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Posts Tagged ‘National Priorities Project’

Taxing the Rich: Still a Good and Fair Idea

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Budget cutting is all the rage; a recent attempt to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire was defeated by Obama’s deal with the Republican congressional leadership. (See our reaction to that regrettable deal here and here.) In this time of (unnecessary) revenue shortfalls and budget crises, who speaks for raising taxes? We do. And we’re not alone. (For example, Bill Gates Sr., a wealthy man, believes the rich should pay more.)

Recent letters to the New York Times in response to a superficially reasonable column by David Brooks spoke well about the need to raise revenues by taxing the wealthy, reducing tax breaks for the rich and for corporations, and, when cutting the budget, to include defense spending. (As is often the case, the best part of the paper is the Letters to the Editor.) The writers convey their views well, so we’ll say no more except to commend their good sense.

 

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If you feel the same way, please write letters to the editors of your own local papers, and phone your local news stations and the news networks listed here (lower page) and say so. Demand that producers present the views of proponents of fair taxation of upper-income Americans—such as the Citizens for Tax Justice and the National Priorities Project—rather than only presenting the arguments of “fiscally conservative” budget-slashers. Thank you.

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Who in America Remembers Afghanistan?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

How will we ever see the end of a war that everyone seems to have forgotten—everyone except the families and friends of the wounded and the dead?

“We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. . . . If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire. . . . Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.” —Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the lone vote against the war in Afghanistan, Sept. 15, 2001 (video)

Guardian columnist Gary Younge, who writes on American politics and society, penned a sensitive and saddening piece last week titled “Forgotten War Is Everyone’s Orphan” (print edition). The subtitle reads, “Admiration for soldiers may be widespread and deep in America, but interest in what they are doing is shallow and fleeting.” Younge opens with the funeral of a 23-year-old soldier in Bordentown, New Jersey, then comments:

There is a reverence for the military in the US on a scale rarely seen anywhere else in the west that transcends political affiliation and pervades popular culture. On aeroplanes the flight attendant will announce if there are soldiers on board to great applause. When I attended a recording of The Daily Show, John [sic] Stewart made a special point before the show of thanking the servicemen in the audience.

But while the admiration for those who serve and die may be deep and widespread, interest in what they are doing and why they are doing it is shallow and fleeting. During November’s midterm elections it barely came up. In September just 3% thought Afghanistan was one of the most important problems facing the country. When Pew surveyed public interest in the war over an 18-week period last year, fewer than one in 10 said it was the top news story they were following in any given week, including the week Stanley McChrystal—the four-star general commanding troops in Afghanistan, was fired. The country, it seems has moved on. The trouble is the troops are still there.

100,000+ U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Since 2001, 2,255 coalition deaths (1,402 Americans)

Although the Afghan War is unpopular—a poll in December 2010 found 63% opposed, 56% thinking it’s going badly (very badly say 21%), and 60% believing it’s not worth fighting—it was bipartisan, almost unanimous: “a war of necessity,” as the phrase went after the 9/11 attacks, and so it has not been a partisan electoral issue the way the Iraq War was. Younge notes that the war in Afghanistan was “supported by Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Susan Sontag.” In the U.S. Congress, only Barbara Lee of California, quoted above, voted against authorizing force. Perhaps she foresaw complications we are only belatedly recognizing. (She also received death threats.)

. . . as the principal retaliatory response to the terror attacks of 9/11, [the Afghan War] has failed. It hasn’t brought liberty, democracy or stability. It has killed untold thousands of civilians: untold because they are regarded as expendable. And not only has it not captured the perpetrators of the terror attack, there are far more acts of terrorism globally today than there were in 2001, in no small part because of the chaos wrought by the war on terror.

To really engage with what has gone wrong with the war in Afghanistan, Younge says,

would demand a sharp reckoning with why so many thought it would was right to begin with. The country would have to interrogate its militaristic reflexes and proclivities, and face the fact that while there were few good or certain options after 9/11 (ranging from the diplomatic to containment) this was one of the worst—and the others were never seriously considered.

The United States has never seriously examined why the nation was attacked by al Qaeda. The grievances of Osama bin Laden have been blocked from view—for example, by the direct intervention with network news outlets by former national security advisor Condoleezza Rice in 2001. We have been told that the atrocities of September 11 were launched because “they hate our freedoms,” among other simplistic explanations and warnings that helped set the groundwork for a follow-on invasion of Iraq.

Among other things, bin Laden was outraged by the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia, his native land but more importantly the site of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; by U.S. support of Israel and indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians; and by the West’s (mainly America’s) getting for cheap the oil wealth of the Muslim lands—again, mainly from Saudi Arabia. (Bin Laden’s aims are explained in some detail in Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America [2002] by Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit.) To be sure, the royal family of Saudi Arabia benefits from the arrangements as well (though most U.S. troops have been removed), but these are among bin Laden’s objectives that get little airing in the American media. We obviously do not condone the hyper-violent means that al Qaeda (“the base”) has taken to avenge these conditions, but what bin Laden has articulated are legitimate political grievances. Ignoring the widespread sense of injustice in the Arab and Muslim world only increases the likelihood of further radicalization and retribution. Especially after the revolution in Egypt, you can believe the Saudi royal family is nervous. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

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Tax Day: How Much Have You Paid for the War?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Most likely you’ve paid $7,334 of the $1.05 trillion that has gone to the Afghan and Iraq wars since 2001. Here is Tom Englehardt’s compelling introduction at TomDispatch.com to a piece (below the jump) by Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, with data supplied by the NPP’s CostofWar.com:

If you’re an average American taxpayer, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, since 2001, cost you personally $7,334, according to the “cost of war” counter created by the National Priorities Project (NPP). They have cost all Americans collectively more than $980,000,000,000. As a country, we’ll pass the trillion dollar mark soon. These are staggering figures and, despite the $72.3 billion that Congress has already ponied up for the Afghan War in 2010 ($136.8 billion if you add in Iraq), the administration is about to go back to Congress for more than $35 billion in outside-the-budget supplemental funds to cover the president’s military and civilian Afghan surges. When that passes, as it surely will, the cumulative cost of the Afghan War alone will hit $300 billion, and we’ll be heading for two trillion-dollar wars.

In the meantime, just so you know, that $300 billion, according to the NPP, could have paid for healthcare for 131,780,734 American children for a year, or for 53,872,201 students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550, or for the salaries and benefits of 4,911,552 elementary school teachers for that same year.

April 15th is almost upon us, and Jo Comerford, TomDispatch regular as well as the NPP’s executive director, decided to take a look at one restive American community under the gun (so to speak) as tax day rolls around again. Our wars seem—and are—so far away, so divorced from American lives. If someone you know well hasn’t been wounded or killed in one of them, it can be hard to grasp just how they are also wounding this society. Here’s one way. (Check out as well Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Comerford discusses military spending and the federal budget by clicking here or, if you prefer to download it to your iPod, here.) —Tom

[H/T to Dan Froomkin @ HuffPo ]

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