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Dropped into the local cellular phone store the other day to check out the newest line of cell phones. Every phone came with a mail-in cash back rebate. Who can recall getting even one dime back from a manufacturer? It makes one think about the whole notion of rebates, and whether taxpayers, in this age of consumerism, are also entitled to a rebate whenever a commander-in-chief, and the Pentagon, decide to commit troops to war.
Forget about the worthiness of combat, forget about the stunning, but not surprising, announcement last week from Defense Secretary Gates Robert Gates that, after eight years of a combat operation whose mission was to capture Osama bin Laden, there is no “reliable information” about bin Laden’s whereabouts, and hasn’t been in years. Let’s factor out who trained and armed the Taliban in Pakistan, and sent them off to fight in Afghanistan, and instead focus solely on dollars spent.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the American taxpayer were to request his small slice of the billions made in profits, and demand a rebate on:
more than $1 trillion government analysts are willing to admit has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, though a Nobel laureate in Economics puts that figure closer to three times that amount
the nearly $700 billion allocated for the Department of Defense in 2010 federal budget as of February, 2009, or roughly half the total budget, of which $130 billion is targeted for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with an additional $50 billion held in reserve for DOD discretionary spending
And, let’s just say that, as a precondition for giving even another penny to the masters of war, taxpayers asked for rebates of anywhere from 2 to 8% in the form of a tax refund by the end of 2011; what would that come to? Any math majors out there? How much would that be when divided by approximately 111 million American households?
Yes, that’s right, let’s forget about the $5,000 tax credit to cover the cost of private health care, and instead provide a rebate to each and every American for each and every dollar spent on war. We can even think of it as another kind of deterrence. And, in the interest of fairness, why start with the 2010 federal budget through the date the president projects U.S. troops will begin withdrawal from Afghanistan–July, 2011, with the rebate made payable at year end in December 2011?
Of course, there can be no rebate to mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, husbands, and children of service men and women killed, maimed, or wounded in battle nor are we any closer to a time when high school graduates must no longer risk their lives because that is their only opportunity for higher education.
When one considers the egregious inequity when nearly three times as much money is being budgeted for the Department of Defense as for the Department of Education, and four times as much recovery money, what a statement about national priorities.
While it is true that U.S. budget deficits have reached new highs approaching $1.5 trillion for 2010, is it a coincidence that this is a conservative estimate of what has been spent on war since 2002?
Some, like Lawrence Wilkerson, contend that the bill for repairing military equipment, tanks, carriers, bombers and the like could be as much as $100 billion.
No one would suggest we send young people to battle inadequately protected, or prepared, but given the alacrity with which the banks are returning some of their bailout money, it’s not unreasonable to ask the government to let people know when we. too, may expect to be bailed out, as well as when that rebate check will be in the mail.
JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.