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Hate to Spoil the Party... But, There Is No Money for Syrian Attacks

08/29/2013 11:06 pm ET | Updated Oct 29, 2013

Dear Dad,
No mon',
No fun.
Your Son

Dear Son,
Too bad,
So sad.
Your Dad.

I guess I am the party-pooper, the guy no one wants at their festivities, especially if it is a war party. Why? Well, I kinda, sorta, wanna wait until the UN Inspectors confirm that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. And, I really want to know what that intervention is going to be, and what its limitations are, how the aftermath is "gamed" (ie, if we do X, they do Y, and we do Z, and so forth).

Let us, however, be clear. The Obama Administration will not trump up phony evidence as Bush/Cheney did about Saddam Hussein's WMD stockpiles. It will not cherry-pick intelligence reports to support a pre-ordained policy using an unreliable source called "Curveball" we had never met. The vice president will not plant news stories to eager would-be Pulitzer winners and then quote them as if they were an independent objective source.

Unlike his predecessor, this president does not seek glory by sending other peoples' children to war.

But, even if there is clear evidence of Assad's hand behind the heinous chemical warfare, and even if there really were good military options, we have a fundamental problem: Where is the money to pay for the attacks, and to respond to the aftermath?

Remember, once-upon-a-time, trillions of dollars ago and still counting, in a land far, far away, when the Iraq War was going to cost less than $50 billion and reconstruction would pay for itself (very much like tax-cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves)?

Moreover, did Assad's chemicals erase the word "sequester" from our lexicon? Or, has the summer sun so bleached my brain that I do not recall that we no longer operate under it?

Today, when national disasters strike, we have great trouble "finding the money" to pay for reconstruction. Our roads, bridges, water systems, and sewage systems are crumbling, and we just cannot seem to find money to pay for their repair. Under the sequester, we do not have money for meals-on-wheels, head-start or food stamps. National guardsmen are being furloughed, so if a natural disaster strikes they may not be available. Biomedical research grants are slashed.

The head of the National Institutes of Health recently said about the sequester, "god help us if we get a worldwide pandemic".

So, perhaps, it is not being curmudgeonly to ask: where is the money coming from to pay for the Syrian attacks and their aftermath? Gouging the poor even more? Adding to our debt? Raising taxes? Eliminate Congress's pensions ($300 million savings over 10 years)?

Are we going to fire missiles and not replace them? Are we not going to respond to Syria's response?

There is an ultimate irony here. The same right-wing that pushed tax-cuts for the wealthy falsely claiming those cuts would "pay for themselves", are the same people plumping for another war that their tax cuts have depleted the Treasury to finance. The disgraced Tom DeLay (R-Texas) put it clearly: "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes."

Sure, there is money sloshing around in the Pentagon that can be shifted around in the short-term. But, is that not depleting money already designed for other purposes in the future?

And, if this 'limited' engagement turns out not to be so limited, what then?

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