E. J. Dionne at the WaPo asked a good question the other day:
Would conservatives and Republicans support the war in Iraq if they had to pay for it?
That is the immensely useful question that Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, put on the table this week by calling for a temporary war tax to cover President Bush’s request for $145 billion in supplemental spending for Iraq.
The proposal is a magnificent way to test the seriousness of those who claim that the Iraq war is an essential part of the “global war on terror.” If the war’s backers believe in it so much, it should be easy for them to ask taxpayers to put up the money for such an important endeavor.
This is a question I’ve asked many times. Unfortunately, according to Dionne, Obey’s proposal is dead on arrival because the Democratic leadership won’t support it. As Obey puts it “they don’t want to be demagogued by the White House”. And they surely would be. Repubs would trot out the same old dogs: Dems love taxes! Government waste, fraud, and abuse!
But at this point I have to wonder if the Dems aren’t underestimating the commonsense of the American people. Conservatives have been beating this drum for nearly 40 years; it made some sense when Dems controlled Congress and Jimmy Carter was president, but Repubs took control of the House in 1994, except for Clinton they’ve owned the Presidency since 1980. By 2002 they had a complete lock on government. What was the result? Small government? No, big spending and big debt. Until the children’s health insurance bill came along Bush never saw a spending bill he didn’t like. And we aren’t talking just Iraq. In 2003 Bush signed the largest expansion of entitlement programs since Medicare, the Medicare prescription drug act. Hundreds of billions of dollars and it was completely unfunded. Now he’s complaining because the Dems want to increase the cigarette tax to pay for the children’s health insurance bill? Help me. Whatever credibility the conservative movement may have had, it has none after the Bush debacle.
No, Repubs had a chance to show us their small government stuff. Turns out it was just a big tax cuttin’ party. It was a good time. Made some people famous and powerful. It went on too long though and turned into a drunken binge. Now it’s Morning in America. The headaches are setting in. Worst of all, the GOP party animals have become addicts, they can’t stop cutting taxes and they can’t stop spending. When the party got started it was just rhetoric. Now, like all addicts, they are destroying the lives of those around them. I think the American people sense that the GOP tax cut party is over, and would support some responsible leadership.