How serious is a Wisconsin congressman about a “war tax” to cover the costs of the Obama administration’s stepped up war in Afghanistan? UW Madison political scientist Charles Franklin doubts whether Wausau Democrat, U.S. Representative Dave Obey, will see his proposal come to a vote in the House.
“Obey is a very influential congressman, so I don’t want to discount this. But he has proposed this before. He proposed something like it during the Bush administration,” said Franklin. “I cannot imagine that there’s a majority in Congress prepared to vote for such a tax.” To pay for more troops in Afghanistan, Obey wants a graduated surtax on income. Tax increases would range from one percent for the lowest wage earners, to five percent for the most wealthy.
While Franklin doubts it will come to a vote, he said the issue allows Obey, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, to make a point about how much the wars in Iran and Afghanistan are costing. “And, we’ve been hiding the costs of them in a variety in ways,” noted Franklin. If, as expected, President Obama announces plans to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the cost will total $40 billion to $54 billion a year, following a formula for determining cost at about $1 million per soldier per year. “From a fiscal point of view, it would make sense to pay for those with an explicit tax, if for no other reason than just to drive home to the public how much we’re paying for them, and that somebody has to pay for them at some point,” said Franklin.
Franklin doubts that raising the war tax issue will hurt Obey’s reelection chances in the 7th Congressional District. “You never want to prejudge what’s going to happen in an election, but it will require a change in traditional views of taxes, and progressive taxes, in Obey’s district, for this issue to bite him too hard, I think,” said Franklin. “He’s proposing a tax to pay for a war that Republicans have been for and Republicans have started. Dave Obey can argue a fiscal responsibility behind this, if it does become an issue, and he can argue that in a way that it’s a little hard for Republicans to brand it as just another Democratic tax and spend issue.”
Bob Hague (:65) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:65 MP3)