Leahy Calls For War Tax

08/17/11 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy is calling on members of the Congressional debt reduction super committee to include a war tax to pay for U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan in their final package.

Leahy says these wars were never paid for and have cost the American people several trillion dollars in additional debt.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Leahy serves in a leadership position on the Senate Appropriations committee. He's the second ranking member on the panel and he chairs the sub committee on foreign affairs.

Leahy is urging the super committee to conduct all their meetings in public because he thinks secret agreements will undermine their work.

(Leahy) "I'd rather have the facts out there not just bumper sticker slogans but things explaining how difficult it is and the trade offs you have to make."

(Kinzel) The 12 person committee will try to find $1.2 trillion in cuts and perhaps new revenue that can be implemented over the next 10 years. Leahy says he's urging the panel to impose a one time tax to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leahy says the accumulated debt from the two wars far exceeds the budget targets of the super committee and he argues that the imposition of a war tax means that many key domestic programs won't have to face major cuts:

(Leahy) "You're never going to get it until they realize that you've had 2 wars that have gone on now for a total of 20 years with the two of them and they were done on a credit card. Unless we're willing to say we're going to have to pay for those we're going to have to do probably retroactively what we should have done in the first place and have a special tax for those wars."

(Kinzel) If the super committee reaches a stalemate, automatic budget cuts will be put into place. Half of the cuts will come from defense spending and the other half from domestic spending. Senator Bernie Sanders says he's concerned about the impact these cuts will have on essential programs.

(Sanders) "That's why I want this committee to move towards deficit reduction in a way that is fair and responsible and in a way that the vast majority of the American people want. Every poll that I have seen suggests that the American people want shared sacrifice...that is the task of this committee and the American people have got to make it very clear to them that that is what they want to see happen."

(Kinzel) Sanders is attending a United Steelworkers convention in Las Vegas.  He's calling on Congress to pass a jobs bill that includes billions of dollars to repair the country's transportation infrastructure and to promote the development of additional renewable energy sources.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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