Former Texas representative and 2020 Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke unveiled a new proposal on Monday aimed at improving the care and services available to U.S. veterans.
The most interesting portion of the plan, however, is that it would be financed by a “war tax” that would kick in any time the country goes to war.
The tax, which O’Rourke first proposed in a 2016 bill, would be levied on a progressive scale on households who do not have a family member in the military at the start of any “newly authorized war.” Households making less than $30,000 per year would pay $25, while those making more than $200,000 would pay $1,000 per year.
The money would help fund new programs that would support veterans’ hospital care and medical services, as well as disability compensation and any other programs directly related to the care of veterans.
The former congressman from El Paso, Texas, who served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and House Armed Services Committee, also called for ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and using savings from those operations ― some $200 billion ― to boost care for current and former service members.
“We must be willing to pay any price, and bear any burden, to provide the full care, support, and resources to every single veteran who served every single one of us,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “Eighteen years into the war in Afghanistan, and nearly three decades after our first engagement in Iraq, the best way to honor our veterans’ service is to cancel the blank check for endless war—and reinvest the savings to ensure every American can thrive upon their return home.”
The tax portion of O’Rourke’s plan would require approval from Congress. But even if lawmakers agreed to such a plan, it’s unclear exactly how it would work.
The U.S. is still using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to justify military action all over the globe. Some in the White House and Congress are now arguing that it also applies to any potential military action against Iran ― an extremely dubious claim that centers on tying al Qaeda to the Iranian regime. President Donald Trump ordered strikes against Iran last week in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone but pulled back from launching them at the last minute.
The House passed a bill last week repealing the 2001 AUMF for the first time ever, but Republicans in the Senate, as well as Trump, are unlikely to support such a measure.
O’Rourke’s “war tax” would likely force Americans to pay more attention to the fact that the nation has been at war continuously, with no end in sight, since the 9/11 terror attacks ― despite Trump’s campaigning against costly escapades in the Middle East during the 2016 presidential election.
But the tax could backfire, too ― making lawmakers even more hesitant about voting to authorize wars in the first place if that means raising taxes on Americans.
O’Rourke’s plan also includes a series of reforms aimed at bolstering transparency and accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, mandating a new focus on mental health, addiction treatment and suicide prevention at the agency and allowing VA physicians to prescribe or recommend medical cannabis where the substance is legal.