Wineke: Let's stop paying for Iraq with credit card

Would you be willing to increase your federal tax burden by 2 percent to support our troops in Iraq?

How about 12 percent, or 15 percent?

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, thinks that if we want to fight a war, we ought to be willing to do something to pay for it -- like pay for it.

He, along with Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., have suggested placing a "surcharge " of between 2 percent and 15 percent on federal taxes to pay the $150 billion the Iraq war is expected to cost next year. Rich people would pay more; poor people would pay less; most of us would pay something.

From the bipartisan reaction to his proposal, you would think Obey had set off a stink bomb at a flower show.

Republicans, whose current answer to any problem seems to be to cut taxes and borrow whatever money is needed, reacted typically, accusing Obey and all Democrats of lusting after tax raises.

But Democrats were no more enthusiastic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded by castigating President Bush for asking "no sacrifice from the American people except from our men and women in uniform and their families " and then went on to reassure us she doesn 't think a tax hike would be a sufficient "sacrifice. "

In other words, all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, "support the troops " but few of us support them so much we 're willing to give up even one thin dime to pay for their service.

Obey, however, is right.

If we want to take the nation to war, we ought to be willing to pay for that war, not just put it on a credit card.

It is becoming increasingly clear the war in Iraq is going to continue for years. It may not continue at its present level, but it will continue -- and it will continue to cost a lot of money.

The question is not whether we will spend that money. The question is whether we will pay for the war ourselves or just add the cost to the debt load we are leaving our children.

We 're leaving those children quite a legacy of irresponsibility as it is.

The nation 's infrastructure is crumbling and badly needs replacing. We have to replace water mains in our cities; we have to replace our roads and our airports. We need to think about what we will do to respond to the devastation promised by global warming (denial will work just so long).

The number of elderly people in our society is doubling and they will put an increasing burden on the nation 's health services and will, if we don 't act, bankrupt the Medicare program.

And, of course, the world doesn 't stand still. Al-Qaida is not the only group in the world that doesn 't like us. Sooner or later, some new enemy will test our resolve.

We are leaving our children plenty to handle. The least we could do is pay for this war so they aren 't stuck with it, too.

Contact Bill Wineke at or at 608-252-6146.

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