(image by R B Shreve and Microsoft Office Clip Art)
Many progressive voices have called these hypocrites out for their obvious lack of remorse for the lives needlessly lost or ruined by the military actions they initiated and continue to advocate. But very few have proposed that Congress step up and fulfill its constitutional role: to deliberate and decide on a declaration of war. The hawks would like to urge others to act and avert accountability or risk to themselves.
I would like to see every American have skin in the game. If we are sending any armed personnel anywhere, Congress must ordain that all of us back the effort -- not indirectly but as directly and immediately as possible. In the past we have dodged shouldering the risks and costs. Under the guise of having an all-volunteer army, we have sent only the few who were patriotic enough to serve. We have enticed them with pay incentives, educational opportunities, promises of travel and adventure, and the prospect of an early retirement with generous health and financial benefits.
We've downplayed the prospect of physical and psychological disabilities. And, to our eternal shame, we have failed to ensure that the Veterans Administration runs efficiently for the benefit of those whose service leaves them less fit than when they first volunteered.
Equally shameful, we have undertaken our military adventures on credit. We have left the bill for future generations. They not only must pay the up-front costs, but also the interest on the debt. It's a cruel paradox that much of that interest goes to nations like China, nations that will one day be seen as economic and political adversaries to America.
Meanwhile here at home the richest and most prosperous among us enjoy low taxes relative to the benefit they derive from our American democracy. The also enjoy the choice not to serve in the military. Many of the hawks, like the infamous Richard "Dick" Cheney, deemed their personal careers too important to permit time out for military service. Of course many, also like Cheney, profited handsomely from enterprises that support US military actions.
It is high time that this obscene tradition end. I propose a COMBAT TAX. This tax would be an amount initially estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to cover any proposed action involving armed government personnel. The estimate would be updated quarterly to reflect actual incurred costs. It would be added as a percentage, a surtax on all US Federal taxes across the board. Income tax, excise tax, gas tax -- every tax paid to the US Treasury. Each of us would feel the bite in the taxes withheld from out paychecks. We'd see it immediately in the cost of gas and luxury items we buy. We would all have skin in the game, every single one of us. Rich or poor, each of us would pay. (We might consider exempting income for the veterans who had seen combat.)
At the same time, the Combat Tax legislation would provide for universal service -- yes, I mean conscription. Every adult man or woman would be required to serve the nation in some capacity. Service could be in qualifying occupations like Teach America, Peace Corps, Volunteer Firefighter, Volunteer EMT, and the like. To provide more opportunity we could resurrect the Civilian Conservation Corps to help rebuild our rotting infrastructure. The idea would be that in addition to the monetary hit of the Combat Tax, there would be a universal investment of time and energy for the national good that was in some small way on a par with that made by our military personnel.
The end result of the Combat Tax would be total accountability. Each and every one of us would have a personal stake in assuring that the US never initiate combat unless a truly vital national interest were at risk. Moreover, all of us would have a stake in limiting the conflict and making sure there was an exit strategy.
I'd bet that none of the US wars of the last fifty years would have happened were a Combat Tax the law and the tradition of American democracy. My challenge to the GOP hawks is this: You want more war? Then declare it, and along with it enact the Combat Tax. GOP: Show me the money!
(Article changed on June 21, 2014 at 13:55)