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The War in Afghanistan: A Burden Taxpayers Can't Afford

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On this Tax Day, many Americans are likely taking a moment to consider the costs associated with funding the public services that, among other things, keep our air and water clean, create educational opportunities for our children, and provide financial security to our most vulnerable fellow citizens. Although no one likes to pay taxes, most Americans understand that our country is stronger because we collectively fund our national priorities and promote the common good.

Unfortunately, Americans are all too aware that they are bearing another, highly unpopular, financial burden: the direct and indirect costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This year, the government will spend $159.3 billion in direct spending on these wars. In the decade since these conflicts began, we've spent approximately $1 trillion. And, if and when these wars finally end, the bills will continue to roll in, as our veterans return home with grievous mental and physical injuries. The economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated that these legacy costs could push the final tally for our occupations to more than $3 trillion.

So what are Americans getting for their $107 billion taxpayer investment in Afghanistan this year? Troop casualties are up, civilian deaths are at an all-time high, and, according to our own CIA Director, there are fewer than 100 Al-Qaeda remaining in the country.

The American people are willing to pay their fair share and engage in shared sacrifice for the good of the country. It's all a part of being a responsible, patriotic citizen. However, as elected officials, we should not be asking our constituents to sacrifice unnecessarily. Right now, we just can't afford it. For example, according to the Rethink Afghanistan campaign, a household bringing in the median income in my district in Detroit, Michigan -- a mere $32,365 -- will pay $1,250 in taxes to support the War in Afghanistan and other military spending.

We shouldn't be asking Americans to spend more than $1,000 a year on a counterproductive and wasteful war when they're struggling to get by. Wouldn't it be better to put that money into popular programs that help working families? With the money spent on the wars this year, we could put 14.1 million children into the Head Start program or put 1.6 million additional cops on the beat or give 19.3 million low-income students a $5,000 Pell Grant scholarship. The math is clear. For the sake of working people across this country, for the health of our troops, for a more responsive democracy, and a stronger and smarter national security posture, we need to start bringing our troops home now.