Our Soldiers May Pay for the Tax Cut
   by JoeL

Whore City -- What's the quickest way to turn a hawk into a dove?
The answer seems to be: Cut its taxes.

For the better part of the past decade, Republican hawks have been arguing for a major
build-up in military spending, often attacking the Clinton administration for underfunding our
armed forces. But now, hardly a sound is heard from these hawks about President Bush's
plans, as reflected in the Republicans' budget resolution, to hold almost all of the defense
budget next year and for the rest of the decade at the same levels President Clinton had planned.

What happened to the purported readiness crisis that Mr. Bush decried during the campaign
last fall? What has changed? Nothing, and that's the problem. The tax plan that Mr. Bush first
proposed 15 months ago in the New Hampshire presidential primary remains the same,
despite the fact that it is now impossible for him to keep his promises to the military.

The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan anti-deficit group, says the president's tax plan could cost
$2.3 trillion over 10 years. The Senate voted yesterday for a somewhat smaller tax cut, but the
president remains wedded to his original proposal. That means the budget doesn't add up
today or leave enough money for our military needs tomorrow. In the administration's new
budgetary calculation, it seems joint filers trump the Joint Chiefs.

Although our military remains the strongest fighting force in the world, it does have some
serious immediate and long-term needs. And if we don't act now to ensure we can meet those
needs, we will put our security at risk. That is not just my assessment, but the opinion of every
leader at the Pentagon and independent defense expert I have talked to, not to mention
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

We need to spend more now on spare parts, ammunition and training; our military personnel
also need immediate increases to improve substandard housing and health care. If we don't
meet these urgent needs, the Pentagon will be forced to play a shell game, moving money
from other critical programs to avoid cutting back on training, parts and pay. Instead, Bush
should quickly send Congress a request for a supplemental appropriation for our military.

For the long term, we are told to wait for the completion of a strategic review, conducted by
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, before any more money is committed to defense. That, too, is wrong.

We may not yet know exactly what programs we will want to finance, or exactly how much
additional money we will need, but we do know that transforming our military will not be less
expensive than keeping our current military.

On Wednesday, Mary Landrieu and several other Democratic senators proposed reducing
President Bush's tax cut to allow us to increase defense spending. We wanted to add a total of
$100 billion a sensible sum for defense over the next decade. Regrettably, the amendment
lost 52-47, with 49 Republicans and three Democrats voting against it. Voting for it were 46
Democrats and John McCain.

If the Bush tax cut or anything similar passes, there will simply not be enough money in the
next decade for the spending that will be necessary to provide for our common defense.
If that happens, America and all of us who are its citizens will suffer.
 

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