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December 19, 2011

On War, On Taxes and On Politics

Michael Kurtianyk

On the End of the Iraqi War


Well, we finally did it. Last week, President Barack Obama visited Fort Bragg (NC) and paid tribute to the soldiers at that Army post. More than two hundred of the men and women killed in Iraq came from Fort Bragg.


Overall, the body count of the war was high: more than 1.5 million Americans served in Iraq. Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded. Nearly 4,500 Americans died in Iraq during the war.


Putting an end to the war, President Obama said this:


"So, as your commander in chief, on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words – and I know your families agree: Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home."


With a misguided war that began during the Bush Administration, President Obama has accomplished his mission of ending the war before the end of this calendar year. There was no need for flying in on a plane onto a carrier with a banner that said “Mission Accomplished” behind him. President Obama understood the gravity of the situation, and wisely did not address the uproar that occurred when it was discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction.


Welcome home, indeed!


On a Financial Transactions Tax


Last month, Sen. Tom Harkin (D., IA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., OR) proposed implementing a .03 percent financial transactions tax on stock trading, bonds, futures, and credit default swaps. This would impose high costs on those who complete short term trades. It wouldn’t do anything on our ATM transactions, or any revolving loans.


The new tax would raise about $350 billion in the next decade. Not only would this raise revenue, but it would reduce the incentive to engage in speculative trading. The European Union is studying a similar proposal, but with a tax rate that is set at 10 percent. Great Britain, Switzerland and other countries have a tax of some kind on financial transactions.


Can this work? Yes. Will it pass? Probably not. And certainly not in this version. Like sausage, no one wants to really know how this will be created, but thinking outside the box is necessary in these tough economic times.


On the GOP Debates


It was a crazy moment at a recent GOP debate when Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney of backing away from saying that the Massachusetts health-care law was a model for the rest of America. Here is what Perry said:


“I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts should be the model, and I know it came out of the reprint of the book. But, you know, I’m just saying, you were for the individual mandates, my friend.”


Mr. Romney responded shortly thereafter extended his hand to Mr. Perry and said: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?”


Mr. Perry replied that he was “not in the betting business” and offered to show Governor Romney his own book.


So, this is what it’s been reduced to: grown men betting on the lies being said and being written. It’s a hefty bet, one that the average American can’t afford.


For those checking the facts, Governor Perry would have lost the bet. According to, a nonpartisan site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Perry wasn’t accurate:


On his state’s healthcare reform, Governor Romney did originally write: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country." That phrase did not appear in the paperback version. But, the site explains, "the same thing" referred to the goals of the Massachusetts health reform, that insurance be "portable" and "affordable," and not the individual mandate or the entire law.


"Romney saw the Massachusetts plan as a potential model for other states, if they so choose, but not as a federal mandate.”


Governor Perry’s attempt to drum up a phony issue is certainly not the way to run an effective campaign. It’s time for him to walk away from the primary debates.


On Christopher Hitchens


Author Christopher Hitchens died last week of pneumonia, a complication of the esophageal cancer he’d been diagnosed with earlier this year. He is best known as the author of the 2007 book God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion, which argued that organized religion is the main source of hatred in the world. An avowed atheist, Mr. Hitchens was controversial wherever he went.


Many believers wonder what St. Peter said to him at the Pearly Gates….


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