Blood money

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(Host) There’s one topic that has not been debated yet in the current campaign, and commentator Bill Seamans thinks that it should.

(Seamans) To tax or not to tax excess war profits – that is a question that I hope will be asked in the upcoming campaign debates. It’s a multi billion dollar question and to a certain degree a moral one that has been diverted from our attention by the Swiftboat naval battle and by those Dan Rather documents.

I have not yet heard any of our pundits, or for that matter any of our Congresspersons, bring up the subject of the need for an excess war profits tax – what some call blood money made by the military industrial complex and paid for by the lives and limbs of our troops in Iraq.

Whenever Vice President Cheney’s former employer Halliburton is mentioned we often hear criticism about alleged corruption and White House and Pentagon favoritism for having given out no-bid contracts to supply, feed and house our troops and to restore Iraq’s infrastructure. We are hearing more and more about overcharging and missing records that are needed to justify expenses – all of which gives out the smell of a major scandal. The New York Times reported that Halliburton failed to adequately account for some of the $4.2 billion it has received so far to support our troops in Iraq and Kuwait – a question that seems to have been lost in the fog of investigative committees.

During the first and second World Wars and the Korean War Congress authorized an excess profits tax. The penalty, sometimes as high at 90%, was levied on corporate profits that increased dramatically for fueling the engine of war. The intent was said to be twofold – first, to bring in extra money to pay for the war effort and to eliminate unscrupulous profiteering. If such a tax were levied today it probably would apply to all those cost-plus contracts to support out military in Iraq and for the rebuilding of that country – and for extraordinary profits expected to be made by corporations as a result of President Bush’s promised larger war on global terrorism.

So why hasn’t an excess profits tax proposal yet come up in Congress? A bias driven simplistic answer could be that our congresspersons are, in fact, influenced by corporate campaign contributions….Add to that the cynical comment that on both sides of the aisle there are multimillionaires who are investors in the major corporations supplying the weapons of war for our armed forces.

This, indeed, is a difficult subject to consider but I think we should expect a controversy over whether to impose a tax on war profits that are more than a rational earnings margin. I hope that such a debate evolves as the political campaign becomes even more heated and as the number of our dead and maimed continues rising.

Yes, it’s what some call blood money.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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