Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 28, 2010

CONGRESS OVERCOMES OPPOSITION, APPROVES WAR FUNDING.... The House approved a spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but included $23 billion in additional domestic funding -- including $10 billion in aid to states, intended to save thousands of teachers' jobs. The Senate rejected that version, passed a stripped-down $59 billion package that funded the wars and nothing else, and offered the House a take-it-or-leave-it message

Late yesterday, the House took it, but it wasn't easy. In particular, many liberal Dems had plenty of reasons to balk -- opposition to the wars, dissatisfaction over the scrubbed domestic spending, and revelations surrounding the WikiLeaks materials -- and opposed the spending measure in fairly large numbers.

The House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $59 billion to continue financing America's two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy could work.

Here's the roll call. A majority of Dems and a majority of Republicans supported the funding, but 102 Democrats joined 12 Republicans in opposition. The number of House Dems voting against the midyear war spending nearly tripled from a year ago, which underscores the growing opposition.

It's also worth keeping in mind that the $59 billion for the wars isn't paid for, and will be added to the deficit as emergency spending. There was some talk among Republicans in May about trying to pay for the funding -- a step they never even considered between 2002 and 2008 -- but that was never seriously pursued.

With that in mind, reader M.R. raised a good point via email:

Here's something to ponder as the debate over the Bush tax cuts: although there is no action required to cause tax rates to reset to earlier values, I wonder if the Dems could get some political benefit by tying their inaction on renewing the top cuts to the two wars. That is, we need to let the tax rates return to earlier values to pay for our two wars.

That strikes me as a very sound approach. Wars are expensive, and throughout American history, taxes have gone up to pay for conflicts. Lincoln raised taxes to pay for the Civil War. McKinley raised taxes to finance the Spanish-American War. Wilson raised the top income tax rate to 77% to afford WWI. Taxes were raised, multiple times, to help the nation pay for WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Even the first President Bush raised taxes after the first war with Iraq.

This year, taxes are scheduled to return to earlier levels anyway. If Dems let that happen, they can help pay for the war spending Republicans support.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

now, we've got this deficit going, ya know. how are we going to pay for this war?

guess it's time to raise taxes! let's make the republicans put their money where their mouths are.......

Posted by: just bill on July 28, 2010 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Tax the oil companies.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on July 28, 2010 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Only 114 sane Congresscritters. This is how overstretched empires collapse.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

"The Democrats raised YOUR taxes to pay for socialism/healthcare/ illegal immigrant/deadbeat jobless/education!"

A tax increase won't be earmarked for the wars and will be blamed on the majority party. The "patriotism" used to start and continue the wars has been ditched in favor of partisan finger pointing.

Posted by: alanb on July 28, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, "Freedom Isn't Free!"

Posted by: chrenson on July 28, 2010 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to see that my Rep. voted against further war funding. I just called to thank him.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on July 28, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

As I've been saying for years, the way to end these wars is to demand that they be paid for by raising taxes on the rich. They're the ones who have influence in Congress.

Posted by: smintheus on July 28, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

We are paying the price of our collective political cowardice. The time to stand up against unhinged militarism is before the ships sail, not afterward.

Posted by: beep52 on July 28, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

There are at least two things that are especially maddening about this:

1) Obama told us during his campaign that there would be no more 'emergency funding' for the wars. That it would go through the regular budgeting process. It is difficult to accept that after 7 years, anything remotely related to the wars can be reasonably considered as an 'emergency.'

2) The cuts to the bill - the ones which were of benefit to domestic issues - were completely paid for. All of it. As was mentioned, the 'war only' funding was not, and thus adds to our debt. As Progressive Caucus Chair Raul Grijalva wrote yesterday:

"Despite widespread shortfalls in education funding around the country, the $10 billion that would have saved 140,000 teacher jobs across the nation - all of it offset - has been cut. The $37.12 billion in war funding, on the other hand, is not paid for. Every single penny adds directly to the national debt.

Now one has to wonder why more noise wasn't made about this. This seems to be exactly the kind of thing Democrats could press Republicans hard on, but they didn't.

Some will say that this is just Reid making Republicans take difficult votes to later point to during the height of the election season. Maybe, but it sends the wrong message now, in a time when people are losing everything to the corporateers and their insatiable greed. If not now, when? If not with solid majorities in the Legislature and with the White House, who?

