You break the peace, you buy the war


Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If this would do anything, it would result in a re-classification of any kinetic military action into the “NOT A WAR!!!!” one.

    “We have decided to engage in an active right-sizing of terrorist activity in Nowheristan.”Report

  2. Avatar Vertov says:

    Part of the reason why we get these awful euphemisms (“police action,” “kinetic military action,” etc.) is that in terms of the U.S. Constitution, the Executive needs explicit legislative approval fight a war.

    It also carries international legal implications. Being the party that starts the war also carries obvious moral implications (this, I think, is the lasting legacy of the Nazis, who have earned a special place in historical opprobrium for this reason among others). This is why UN Security Counsel Resolution 1441 was so important – it made Iraq the instigator, despite the facts ascertained later.

    But politically, its because the public, in all places and historical times, hates war — unless they hate the “enemy” sufficiently. This hate, of course, is easier if you don’t have to pay for it up front.


  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Or we could end the wars and skip the tax.

    But that’s just irresponsible libertarian crazy talk. I don’t expect anyone to agree.Report

  4. Avatar Jeff says:

    “Or we could end the wars and skip the tax.
    But that’s just irresponsible libertarian crazy talk. I don’t expect anyone to agree.”

    The DFHs got there first. But there are 10 ANSWER members for every 1000 who marched against the war, so the DFHs are unserious.Report

  5. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think there’s an inherent danger in tying taxing or spending to events that you don’t have total control over.

    If you believe that wars can be just, then it doesn’t make sense to put the country in a situation where committing troops to a just war would additionally hurt the economy or the poor (by forcing increased revenue to cover the war immediately, which must come out of taxes or government programs). It makes much more sense to make this decision on a case-by-case basis, and pay the war forward when the economy is already in good shape.

    If you don’t think wars can ever be just, then this really is just a disguised way to generate opposition.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      In fact, the more I think about this the more this kind of policy inherently depends on the idea that wars are always strategic conquest. Whereas a just war will almost always be an urgent situation: either defending ourselves or our allies. So this policy is like saying that every time you have to drive someone to the emergency room you should fill up your gas tank first. Of course, having a full tank before you drive is generally a good thing; but to put it as a prerequisite for an ER visit completely completely misses the point on what such a visit entails.

      Back in the real world, while I am entirely against the current wars and operations, forcing a tax to cover them during a recession would either put an additional strain on the economy or cause the wars to be wound down in a rushed, incomplete way or a bit of both. In a poor economy, I see a lot of parallels between this and a balanced budget amendment.Report

  6. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    To put that trillion dollars into perspective, total federal spending over the last ten years has been $30 trillion. Total GDP over the same time period was over $140 trillion, meaning that the war cost about 0.7% of GDP. A government can sustain a deficit of 2-3% of GDP indefinitely, because at this rate GDP tends to grow faster than the debt.

    Say what you want about the philosophical merits of the war; fiscally speaking it’s the least of our problems.

    That said, cutting domestic spending is another option for offsetting the war spending.Report

    • Avatar Plinko says:

      Yes, more or less setting a trillion dollars on fire is OK as long as it’s only a small part of GDP!Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I didn’t say anything about the wisdom of spending a trillion dollars on the war. I just pointed out that there was no urgent need to raise taxes to pay for the war specifically, because a deficit of less than 1% of GDP just isn’t that big a deal.

        The skew of McGovern’s proposed surtax makes it pretty obvious what’s going on here: Leftists want to raise taxes on successful people. They always have wanted to do this, and they always will want to do this, regardless of the details of the country’s fiscal situation. The war is merely the raison du jour for doing so.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Oh come on, revenue collection hasn’t been this low (as a % of GDP) since 1940 and you’re kvetching about taxing successful people?

          Besides, most of the programs in the US government are only single digit %’s of GDP. It all adds up. Mandating that optional wars aren’t allowed to be hidden off the books and then dumped on the national credit card seems like a pretty good suggestion (though likely it’d just result in more quibbling about what counts as a war).Report

  7. Why would you use this criteria instead of the deficit and debt?

    That is, besides the answer that you already had a specific solution you wanted to propose for ideological reasons.Report

  8. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    My neighbor asked me about this yesterday. (He’s a nice guy. In Canada, they spell it neighbour though) I really hadn’t thought about war spending in a while, but he wanted to know, “Did your country really cut taxes at the same time they went to war? I’ve never heard of anybody doing that”.Report