Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The False Tradeoff

Butter or guns?  Mayors and Senators are now griping about the costs of the US wars, arguing that we should be spending the money at home.  I get that.  The US has a fiscal crisis, but even given how expensive the wars are (and the Iraq costs are about to hit zero, more or less, after December), the crisis is not about spending.  It is about revenues.  Tax rates are historically low, and commitments have not changed to reflect this.  Not just international commitments, but commitments to old folks in the forms of medicare and social security.  Certainly, we need to reduce the defense budget, and getting out of Afghanistan would help.  But to present it as if that is the only way or the best way to address the fiscal mess is problematic in the extreme.  The anti-tax mania must eventually be confronted by politicians who have some guts, because that is the enduring threat to American prosperity, security, and posterity. 

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the war in Afghanistan.  But the fiscal crisis is not really one of them.  We can do important things at home and abroad if we are willing to pay for them.  And if we are not willing to pay for them, cutting the Afghanistan mission is not going to make that much of a difference.

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