I don't know about you, but this kind of thing is emblematic of a country in decline; this is how empires fall. And we're watching this slow-motion train wreck apparently helpless to do anything meaningful about it. Of, by, and for the corporations indeed.

Posted by: terraformer on July 28, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

steve labonne: Only 114 sane Congresscritters.

Probably about 114 "congresscritters" in safe liberal Democratic districts.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

labonne: This is how overstretched empires collapse.

terraformer: this is how empires fall.

Haven't checked, but I'm thinkin' this must be the official firebagger theme for the day.

"You have your orders, now GET OUT THERE AND HIT THOSE COMMENT BOARDS!" --jh

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone notice that the title of the bill is "Making emergency supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and summer jobs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes"?

The Senate removed everything except the war funding, which was the "other purposes" in the title. They started out by hiding the war funding in an innocuous-sounding bill for other stuff, and then pulled the other stuff.

Wankers.

Posted by: MCD on July 28, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

As a side note, how about some advocacy ads for Republican primary challengers to the effect of "Rep. X voted to spend $59 billion on summer jobs programs, when the deficit is already out of control."

Posted by: MCD on July 28, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't checked, but I'm thinking cr must be the official clueless moron for the day. How lucky that he's on "our" side. With "friends" like him to congratulate them for self-destructive decisions, the Dems don't need enemies.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

labonne: With "friends" like him to congratulate them for self-destructive decisions

Didn't "congratulate" anyone. Just don't think that conjoining "paranoia" and "Democrat," and lambasting the leader of the party, are the best ways to win elections.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

why not simply say we are going back to the sound economic and tax policies of the Clinton era, where people paid their 'fair share'!

Posted by: mike reilly on July 28, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK
Didn't "congratulate" anyone. Just don't think that conjoining "paranoia" and "Democrat," and lambasting the leader of the party, are the best ways to win elections.

Because that's what's important, not ceasing to bankrupt ourselves with wars we shouldn't be fighting.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

labonne: Because that's what's important, not ceasing to bankrupt ourselves with wars we shouldn't be fighting.

If you've got a realistic way to do that right now, I'm all ears. In the meantime, those of us who understand how the real world works will continue to work and fight to win elections and bring whatever change for the better is possible at this time.

What we don't need is doom and gloom folks like you who do nothing but create an even more apathetic democratic base. YOU'RE exactly the kind of "friend" that Democrats don't need right now.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK
If you've got a realistic way to do that right now, I'm all ears.

If you've got a realistic way to avoid the destructive consequences- political as well as practical- of irresponsible policy, I'm all ears. Reality doesn't care about political games and excuses.

Posted by: Steve LaBonnes on July 28, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

labonne: If you've got a realistic way to avoid the destructive consequences- political as well as practical- of irresponsible policy

In 21st century U.S., the overall best realistic strategy to avoid irresponsible policy is: Elect Democrats instead of Republicans.

Your comments seem counterproductive to that.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

my two cents...afghanistan should be the issue that brings the obama administration down once and for all....not an outcome i wish to see

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 28, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK
In 21st century U.S., the overall best realistic strategy to avoid irresponsible policy is: Elect Democrats instead of Republicans.

Sadly, unemployed voters won't be buying that in November. And maybe you should hope they don't, because I expect a further economic downturn, which will be blamed on the Democrats if they still control Congress. I thought as early as 2006 that this was the long-range Republican game plan, and the Democrats have rushed to fall into their trap.

When good intentions unaccompanied by effective action run into reality, reality wins every time.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

In 21st century U.S., the overall best realistic strategy to avoid irresponsible policy is: Elect Democrats instead of Republicans. -- cr

Yes. Then, next time, elect better Democrats. Repeat until sanity returns.

Posted by: beep52 on July 28, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

@labonne

More paranoid conspiracy babble. If that's how you convince yourself not to choose a side and really fight for change, then suit yourself. I, however, have a hard time taking lessons on reality from someone who's grip on the same is demonstrably loose.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

So I take it opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at WaMo was just because the Republicans wouldn't pay for them?

Or is because somebody other than Kevin Drum is doing the blogging?

