Image via WikipediaPublished on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 by The Nation
Grayson's Smart Calculus Makes War Cost Real for Taxpayers
by John Nichols
Congressman Alan Grayson is at it again. This time, the Florida Democrat who shook up the health-care debate by saying Republicans were the real death-panel party and who shook up the bank reform debate by leading (with Texas Congressman Ron Paul) the “Audit the Fed” fight, is shaking up the debate about so-called “emergency” supplemental spending to fund the occupations of foreign lands.
Grayson’s mad because the Pentagon and its allies in the White House (be they Bush and Cheney or Obama and Biden) keep demanding tens of billions in additional allocations to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And they do so in a manner that makes debate difficult and dissent rare.
But Grayson is out to provoke a debate – and he is definitely dissenting.
“What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the ‘military-industrial complex’ has come true,” the congressman argues. “War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore.”
Grayson proposes to change this circumstance with a bill he has introduced: “The War Is Making You Poor Act.”
“The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars,” he explains.
To make the cost of war real for working Americans, Grayson performs a simple calculus:
“Next year's budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That's enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American's income. Beyond that, (it) leaves over $15 billion to cut the deficit.
“And that's what this bill does. It eliminates separate funding for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminates federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples). Plus it pays down the national debt.”
The congressman is betting – with good reason –that the key to opening up a real debate about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to make real the cost of these occupations to American families.
“The costs of the war have been rendered invisible. There's no draft. Instead, we take the most vulnerable elements of our population, and give them a choice between unemployment and missile fodder. Government deficits conceal the need to pay in cash for the war,” explains Grayson, with a reference to the mounting trade deficit with China. “We put the cost of both guns and butter on our Chinese credit card. In fact, we don't even put these wars on budget; they are still passed using 'emergency supplemental'. A nine-year 'emergency.’”
If Americans recognize what they are personally paying to maintain occupations of distant lands, Grayson argues that Americans will tell Congress: “the cost of these wars is too much for us.”
It’s a good bet.
In the first 72 hours after Grayson introduced his legislation, more than 22,000 Americans signed an online petition endorsing it.
© 2010 The Nation
John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.