ACTION ALERT: H.R. 5353 -- A Bill to Freeze the Wars, Cut the Deficit, and Reduce Taxes
May 28, 2010 John Nichols / The Nation & Hon Alan Grayson
"What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the 'military-industrial complex' has come trues. War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore. "The purpose of the 'War Is Making You Poor Act' is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars."
Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) explains how cutting the US deficit by reining in military spending will mean that one-third of Americans will no longer have to pay any income taxes on earnings below $35,000 ($70,000 for married couples).
ACTION ALERT: Sign the petition endorsing the "War Is Making You Poor Act" here. Within 72 hours after its initial filing, 100,000 people had signed onto the petition endorsing H.R. 5353. The bill has growing bipartisan support ranging from Texas Representative Ron Paul to Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, California's Barbara Lee and Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers.
Petition Text I support Rep. Alan Grayson's "The War is Making You Poor" Act
I support the 'War is Making You Poor' Act and I urge you, as my representative, to vote for it. This bill would eliminate the separate funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminate federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income (or $70,000 for couples) each year. And it would help pay down our national debt. I think this is a much more sensible way to allocate our tax dollars, don't you?
Grayson's Smart Calculus Makes War Cost Real for Taxpayers John Nichols / The Nation
(May 25, 2010) -- Congressman Alan Grayson is at it again. This time, the Florida Democrat who shook up the health-care debate by saying Republicans were the real death-panel party and who shook up the bank reform debate by leading (with Texas Congressman Ron Paul) the "Audit the Fed" fight, is shaking up the debate about so-called "emergency" supplemental spending to fund the occupations of foreign lands.
Grayson's mad because the Pentagon and its allies in the White House (be they Bush and Cheney or Obama and Biden) keep demanding tens of billions in additional allocations to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And they do so in a manner that makes debate difficult and dissent rare.
But Grayson is out to provoke a debate -- and he is definitely dissenting.
"What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the 'military-industrial complex' has come true," the congressman argues. "War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore."
Grayson proposes to change this circumstance with a bill he has introduced: "The War Is Making You Poor Act."
"The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars," he explains.
To make the cost of war real for working Americans, Grayson performs a simple calculus:
"Next year's budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That's enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American's income. Beyond that, (it) leaves over $15 billion to cut the deficit.
"And that's what this bill does. It eliminates separate funding for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminates federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples). Plus it pays down the national debt."
The congressman is betting -- with good reason -- that the key to opening up a real debate about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to make real the cost of these occupations to American families.
"The costs of the war have been rendered invisible. There's no draft. Instead, we take the most vulnerable elements of our population, and give them a choice between unemployment and missile fodder. Government deficits conceal the need to pay in cash for the war," explains Grayson, with a reference to the mounting trade deficit with China. "We put the cost of both guns and butter on our Chinese credit card. In fact, we don't even put these wars on budget; they are still passed using 'emergency supplemental.' A nine-year 'emergency'."
If Americans recognize what they are personally paying to maintain occupations of distant lands, Grayson argues that Americans will tell Congress: "the cost of these wars is too much for us."
It's a good bet.
In the first 72 hours after Grayson introduced his legislation, more than 22,000 Americans signed an online petition endorsing it.
WASHINGTON, DC (May 21, 2010) -- Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-08) introduced a landmark bill last night, called the "War Is Making You Poor Act." The bipartisan bill does three things:
• It limits the amount of funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
• It eliminates the federal income tax on the first $35,000 of every American's income ($70,000 for married couples), and
• It cuts the Federal deficit by $15.9 billion.
Congressman Grayson said, "All three of those things need to be done. This bill brings them all together."
The bill eliminates all federal income tax in 2011 for everyone making up to $35,000 a year ($70,000 for a married couple), which is approximately one-third of the population. For everyone, the first $35,000 that he or she earns each year ($70,000 for a married couple) is tax-free.
President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests $549 billion for the Defense Department, plus another $159 billion in “emergency spending” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grayson’s bill requires the wars be funded out of the $549 billion for DoD. It uses the $159 billion to eliminate federal income taxes for one-third of all Americans, and to reduce the deficit.
The bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation checked Grayson's figures. It confirmed that the bill would, in fact, reduce the deficit by $15.9 billion, notwithstanding the deep cuts.
The four-page bill already has bipartisan support. The original cosponsors, who joined to support the bill even before it was filed, are Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC), as well as two committee chairs (Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner and Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers), plus peace proponents Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA).
During a compelling speech on the floor of the House last night, Congressman Grayson pointed out that the United States spends as much as the rest of the world combined on defense.
"Why is that necessary? If we are going to have that much military spending, do we really need another $159 billion for the wars on top of that? I think not, particularly when people in America are suffering," Congressman Grayson said.
The War Is Making You Poor Act (H.R. 5353) does not necessitate an end to the wars or mandate a cut-off date. The bill simply requires the President to fund the wars from the $559 billion budget for defense spending in FY 2011. "There is no longer any need to go beyond the exorbitant base defense budget. It is not necessary. Enough is enough," Congressman Grayson said.