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Top Democrat warns Afghanistan will bankrupt domestic programs, threatens war surtax if Obama sends more troops

Wisconsin Democrat Dave Obey

David Obey came to Congress in 1969, a young Democratic congressman from Wisconsin, opposed to the Vietnam War and mindful of the funding it was draining from Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs.

Thirty years later, he is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and adamant that Afghanistan is a similar quagmire that could bankrupt President Obama's domestic agenda.

"There ain't going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan," House Appropriations Chairman David Obey told ABC News. "If they ask for an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan, I am going to ask them to pay for it."

Comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam, Obey said that both were long-standing civil wars and that, in each case, the United States found itself with an unreliable partner on the ground.

"On the merits, I think it is a mistake to deepen our involvement," Obey said. "But if we are going to do that, then at least we ought to pay for it. Because if we don't, if we don't pay for it, the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every initiative we have to rebuild our own economy."

"If we have to pay for the healthcare bill, we should pay for the war as well," Obey said, "by having a war surtax."

Obey's comments come just as Washington is starting to acknowledge the huge debt laid at its doorstep by recent programs -- including the massive drug-prescription bill and Iraq war costs enacted under the Bush administration as well as the healthcare overhaul and stimulus plans ginned up under Obama.

The current national debt is $12 trillion, and the White House estimates that, by 2019, interest from the debt will top $700 billion a year. As one analyst, Pimco's William Gross, told the New York Times, “What a good country or a good squirrel should be doing is stashing away nuts for the winter. The United States is not only not saving nuts, it’s eating the ones left over from the last winter.”

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: David Obey. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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Comments () | Archives (5)

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If Obey came to Congress in 1969 and now is a Chairman then he has been in Congress for forty years not thirty years.

Oooooh snap, Johanna. You just got called out!

To Rep. Obey, good luck getting that surtax through congress, idiot. Although I do agree with the idea of connecting the financial cost of war, both now at current baseline, as well as with troop increases.

Wars are a false profit and they never solve anything but setting the causes and conditons for the next war. Afghanistan however is a CIA covert operation gone bad, a use of the Afghan people to lure Russia to their Vietnam. As such we cannot say 9/11 was unprovoked and Pearl Harbor was also preceded by an oil embargo against Japan, not to say Japan was being nice in Asia but we were also a colonial power in the Phillipines and elsewhere in their spheres of influence if they were to follow our reasoning in the western hemisphere.
No country's wars are worth it nor the terrorists! We are all freedom fighters but the terrorists we are fighting are ourselves.

Stop spending now. When are these idiots going to get it. We can't afford it. Stop the feel-good spending. It's not the time for Healthcare for all. We're broke, unemployed, and hungry. No more taxes. Jobs first. Focus on reducing costs, or our kids and grand kids are in for a hell of a life.

Here's an idea, since GOVT is in such a hurry to drain their coffer's; how about a 10% Income tax across the board for everyone (family/business)? If everyone can take home more of what they make they'll probably Buy More, business' will hire to produce more, GOVT can slowly bring back income taxes to balance the budget while at the same time put the regulators back to doing their ph ucking jobs and let big company's fail for being stupid. Alas, they just don't get it...

regards


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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