has been the subject of silence. And the costs have been excluded from public reckoning.

Hence any viable solution to Bush's determination to pursue more of the same in Iraq ought to strike at the carefully cultivated image that the Iraq war is nearly painless.

The most effective step, then, would be for Congress to raise taxes to pay for the ongoing war.

Indeed, since George Bush calls the super-rich his political "base", I would urge Democrats to bring forth a bill that would roll back Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy. This war continues to require supplemental appropriations, and as I commented on Sunday, the latest escalations in Iraq were coordinated with new appeals to Congress for more funds. This time, it's as clear as day that Bush wants to fund the war at the expense of domestic programs.

Democrats should demand, therefore, that from here on the administration's war of occupation in Iraq has to be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis. They should refuse to pile up any further the already huge mountain of debt for Iraq. They should refuse to eliminate domestic programs to feed Bush's war fever.

Instead, they should require that those who are most able to pay for this war, do pay for this, not some 20 or 30 years from now. And for every escalation, for every request from Bush for supplemental funding for the war, Democrats should raise taxes on the rich further.

Will the rich squawk that they shouldn't have to give up their tax breaks? You betcha.

Will they denounce Congress? You betcha.

Will they have some things to say to Bush as well about ending the occupation sooner rather than later? What do you think?

Now, some would argue that Republicans and Bush in particular would fight such a bill tooth and nail. And indeed they might. It's political suicide though. The American public isn't about to buy the argument that the deficit has to continue to balloon; or that actually requiring Bush to think about the cost of the war while sending ever more troops to Iraq would be out of bounds.

No, I think a filibuster of such a bill in the Senate would doom the Republicans in the '08 elections. Most Americans would cheer the Democrats for taking a firm and principled stance.

And a veto from Bush? A real possibility, though you can bet it would sharpen a lot of minds for Republicans in Congress, as they ponder how they'll explain to voters their refusal to pay for a war that they want to allow to continue.

In any case, Democrats should make clear that any veto from Bush would mean that he won't get any further funds. Either he's forced to accept tax increases on the wealthy, or he loses the funding for his war without end.

Whichever choice Bush (or Republicans in Congress) were to make, it would bring the US occupation of Iraq that much closer to an end.

Do you think your Member of Congress could be persuaded to get behind such a proposal? I know that mine would hate it. He's a Republican, and a longtime apologist for the Iraq war. But your own might just like the idea.

crossposted from Unbossed


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