Americans used to buy savings bonds to support the war effort. These were securities liquidated after the war was over which ideally would spur an economic boom. During World War II, Defense Bonds, War Bonds and what was called Series E Savings Bonds offset the massive costs. The gush of liquidity after that war created the middle-class, the suburbs and the Baby Boomers.
Buying war bonds has been a tradition in the United States since before we were the United States. That’s how the Revolutionary War was funded. That’s how we raised money to “wage” war. We taxed, rationed and pitched in. It was part of patriotism.
The Iraq War? Afghanistan? Now, Libya? How are we paying for it? With the deficit.
During Bush’s “bullhorn moment” after the towers fell on 9/11 – when stunned Americans desperately needed their Commander to tell them what they could do for their country – he told them to go shopping. Americans put something shiny on their personal credit cards, and Bush put a couple of wars on our collective one.
Now “deficit” is the GOP’s doomsday buzzword. Veep Dick Cheney famously told the Treasury “deficits don’t matter.” Of course, that was while they occupied the White House.
But now deficits will destroy the country! Ed Gillespie, Counselor to the President during the Bush Administration, said Obama, the nation’s multi-tasker-in-chief has “deficit attention disorder.” They pretend the GOP never voted to compound the deficit by okaying unpaid-for tax cuts, spending increases and corporate welfare during the blank check days of the Bush Administration. But now everything distasteful is pinned to Obama – the Republicans will tell you they’re the only ones serious on this deficit issue…and by the way – it will kill us all!
Last week every House Republican (except Ron Paul and three in purple districts) voted to privatize Medicare, cut taxes further on the rich and hope this will magically reduce the deficit. Even though the Congressional Budget Office reported it wouldn’t.
“Fiscally responsible” has become code for “tax cuts for the wealthy.” “Adult conversation” means “poor people pay up.” Throw in a misplaced “socialism” or two, pretend the corporate-funded Tea Party speaks for the majority of Americans, and you’ve been chewing the fat with the current GOP.
So all that trying to scare old people during the health care debate about rationed care and death panels? Guess what? The Republicans in the House just voted FOR that. It’s an interesting tactic to vilify your opponent for what you later gleefully vote for when your party suggests it. Like when Bush called Al Gore a “big-spending, big-government candidate” – right before Bush nearly doubled the national debt from $6.1 trillion to $10.4 when he was in office.
Here’s where the fight comes in: The Republicans have decided that unlike their demigod Ronald Reagan – they will never ever raise taxes for any reason – ever. Speaker Boehner called it a “non-starter.” They not only want to renew the Bush Tax Cuts (which even Alan Greenspan says should expire), they want to give the top 2% an added tax cut. “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” No. Actually we have both.
Republicans claim to be the arbiters of fiscal discipline, but their record says otherwise. The Ryan Plan, which passed the House, was like a cat burglar writing the charter for the neighborhood watch.
“We’ve never had a war with no tax to support it, including the Revolution,” said former GOP senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to a Denver audience over the weekend. He continued, “People are told in Congress if they raise taxes by a nickel, they’ll be strung up by their heels in the town square.”
It’s not a novel idea. It’s not a new idea. And if you’re into Originalism it’s an idea the Founding Fathers created: Tax for wars. Tax for them or issue savings bonds. But pay for wars. But pay for them another way than a deficit. Put the trillions we dole out to stay in foreign countries at the center of American public debate.
It’ll bring into focus the literal battle cry uttered repeatedly by troops in Baghdad: “We’re at war; America is at the mall.”