Paying for Afghanistan Should Move Beyond Playing Politics

Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm
Maya MacGuineas
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
Elmer Staats

Robert Strauss



Paying for Afghanistan Should Move
Beyond Playing Politics
December 2, 2009


Last night, President Obama announced a plan to increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000 - a change which would cost tens of billions of dollars per year. A number of Democrats opposed to this troop build up have called for a surtax to fund those operations. While politics, as opposed to fiscal responsibility, may be the impetus for the proposal, the idea of paying for the plan should not be dismissed.
"Asking policymakers to actually pay for their policy actions should not be such a radical concept," said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "An essential aspect of budgeting is deciding how to pay for things."
The 2010 budget deficit is expected to top $1 trillion. Meanwhile, $944 billion has already been appropriated for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other war-related activities, including $154 billion in FY2009. The troop increase is likely to cost around $30 billion this year.
Deficit financing the wars thus far has not only broken practice with past wars, which have been paid for in part with new taxes, it has added tremendously to the national debt - now over $12 trillion. Responsible leadership requires offsetting the new costs through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of the two.
"Deeming a particular initiative as vital to the national interest should not exempt it from being paid for," said MacGuineas. "The purpose of having a federal budget is to induce the President and Congress to make difficult choices and prioritize their objectives. That discipline has been lost in recent years and must be regained. Perhaps requiring the Afghanistan troop build up to be paid for will encourage leaders to find excesses elsewhere in the budget that can be curbed or eliminated."

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or