by Jim Tankersley
Borrowing a page from the GOP playbook, 10 House Democrats marked Tax Day this morning by criticizing their least-favorite government spending program: the Iraq War.
Republicans have long leveraged April 15 to push fiscal conservatism and remind taxpayers that it's their money the government is spending. Today, for example, presumptive presidential nominee John McCain rolled out his economic plan, and a group of House Republicans proposed a constitutional amendment to limit the growth of the federal government.
Democrats, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) returned fire with a press conference featuring an oversized "tax return" illustrating their claim that the war has cost the average American family $16,500 in its five-year span.
"Americans are sending in their taxes today," Schakowsky said, "and they think their money is going to Washington, but it’s really on its way to Baghdad."
She went on to criticize the Iraqi government for running a budget surplus from oil exports while Americans pay for their continued military presence there. "With more and more Americans struggling to make mortgage payments, buy gas, or cover other essential needs," she said, "it is shameful that we are spending so much to pay for the failed war in Iraq."
Read on for her full statement.
"Thank you all for being here to talk about the enormous cost of the Iraq war to American families.
"Americans are sending in their taxes today, and they think their money is going to Washington, but it’s really on its way to Baghdad.
"So far, the war in Iraq has cost $ 526 billion—$16,500 for the average family of 4. And there is no end in sight. And if we continue the Bush-McCain policies, the children of today’s taxpayers will be paying the bill, too.
"With more and more Americans struggling to make mortgage payments, buy gas, or cover other essential needs, it is shameful that we are spending so much to pay for the failed war in Iraq.
"And I don’t know about you, but when I heard that the Iraqi government is expected to have a $60 billion surplus from oil exports this year, I was shocked.
"The Bush Administration should not force American families to pay for the war in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on its cash. We cannot continue paying $10.3 billion a month, $14.1 million an hour, $235, 000 a minute, $3,900 a second – while needed investments in the U.S. are shortchanged or ignored.
"This tax day, we have had enough, Mr. President. As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said recently, 'There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. '
"This tax day, at events around the country we are saying what the American people are saying: the war must end, we must stop sending all of our hard-earned money to Baghdad, and we must start investing here at home.
"If President Bush has his way, Stiglitz estimates the cost of the war in Iraq could soar to $3 trillion or more. That’s $36,900 for each American family. This tax day, let’s remember what $3 trillion dollars could do here at home."