In 2003, then-Speaker of the House Republican Denny Hastert argued for the first major tax cut during a war in U.S. history, saying, "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes." During that year, the centerpiece of President Bush's tax cut plan was enacted, the low 15 percent rate for capital gains and dividends. In 2005, this break cost about $92 billion and three fourths of it went to the richest 0.6 percent of taxpayers. Instead of asking Americans to make a sacrifice, the President guaranteed Americans that our economy depended on deficit-financed tax cuts aimed at the wealthy.
Four years later, has anything changed? On Tuesday, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee proposed a surtax to raise $145 to $150 billion a year to pay for the war in Iraq. Under his proposal, low- and middle-income taxpayers would see a two percent increase in their federal income tax bills, while wealthier people would see a 12 to 15 percent increase.
"Some people are being asked to pay with their lives or their faces or their hands or their arms or their legs," Obey told the Washington Post. "If you're going to ask for that, it doesn't seem too much to ask an average taxpayer to pay 30 bucks for the cost of the war so we don't have to shove it off on our kids."
Even though such temporary taxes have been used to fund wars in the past, the anti-tax establishment pounced immediately. White House press secretary Dana Perino said, "Well, we've always known that Democrats seem to revert to type and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything. There's no need to increase taxes." When asked to compare the President's refusal to fund an expansion of SCHIP with his willingness to spend hundreds of billions of deficit-financed dollars on the Iraq war, she called the Democrats "completely irresponsible" for wanting to raise taxes to pay for children's health care and the war.
In other words, the White House's fun-house mirror version of fiscal realities has not changed since the outset of the war. In their eyes, the responsible thing to do is have tax cuts and a war that are both deficit-financed, while paying for these things would be "completely irresponsible."