The next time you call Republicans batshit inanse just remember thank all those manaiacs for supporting Obama's War.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on July 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK
More paranoid conspiracy babble.

If you're really so poorly informed as to think that continued high unemployment isn't taking a big bite out of the Dems' November prospects- and as not to have noticed that Republican obstructionism has been designed for precisely that purpose- then you're truly so ignorant as to be beyond help.

It's often the idiots who preen themselves on their supposed political realism who are the most unrealistic. For Democrats, good policy is nearly always good politics. (Because the Republicans are the natural party of big money, this is much less true for them.)

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

...Obama's War

Breaking! Obama didn't start either war; he's simply attempting to make the best of the two wars Bush started and then fubar'd. If Dubya had kept his eye on Afghanistan and not puffed up his phony chest and invaded Irag, Obama would in all likelihood have inherited a far better situation. And we'd have been out long ago.

Some of us may not like what Obama has done, but to call it his war is ludicrous.

Posted by: beep52 on July 28, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

@labonne

No, I understand the current economic situtation and how the unemployment rate and republican obstructionism may tend to enlarge the typical mid-term loses suffered by the party in power, although I think it will have much less of an impact than you and your fellow naysayers predict.

The babble I speak of, and that you conveniently ignore in your most recent post, is as follows:

I thought as early as 2006 that this was the long-range Republican game plan, and the Democrats have rushed to fall into their trap.

As far as I'm concerned, this is typical fdl self-serving, democrat-bashing crap that has no valid place in a reasonable political discussion on a Democratic leaning blog.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK
No, I understand the current economic situtation and how the unemployment rate and republican obstructionism may tend to enlarge the typical mid-term loses suffered by the party in power, although I think it will have much less of an impact than you and your fellow naysayers predict.

There are many years of data to confidently predict that you'll be wrong. Nothing other than the current economic situation matters more than marginally in midterm elections. (Thankfully the Democrats currently have a big cushion so they can probably stave off Republican control of either house, for now.) The Administration decided to pre-compromise its stimulus plan (and later, to accept Republican framing about deficits including, as we see, the pretence that wars don't cost money) in search of purely illusory bipartisan support, and the price will be paid in November.

Is that fair given that the alternative is even much worse? Nope. But since when has life been fair?

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 28, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bears repeating: the majority of Dems in the House ALSO supported this "emegency" war funding. It's hard to call just Republicans "war-supporters" with these kind of votes. I'm a far-left liberal Democrat, and I'm sick of the so-called moderate Dems who vote Republican-light. Until and unless we get true liberals into office, and keep electing politicians who label themselves Democrats but aren't, things are not going to change except in the most modest of ways. Which we don't have time for~!

Posted by: winddancer on July 28, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I believed that the Afghanistan war was wrong from the start, although it certainly had more justification than the Iraq war. I knew that we would not do well in Afghanistan, because the terrain is mountainous and makes guerrilla warfare relatively easy for the indigenous population. Historically Afghanistan has proven unconquerable. Who are we to assume that we would do better?

Also, bombing weddings, drone bombing, etc., do not exactly endear us to the local populace, whose cooperation we need to get anywhere. And there are centuries of legitimate grievances built up against "the West" in Afghanistan (and in the Islamic world in general).

So I'm not at all happy that this money has been approved. I think it will just go down the rathole of futility. OTOH, $$$ will be needed once Obama decides to start phasing out. He's a smart man. I hope that he will realize that he needs to get us out of there ASAP. I also hope that he isn't thinking that he needs to prove how "tough" he is.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

wow.
A nice outpouring of support for warcrimes.
started by Bush, continued by Obama.
I get that Obama is much better domestically than Bush, hell, it'd be hard to do worse, but thousands of foreigners getting killed... well, that's ok.
And let's fund even more of it, 'cause now there's one of our guys in the white house and we gotta keep appluading at the body count.

Posted by: HMDK on July 28, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Just a note to Steve LaBonne: you may wish to look at the 1934 mid-term results before you continue to accept and push the rather tainted "CW" about Democratic chances in November. It may surprise you, especially as unemployment was MUCH higher than now.
I don't know if the the surprise will be pleasant, though...

Posted by: Doug on July 28, 2010 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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