if I were running for president: taxes, spending, and war

Something I posted on Slashdot
today, following on to a discussion about asking Presidential candidates about whether
they accept the reality of evolution.


Notice you didn't see a thread here encouraging people to ask Democrats [about taxes and Al Qaeda]

Well, this being a site whose demographic is more united in a concern with science than on an agreement about tax policy or foreign policy, no, you didn't.

I'm not a Democrat or running for President. (Yet...I've hit the age requirement, and looking at the current field of candidates, might just write myself in 2008.) But I'd love to hear such questions put to candidates.

Here's how I'd answer: well, sir, if you want to lower taxes, you have to lower spending. Now, given that Americans pay lower taxes than most nations of comparable economic development, I don't find the issue tops on my priority list; especially when we're talking about increasing taxes on the unearned income of the wealthy, whose share of the tax burden has fallen.

But as it happens, a tremendous amount of money is being wasted on American "defense" spending, especially in the Iraq occupation. (Not to mention American and Iraqi lives.) U.S. military spending makes up close to half of the world total, with the next tier of nations (the UK, France, Japan and China) with around 5% each. We could almost halve our military budget and still be outspending any other nation five to one! But talk about such spending cuts - which would enable significant tax cuts - and neoconservatives go apeshit. It's as if they view the military as America's penis and fear it shrinking. (I fear they've confused their rifles and their "guns".)

Meanwhile, they love to make a big fuss about cutting spending on welfare and social programs, which make up a very small amount of federal spending and wouldn't save the average American more than a few dollars a year.

Politicians love to lump "entitlements" all together, ignoring that the bulk of that is Social Security (third rail!) and that a large chunk is military retirement spending and VA benefits, which rightly should be counted under military spending. Actual welfare and social development spending is fairly small.

As for Al Qaeda, "retreating" is not a concept that applies to fighting criminals. The whole notion that a "war" can be fought against a criminal gang like Al Qaeda (which was not in Iraq before we fucked it up, and would fall apart there if we weren't recruiting for them with screwups like Abu Ghraib) is the root of the problem here.

What will happen if we pull out immediately? The same thing that will happen if we pull out next year, or in five years, or in twenty years - chaos. The question is whether we are smart enough to cut our losses.

In the game of go, there is a common strategic error (at least for beginners like me) where a player will try to save a group of stones with a "ladder", laying down more sones and trying to escape. But a knowledgable player will see the pattern develop, knows his pieces are doomed, and lets them fall rather than wasting even more resources to have them and even more fall.

Iraq is a quagmire; Cheney knew it thirteen years ago. The invasion was a stupid and criminal thing to do. Bush and company should be impeached for their crimes, and the U.S. (and U.K., which really bears the root responsbibility for screwing up the Middle East back to the British Mandate) should compensate the Iraqi people as best it can and get the hell out.

--
Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | my blog
You cannot wash away blood with blood

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