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Eight Years Later, Still No Appetite to Share the Burdens of War

Here’s an interesting response from Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), senior Republican on the Finance Committee, when asked by a reporter this morning whether Congress intends to pay for the wars it’s launched, or continue to borrow the money and pile onto federal deficits.

Defending America is a number one responsibility and money’s not the first consideration. The first consideration is winning….

But we have always, one way or the other, raised the money to defend America, and in this case to defend America from a different kind of war, the war on terrorism. And it will be done.

He’s right on one account. You fight a war because you must, and the budget concerns should be immaterial. But the original question was, effectively, “Why aren’t lawmakers willing to ask Americans to pay for the costs of protecting the homeland, either through tax hikes or spending cuts elsewhere in the government?”

Grassley ducked it, and his argument that Congress has “always … raised the money to defend America” ignores the truth that, since 2001, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded primarily by borrowing from abroad — a particularly curious whitewash in the context of Republican criticisms that health care reform will break the federal budget.

The costs of that failure to ask for shared sacrifice have been tangible. When George W. Bush was elected to the White House in 2000, the nation’s debt was $5.7 trillion. Eight years later — after several rounds of tax cuts and two unfunded wars — the number had jumped to $10.0 trillion.

It’s worth noting that most of the Republicans now criticizing the costs of health care reform, Grassley included, also supported those mid-war tax cuts.

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