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Rummy is the tax problem, not the solution

As I was still reeling from Tax Day, the Heritage Foundation just emailed me a copy of a letter sent to the IRS by former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld. Heritage also linked to a tweet by Rummy that also attached the letter. He seems to have written it all himself.

In the 1960s, Rummy represented a Chicago suburb in the U.S. House of Representatives. So he knows how to lay on the conservative blather:

“Dear Sir or Madame,

“I have sent in our federal income tax and gift tax returns for 2013. As in prior years, it is important for you to know that I have absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate. I say that despite the fact that I am a college graduate and I try hard to make sure our returns are accurate.

“The tax code is so complex and the forms are so complicated, that I know I cannot have any confidence that I know what is being requested, and therefore I cannot and do not know, and I suspect a great many Americans cannot know, whether or not their tax returns are accurate. As in past years, I have spent more money than I wanted to spend to hire an accounting firm to prepare our tax returns and I believe they are well qualified.”

And so on.

In the actual tweet, Rumsfeld wrote, “That I & most Americans have no idea whether our taxes are accurate tells us something.”

Yes. And one thing it tells us that he still won’t admit he’s a major cause of the problem. The disastrous Iraq War, which he pushed and supervised until even Bush got tired of him, cost American taxpayers up to an incredible $6 trillion, according to a new Harvard Study by Linda J. Bilmes. That’s $6,000,000,000,000.00. It comes to $19,048 for every man, woman and mewling infant in the country.

Official studies by the U.S. government peg the cost at “only” $1 trillion, as in this WhiteHouse.gov item boasting money previously dedicated to the war now could be used “to invest in the American people.” That last hyperlink is in the original, and jumped to an Obama speech about building “a strong middle class in this country” by spending more of middle-class’s own tax money.

But the government number always leaves out the cost of taking care of the guys with half their brains blown away. There now are more than 100,000 maimed and psychologically troubled veterans. So the cost of the war must include the cost of caring for them; their lost productivity, along with that of the 4,489 dead; and the cost of servicing the debt on the war, because all the money to pay for it was borrowed from China, Russia (!), Japan, etc.

The number of dead Iraqis doesn’t figure into this Harvard study, but now is estimated at 500,000, as well as millions displaced. Also include the destruction of Iraq’s ancient Christian community, which had made its peace with Muslims for 1,400 years. And ancient antiquities were destroyed or dispersed by looters. Although a cash calculus for Americans cannot be placed on what Iraq and its people have suffered from Rumsfeld’s War, such a large crime also should be placed on the scales of justice.

For means of our calculations, let’s just stick with that $6 trillion number, which needs to be italicized every time to show that it’s not a typo. For 2014, the federal government will devour $1.7 trillion in income taxes. That means, if the Iraq War never had been fought, we could go more than three full years not only with the simplified income tax Rumsfeld wants, not only with lower taxes, but with paying no federal income taxes at all.

Let’s also not forget that, the way Rummy planned the war back in 2001-02, it was supposed to be a “cakewalk” costing Americans only $50 billion to $60 billion. (That’s with a “b.”) The Rumsfeld Doctrine advanced “Shock and Awe” air attacks with blitzkrieg by small forces. At the time top Bush economics adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey even was fired for suggesting the price tag might be $100 billion to $200 billion.

The result? The late Gen. William Odom judged it as what “may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history."

So taking the $60 billion Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cost estimate, the real $6 trillion cost of the war was 100 times higher. And they say Democrats are bad at math!

That’s the real reason there never will be any tax reform. And both Rumsfeld and the Heritage Foundation, which plumped big for the war, are just twitting us.

John C. Seiler, Jr.

John C. Seiler, Jr.

John C. Seiler, Jr., writes from California.

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