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Picking Up the War Tab
May 28, 2010
by William P. Meyers

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Who will pick up the tab? On the micro scale, everyone has experienced this question, typically at restaurants. In society, when services are given to the poor, the unfortunate, or even those who competently avoid taking responsibility for themselves, either donors pay or taxpayers pay the tab.

Then there is the War. Mostly in Afghanistan these days, but it could flare up any minute in Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Korea, etc. There are direct costs to the occupation of Afghanistan, and then there is the ongoing, bone-crushing cost of maintaining the U.S. military establishment as a whole. There is no doubt that U.S. taxpayers are picking up this tab. But taxpayers are a varied lot, and pay or evade a wide variety of taxes.

Yesterday's vote in the U.S. Senate on special funding for the occupation of Afghanistan illustrates some interesting shifts in the tab-picking-up dynamic. Some Senators in the Democratic Party and some Senators in the Republican Party voted against the funding. The Democratic Party naysayers want a timetable for withdrawal set. The Republican Party Nays had voted against the amendment to attach a withdrawal timetable for the bill. They voted against the bill itself because no provision was made to raise the money for it; it would add to the deficit. So they want the meal, They are worried about who will pay the tab.

American taxpayers have run up an enormous tab. It is called the National Debt. There is interest on the national debt, which itself makes up a big part of the Federal budget each year.

Back when the Dems were the outs and wanted to be voted in, they opposed the war as pointless. Now the leadership of the Dems, including the President, sound exactly like the leadership of the Republicans did just a few years ago. Only the Republicans, given their self-inflating, gun-toting constituency, can't oppose the war openly. There are no votes there. What they can do is point to the way the Democratic Majority is taking out a mortgage on America, at variable interest rates, with no ability to pay if either interest rates go up or the economy cycles back into recessionary mode.

Who will pay the tab? With the Democrats in power, the Republicans are worried that taxes on the "rich" will be raised. After all, you can't squeeze tax dollars out of income-less people living in Obama-villes. The rich already pay a lot of the tax burden, but they also get some pretty good breaks, like not paying taxes on capital gains until the capital is sold, which is typically only when they die. I would rather be rich and pay at higher tax rates, but once you are rich you get used to spending your money like anyone else. Higher taxes for the rich could mean waiting a year before buying a new Bentley, or taking a few days less vacation on the French Riviera, or having to fire one of the maids. That is the kind of irritant that makes rich people put pressure on their politicians.

You know how it goes. "Sure Bob, last year I raised $100,000 for your campaign, but then you raised taxes and now Sally Sue's vacation budget is $250,000 short."

In case you have not noticed, in Democratic majority districts the rich have to pick up two tabs. One is for the presumed winners, the Democrats, and the other is for the Republican Party candidates, to keep their hopes alive and the pressure on the Democrats.

Talk about a quagmire. The Democrats can't get out of Afghanistan without a "victory" because that would make them vulnerable to the Republicans. The Republicans are really, really worried about the future tax burden (and everyone should be), and the smarter ones are beginning to realize that the military part of the military-industrial complex has gotten to big compared to the industrial part. Too much industry has left the U.S.A., leaving a service-based economy that can't pay for the industrial goods we import.

Once I was working as a waiter in a pizza joint and a table of customers ran out on me. The restaurant owner, chewed me out thoroughly, but did not carry out his threat to take the tab out of my miniscule wages. He had to pick up the tab.

When taxes get high, evasion becomes commonplace. Some blame the Greek crisis on that phenomena.

Before dining out, which I seldom due since my wife and I both prefer cooking ourselves, I like to negotiate who is going to pay the tab. I don't like surprise. I especially don't like heavy drinkers who suggest that the tab be split "evenly." The federal deficit and national debt are one big surprise waiting to happen. There is absolutely nothing in our legal codes about who exactly is going to pay that tab.

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