Today, in the Washington Post, it was reported that Senators Coburn and McCain have developed a plan that will cut $60 billion in the budget to offset the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s about time that somebody did this.

A long, long time ago, we had a little remembered piece of public policy called a ‘draft’, when we needed soldiers to fight wars. This put every young man in danger of being placed into the Armed Forces. Well, the policy effect of this is that when everyone has a chance to fight, the nation becomes more reluctant to send its youth into harm’s way. Then, in the 1970’s, what we’ll call the Blumenthal Rule was put in place. This allowed anyone who wished to avoid fighting wars to do so with alacrity, and moved the responsibility onto the shoulders of a small portion of the population. Whew, that eliminated one part of the pain for fighting wars.

More recently, there was an arcane idea that maybe, if we want to fight wars, we should pay for them. For example, during the Bush I tenure, when we fought the Kuwait War, the costs of fighting the war had to be offset with either spending cuts or tax increases. This had a couple of effects, as well. For one thing, would people be willing to pay for a war with Medicare cuts, for example. So, there was actually a cost that people could feel. Another effect was that wars, then, would tend to not last as long, in order to mitigate the cost of combat. Well, for eight or nine years now, we’ve been fighting two wars at the behest of an important lobby, and have just shuffled the costs down to our grandchildren.

Coburn, at the time he released his plan admitted that there is little likelihood that it would actually pass. But he said that the point was to show Congress that it could live within its means and still pay for the war effort. The refreshing thing about the exercise is that these cuts are discreet items that can easily be measured. Another part of the plan that is useful is, when comparing it to the similar proposal put forth by Eric Cantor in the House, it actually goes after some sacred cows on both sides of the partisan divide. Cantor, who used to actually treat voters like we were intelligent, has decided it’s easier to just assume that Americans are all scarecrows in the Wizard of Oz, I guess, since his cuts are those that are purely ideological in nature. I think that there is an advantage to treating voters with respect. We end up thinking that the politicians are serious, not mere poseurs.